We must stay in Afghanistan to prevent atomic war!

This post examines one of the mechanisms maintaining support for the war.  Someone has a vision of a horrible possible future.  He believes this so important that we must devote vast resources to prevention, with…

  • no thought of its probability of occurrence,
  • no effort to calculate the costs in money and blood of his recommendations,
  • no effort to evaluate this vs. the many other nightmare scenarios.

This example comes from a blog called “The Stupidest Man on Earth”, but the name is wrong.  Run by Jari Lindholm, the About page says that he…

is a Helsinki-based reporter covering armed conflict for the Finnish newsweekly Suomen Kuvalehti. His work has appeared in 16 countries in several newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Times (UK), La Repubblica (Italy) and Die Welt (Germany).

He’s not stupid (the opposite, in fact, as a successful journalist), just exhibiting the mixture of hubris and paranoia that distinguishes our time (which I thought was uniquely American).    He sees a threat to our security.  We obviously have the resources to address this threat.  So we should do so.  No additional analysis required.  Budgets, balancing cost and benefits, analysis of relative dangers — these are unnecessary, except for those who live in the real world (rather than one of their imaginations).

Lindholm is not the stupidest man in the world.  But we might be.  If such feckless reasoning brings America down — falling who knows how far — then we will deserve to be called the Stupidest People in the World.

Contents

  1. Lindholm warns about nuclear war if we weaken in Afghanistan
  2. About Finland’s contribution to the war
  3. Update:  Lindholm’s responses
  4. Why we are still at war in Afghanistan
  5. Afterword and For more information

(1)  A warning about nuclear war

9/11, American Myopia and Nuclear War“, Jari Lindholm, posted at his blog, 20 August 2009 — Excerpt…

In Afghanistan, the Taleban celebrate their 13th year in power. In neighbouring Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf or another military dictator is toasting with them, comfortable in the knowledge that his country’s strategic interests are safe. Across the world, high-profile attacks by terrorist groups operating from Afghanistan are met with shock and horror, but no one is suggesting military intervention — after all, in the larger scheme of things this is a mere nuisance.

Then terrorists flying hijacked airplanes strike at the heart of India’s capital Delhi, wiping out the entire parliament and killing the prime minister.

Pakistan denies involvement, but India mobilises. A fighter jet is shot down, a town shelled, an incursion repelled. Both sides issue veiled threats as cries of total war grow louder.

Then terrorists strike again, this time in Mumbai, killing hundreds.  And then, just like that, before the outside world can utter a word, missiles are launched.

Years later, when the costs are counted, it is said, with some pride, that clearing the radioactive ruins of Delhi, Mumbai, Lahore and Islamabad is the greatest undertaking mankind has ever attempted.

If you think this is just an alarmist fantasy, well, what can I say — I don’t. In fact, I think it may be too optimistic.

The opening describes a shockwave: a low probability, high impact scenarios.  Climate change, atomic war, overpopulation, pollution — true believers cite these nightmares as though imaging something means that it is likely.  These single-minded zealots people clog our public space, clamoring for attention to their terrible dreams {correction done as this ad hominem was a violation of site policy}. His article grows more preposterous as it continues.

In reality, were the Taleban to return to power in Afghanistan today, they would be immensely more powerful, dedicated and internationalist in their outlook than they were in 2001. After years of jihad alongside al-Qaeda and other international militants, they would not merely allow terrorist organisations to use Afghanistan as a base; they would encourage it.

How does he know such things?  Esp what the Taliban would do.  They lost power by aiding al Qaeda’s mad dreams. They might have learned something from the experience, esp as the US will not allow a repetition.

Naturally, toppling the Pakistani government by supporting their Pashtun brethren would be high on the Taleban to-do list, as they would want to see a friendly, ISI-backed general return to power in Islamabad. In turn, they would gladly help in providing him with the terrorist cannon fodder he would need for his covert operations in India.

How easily he says this nonsense.  How odd that he’s not greeted with laughter for stating such speculation as authoritative.  Here are a few of the many objections.

  1. Pashtuns are a small fraction of the Pakistani population, roughly 15% (source).
  2. There is no evidence of widespread support for the Taliban — or its ideology — in Pakistan.
  3. Although sources differ on its side, the Pakistan Army is large — 500+ thousand, plus another 500 thousand in the reserve.  Plus their Air Force.  (Wikipedia, Global Security)
  4. The ISI’s relationship with the Taliban is not clear from public sources; Lindholm is probably just guessing at the nature and extent of the relationship.  Here is a typical example of the muddle, from the New York Times.

The rest of the article is even more absurd, esp the climax.

Do we need 101,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to prevent Pakistan and India from going to war? Yes — for lack of a better alternative. We need them there simply because we cannot pull them out. We cannot withdraw, we cannot scale down, and we certainly cannot turn the war into a counter-terrorist operation.

Lindholm posits a series of events, each with odds ranging from medium to microscopic.  Then declares the result to be a reason for war.  I suggest he sketch this out in an orderly fashion, estimating the probability of each step.  The end result will, I suspect, have a probability of well under 1%.

(2)  About Finland’s contribution

If the people of Finland share his belief, they should send more troops.  Their government’s website says there they have 110 troops in Afghanistan.  America’s population is approx 60x that of Finland’s.  Let’s reduce America’s troop count to 7 thousand until Finland — and our other NATO allies — boost their forces.

Another metric:  per icasualties, Finland’s troops have suffered one death in Afghanistan.  The UK and US totals are 206 and 796, respectively.

What do you mean by “we”, Mr. Lindholm.

(3)  Lindholm’s response

Neither makes much sense to me.  Perhaps somebody could explain in the comments.

(a)  Here are some excerpts from “Breaking: Finnish Blogger Nibbled to Death by Fellow Doves“, 24 August 2009.

Lindholm’s response to Matthew Yglesias observation that the Tailiban seems unlikely to defeat Pakistan’s army of one million soldiers (regular plus reserves):

So, dude, most of us kinda spent the 90s underestimating the Taliban. We were wrong so many times a dork like yours truly couldn’t even count that far. These hillbillies turned out to be pretty awesome at manipulating other bad guys to join them and making the rest really really pissed off at each other, and they weren’t too bad at waging war, either. And when they were done, we were, like, whoa, what just happened? Oh, and then there were these other yahoos called al-Qaeda (pronounced ‘Al Cayda’, like a mobster or something). But that’s another story.

That’s a rebuttal?  It reads like something from the Onion. Here is Lindholm’s response to this post.

1. In the space of just two and half years — that’s 32 months — after India’s second nuclear test and Pakistan carrying out its own in 1998, the two countries were on the brink of nuclear war twice. Both times, in the Kargil War of 1999 and the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, the issue was Kashmir, a conflict greatly exacerbated by the instability in Afghanistan, where many of the pro-Pakistan terrorist groups formed and trained. In short, this is a uniquely dangerous place, and if you think the probability of nuclear war is “well under 1%”, as Fabiusdoes, please visit your local library, and we’ll talk more.

2. Contrary to what Fabius claims, I’m not declaring anything “to be a reason for war”. I’m merely suggesting we cannot disengage without risking a wider confrontation that may include the use of weapons of mass destruction. …

3. Pointing out Finland’s ludicrously small contribution to ISAF, something I have frequently criticised, Fabius asks: “What do you mean by ‘we’, Mr. Lindholm?” Well, let’s see. There are 42 countries fighting this war — or “managing the crisis”, as we say in Finland –, so by “we” I could mean a pretty good cross-section of the international community, right? Or, since Finland, Sweden and Norway, together with Germany, are securing ISAF’s northern flank, I could maybe mean “the European Union”, no? Or, hey, with Swedish and Finnish troops now engaged in firefights almost daily in Sar-e-Pol, and being hit with suicide bombers and IEDs in the meantime, could I possibly mean “we Scandinavians”? Alas, with Finland lagging so embarrassingly behind in the number of combat deaths, by “we” I couldn’t possible mean “we Finns” until we earn our place in Fabius Maximus’s short list of honourable warfighting nations, right?

His first point is wrong, IMO.  By the accounts I have read, the presence of nukes has put the fear of God into both India and Pakistan — forcing their hot war into a cold one.  Just as it did in between the US and Russia, and between Israel and its neighbors.  That is perhaps the primary effect of nukes.  Can anyone cite evidence that India seriously considered using nukes in 2001?

The second point is just odd.  He’s not giving a reason for the war, but says we have to fight because — well, just because.

The third paragraph ignores my simple point that proportionate to our population, the US contribution is far larger than Finland’s.  What is he attempting to say here?

Most important:  he totally ignores the primary point of this post about the need to  compare his nightmare scenario vs. other possible shockwaves.  We cannot allocate vast resources to them all; we can go broke trying to do so.

(b) From “Afghanistan: Answering Finel’s 10 Questions“, posted at his blog “The Stupidest Man on Earth”, 8 September 2009 — Excerpt:

Still, given the current state of the Afghanistan debate, where mobs carrying pitchforks and murmuring “Kill the warmonger!” have overpowered people who actually know what they’re talking about, it’s refreshing to see someone trying to advance the discussion in a civilised manner. So, for what it’s worth, here goes:”

Does anyone believe that “Kill the warmonger!” correctly represents the content of this post? Or is it another illustration of intellectual exhaustion of the war’s advocates?

(4)  Why we’re still at war in Afghanistan

Lindholm’s war-mongering has received gentle rebuttals.

  1. From Bernard Finel in the comments to the post (Finel’s website is here)
  2. Who’s Being Myopic Here?“, Michael Cohen (New America Foundation, bio), Democracy Arsenal, 20 August 2009
  3. Don’t Overestimate the Taliban“, Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress, 21 August 2009

So long as people make such inflammatory claims of danger — and receive mild, technical rebuttals — then the public support for the war will remain high.  The war will continue. To stop the war we must have passion to match that of the war’s advocates.

(5)  For more information

Posts on the FM site about shockwaves:

  1. The most dangerous form of Peak Oil.
  2. The “Oil Shockwave” project: well-funded analysis of the obvious.
  3. Peak Oil Doomsters debunked, end of civilization called off.
  4. Spreading the news: the end is nigh!
  5. What does $120 oil mean for the global economy?
  6. There is no “peak water” crisis.
  7. A reply to comments on FM site about Global Warming.
  8. We are so vulnerable to so many things. What is the best response?
  9. A serious threat to us – a top priority shockwave – a hidden danger!
  10. Comment: warnings about a reversal of Earth’s magnetic field.
  11. About our certain doom from the Yellowstone supervolcano.
  12. More shockwave events to worry about, in addition to peak oil and global warming.

21 thoughts on “We must stay in Afghanistan to prevent atomic war!

  1. Part of Lindholm’s concern is real and possibly correct. The U.S. contributed mightily to Pakistan getting the bomb in the 80s I believe. What does being in A. have to do with preventing the Subcontinent from erupting? Is he proposing we colonize South Asia? Ridiculous. It may be that the Pakistan Army is losing its grip on the country it created, over the objections of most people who actually lived in the provinces which make it up. In which case the Bomb, their crown jewels, are an insurance policy for its survival and integrity. There is a long history of the military being the career of younger sons of landholding aristocrats. No idea if this is still the case, but seems possible. In any event the Army has ruled for decades and driven the country over the cliff. Our presence is not going to stop the decline and if you have not noticed, we are in need of aid as much as Pakistan at the moment, and not run any better.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What evidence do you have that the US helped Pakistan getting the bomb? I have heard stories of Chinese assistance (see Wikipedia), but not American.

  2. FM: “What do you mean by ‘we’, Mr. Lindholm?

    Best part about being the world police–most people hate you for it, and the ones that agree with you are happy to let you bear the brunt of the work.

    As for concern about the nuclear apocalypse… doesn’t India have the bomb? Isn’t India a country that has like 20 separatist movements and twice as many terrorist groups running around at any given time? That’s hyperbole, but why do we think Pakistan is so much worse off than India? Time and again it is demonstrated that India is very vulnerable to terrorism, and if we’re not worried about radical Hindus getting the bomb to use on Pakistan to start a nuclear holocaust, we probably shouldn’t be overly concerned about the other way around. Not to say that we should ignore the issue, but at least consider that they are pretty well prepared to protect their nuclear stockpile even if they cannot exert sovereign authority over the majority of their country.

  3. Nuclear war is so 20th century. The big threat today, which no one discusses or seems even to contemplate, involves a 20-something molecular biology grad student downloading the genome sequence of Ebola virus and the rhinovirus from the common cold and mashing ’em up together so Ebola gets transmitted by airborne infection.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Hardy “no one” discusses this. It is a commonplace shockwave scenario. William Lind was written about it, as have countless WMD experts. Since a super-bug would devestate everybody, its not clear exactly the benefit of such a weapon. A vaccine would protect the user’s nation, but blow away their operational security. They’d probably be nuked out of existance, while the world cheered. It’s a scenario better suited for comic books.

    Bin Laden’s boys used box cutters to crash airplanes in to buildings. Designing super-bugs requires a more effort.

  4. There are nutters in every country, and unfortunately Bush & Co did a lot to legitimize them. It will take a while for them to return to obscurity.

    His predictions only show he knows nothing about politics in Pakistan. So they have no intrinsic merit and they are not representative of any larger groups thinking so I wonder why FM bothered.

  5. Italy has 2800 troops in Afghanistan. Presently there is my old regiment, the “Brigata Folgore”. Until now, 15 Italian soldiers have been killed in action. On Italian newspapers and tv, it has been said:
    a) we are in Afghanistan to protect Italy from islamic terrorists
    b) we are in Afghanistan to protect Afghan women against their bad, unshaven, sexually menacing men
    c) we are in Afghanistan to protect Western Civilization and Christianity
    d) we are in Afghanistan to ensure peace, democracy, dental hygiene and access to internet (especially to porno websites) for Afghan people
    e) we are in Afghanistan to protect the Afghan innocent people, especially children and women, from the bad Talibans who do not respect human life and Geneva Rules
    f) (omissis)

    I confess that I’ve never read before that we are in Afghanistan to avert a nuclear war, but probably I’ll read it very soon. If the Italian people can believe, or at least hear without bursting in laugh or anger the above mentioned squalid, humiliating, hastily concocted lies, why not feed them the nuclear fib, too? If people “vult decipi, ergo decipiatur”.

    In the Nineties the Italian Prime Minister M. D’Alema, an ex-communist turned eagerly pro-Western, pro-USA and pro-Neoliberal after the Fall of the House of Lenin, after an unclear, hasty fall of the preceding government, and just after having pronounced his oath of office, sent the Tornados of the Italian Air Force to bomb Belgrade, an European capital 200 km from our eastern border.

    In so doing, he violated the Italian Constitution, which expressly prohibits to wage any war unless in defense of the Italian sovereignty. He succeeded in the political task for which he had been appointed by his masters (many of whom could not flaunt Italian citizenship) without bothering with any parliamentary debate.

    Official motivation for the bombing, sustained with plenty of atrocious & breathtaking stories by all the media: we were to avert a genocide & an ethnic cleansing operated against the Kosovo Albanians, by the Serbs and their evil leader, S. Milosevic, Prince of Darkness & latest Hitler avatar. Two years later, an OCSE official report stated that there had been no genocide. Figures of the killed were reduced twenty times. Today the Albanians have successfully cleansed almost all Serbs out of Kosovo, while transforming Kosovo in the most important mafia State of the Balkans (where mafia States abound).

    A huge permanent American base, Camp Bondsteel, has been built in the vicinity.
    The said OCSE report has not been censored, of course (it comes from an official agency of UE). Simply, it has been printed at page 35 of your newspaper, inside a boring analysis, written by some bureucratic nerd, about the problems of European integration.

    There we are. Sometimes, I think (or hope) that this pandemic of lies will extend its contagion to the apprentice sorcerers who authored it. Nemesis, eh?

  6. I believe FM our efforts to oppose the Russians in A. during the R. administration were deeply misguided. We supplied weapons etc. The longer the Russians were at it in A. the angrier the Indians and Chinese would have become. We supported a dangerous military regime in Pakistan that was engaged in making nuclear weapons with Chinese and French (?) support. Did we know nothing? That is what I mean by supporting their very dangerous effort. And presumably the money came from the Saudis. You know, our allies.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: You’re guessing. It’s not an activity I find of much interest.

  7. Forget about the Taliban; zombies are a serious threat — Abstract:

    Zombies are a popular figure in pop culture/entertainment and they are usually portrayed as being brought about through an outbreak or epidemic. Consequently, we model a zombie attack, using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies. We introduce a basic model for zombie infection, determine equilibria and their stability, and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions. We then refine the model to introduce a latent period of zombification, whereby humans are infected, but not infectious, before becoming undead. We then modify the model to include the effects of possible quarantine or a cure. Finally, we examine the impact of regular, impulsive reductions in the number of zombies and derive conditions under which eradication can occur. We show that only quick, aggressive attacks can stave off the doomsday scenario: the collapse of society as zombies overtake us all.

  8. The Finnish contingent is based in Mazāri Sharīf a city which even at the height of the Taliban’s power was still controlled by the Northern Alliance.

    Mr Lindholms contention that the Germans, Norwegians, Swedes and Finns (to put these nations in order of soldiers contributed) are ‘Securing the northern flank’ is laughable. All four nations together have suffered 45 deaths in combat out of a commitment of ~5300 soldiers. Countries securing the south, where the Taliban actually are tend to have been involved in far more serious and deadly fighting. Canada for an example, has suffered 126 deaths out of a commitment of just under 3000 soldiers.

    This is not to say Mr Lindholm should not speak his mind about the war, just that it’s annoying in the extreme for him to try and puff up his country’s role in the war, first by linking his nation’s contribution with nations that are contributing far more in terms of troops and second by assigning them grandiose mission roles that have no basis in reality.

  9. One must point out that Finland’s foreign policy as a small non-NATO country is quite rational : They send a token contingent to a safe area of Afghanistan, thereby balancing the need to placate the great power USA vs the complete disinterest of the bulk of the Finnish population in the whole misadventure. Lindholm is a loony outlier.

    So then, I am also just curious FM. Among the thousands of blogopeople who (despite their obvious lack of any expertise) fearlessly make firmly assertive statements about Afghanistan-Pakistan, why did you pick up on this chap Lindholm? Is there any special rationale, or are you just plinking varmits?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I have the same problem when weeding my garden. Among all those weeds, which should I pluck? Since I cannot get them all, perhaps weeding is in vain?

    Also, Lindohm is from Finland! That makes his pro-war stance an exotica!

  10. Grimgrin, I suppose it’s too much to ask that you should acquaint yourself with my blog before making assertions that have no basis on what I have actually written. I haven’t “puffed up” anything; on the contrary, I have frequently ridiculed Finland’s meagre ISAF contribution.

    also,you’re incorrect in saying that the countries I mentioned aren’t securing ISAF’s northern flank. With the Taliban and its allies trying to gain a foothold in the north, it’s soldiers from these ridiculous European countries who are left to push them back. I haven’t seen any American troops up there, have you?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: What evidence do you have that they are in fact pushing back the Taliban? It’s largely an ethnic Pashtun movement, and their are few Pashtun’s in northern Afghanistan. More specifically, is Finland pushing back the Taliban? From Finland’s government website:

    “Finnish troops have been deployed to serve in the Swedish-led Mazar-i-Sharif reconstruction team in north-west Afghanistan.”

    I think we’ll need more evidence from Mr. Lindholm about the Finnish defense of the North. Is the Taliban welcome there? From Wikipedia:

    The worst attack on civilians came in summer of 1998 when the Taliban swept north from Herat to the predominantly Hazara and Uzbek city of Mazar-i-Sharif, the largest city in the north. Entering at 10 am on 8 August 1998, for the next two days the Taliban drove their pickup trucks “up and down the narrow streets of Mazar-i-Sharif shooting to the left and right and killing everything that moved — shop owners, cart pullers, women and children shoppers and even goats and donkeys.” More than 8000 noncombatants were reported killed in Mazar-i-Sharif and later in Bamiyan. Contrary to the injunctions of Islam, which demands immediate burial, the Taliban forbade anyone to bury the corpses for the first six days while they rotted in the summer heat and were eaten by dogs. In addition to this indiscriminate slaughter, the Taliban sought out and massacred members of the Hazara, a mostly Shia ethnic group, while in control of Mazar-i-Sharif.

  11. Our kind host wonders: “Why does Mr. Lindholm, a Finnish citizen, say “We”, when speaking about the Afghan war?” In effect, no European country (except, maybe, Great Britain) should say “we” while speaking about this matter. The one and only reason why European countries (except, I repeat, GB: maybe) fight in Afghanistan is: to obey an order – to be polite, let’s say: to accept a warm invitation – issued by the U.S. Government.

    Any other reason, having any link whatsoever with national or European interests, is totally devoid of ground and existence, because the Afghan war is an episode in the U.S. strategy directed to encircle and fragment Russia and CSI, while being in friendly terms with Russia is a vital interest for Europe as a whole, and for every European continental state.

    When a servant says “We” while speaking both of himself and his master, he reveals to be a lackey in the deep of his bone and heart; a kind of servant which can be useful, but who rarely gets the salary he may think to be entitled to. I’m afraid that this kind of attitude shines bright in every word written by Mr. Lindholm, and even in his tone and jargon, which so closely mimick a popular kind of hyperamerican stereotyped language. (“Hey, dude!”)

    Courageusly and effectively fighting against Germany and URSS in WWII, Finland gave ample proof NOT to be a country of lackeys. But of course, there are always exceptions.

  12. The US, while paying lip service to nuclear non-proliferation, actually helped Pakistan to acquire the bomb, as confirmed in the following articles :
    * “‘They sold out the world for an F-16 sale’“, The Raw Story, 30 April 2007
    * “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets“, Times, 6 January 2009

    The US keeps Pakistan afloat with generous economic and military aid. In that sense India is actually fighting the Americans in Pakistan. In case of any nuclear attack on India by Pakistan, India’s response may not be limited to Pakistan alone. All the sunni muslim nations within India’s reach, from Bangladesh to Libya might be vapourized in a massive retaliation.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is not accurate on several levels.
    * These are allegations by individuals, hardly “confirming” anything. For more background see the Wikipedia entry about Sibel Edmonds and Richard Barlow.
    * Edmond’s allegations are about treason by US officials, not official aid to Pakistan.
    * I don’t know anything about The Raw Story, but would prefer additional sources.

    Also, why would the US want Pakistan to have nukes? Why would Pakistan initiate atomic war with India, certain destruction?

  13. What is odd about the 21th Century is how much fantasy and imagination has become the basis of “sound” government-policy. It was a bit different in the 20th Century, when there were some pretty real threats to deal with like nazism, communism or the threat of nuclear war.

    You would like to believe that the end of the Cold War would have made the world more peaceful. There was actually a moment in 1991 when Colin Powell as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated:”Think hard about it I’m running out of demons. I’m running out of villians. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il Sung.” Instead we saw a proliferation of fear-mongering in the nineties: Fear from Ebola and other diseases, fear from the so-called millenium bug, fear from asteroids and comets (some pretty awful movies were made by Hollywood ten years ago) and fear of super-terrorists. The nineties were actually pretty peaceful, but I was like everybody waited for something. Yet nothing happened. My wife from the United States remembers vividly how people in Michigan stored large quantities of food and water in anticipation of the coming of the Millenium Bug. They were very silent in the following weeks when nothing happened.

    Then came 911 and suddenly everything was possible, because if 19 terrorist could kill 3.000 Americans in New York and Washington what was not possible to happen? VP Dick Cheney coined it the one-percent doctrine and with this as national policy it was suddenly quite legitimate to send a B52 to bomb some huts in Afghanistan. Or to use torture and surveillance. While the right was scared of terrorists and the perceived decline of American values the left scorned it, but instead feared the threat of climate change. Actually the scientific basis is very slim, but why take any chances? The strangest moment came in 2007 when president Bush declared that if you were interested in preventing WW3 everybody should work together to prevent Iran from getting the nuclear bomb. Number of Iranian atomic bombs in 2009: Zero.

    My point is that since the end of Cold War the Western World has gradually left a policy based on real threats and instead went out chasing ghosts. Since they are ghosts it is impossible to say how strong they are or how powerful. Or even if they “exists” at all. How can you possible judge a succesful anti-terrorism campaign if the goal is to prevent terrorist act from happening at all? How can you judge the fight against climate change if nothing happens?

    Take for example Afghanistan: We are so determined to fight the Taleban that we – like Paulus at Stalingrad – completely ignore our flanks. We are dependend on Russian support to get in and out from the north and on Pakistani supply lines from the south. That doesn’t mean that anything will happen or “someone” will attempt to cut us off. There is no Red Army lurking in the horizon: I am just pointing out that in our myopic attempt to fight the Taleban we might end up placing us in even greater danger than before. Our fantasies could one day become the reality.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I strongly agree, and have wriitten about this turn to fantasy (though never stating it so clearly as you have done here).

  14. Lindholm reponds to this post

    From “Afghanistan: Answering Finel’s 10 Questions“, posted at his blog “The Stupidest Man on Earth”, 8 September 2009 — Excerpt:

    “Still, given the current state of the Afghanistan debate, where mobs carrying pitchforks and murmuring “Kill the warmonger!” have overpowered people who actually know what they’re talking about, it’s refreshing to see someone trying to advance the discussion in a civilised manner. So, for what it’s worth, here goes:”

    Does anyone believe that this correctly represents the content of this post? Or is this another illustration of the war’s advocates intellectual exhaustion?

  15. well, if that’s how we’re going to be characterized, i think we’re at least entitled to actual pitchforks and torches.

    i also don’t know how we overwhelmed all these people who “know” what they’re talking about. comments like:

    “Surely committing oneself to propping up an unpopular and failing regime for years to come would be just as expensive as “funding Afghan government commitments” mentioned above? Seriously — why is keeping a comatose government alive by infusions of cash and guns preferable to trying to make the government work better now that we’re still physically present to make sure our contributions don’t go to waste?”

    suggest they aren’t writing for his blog.

    (answer: because our soldiers are more expensive to train and pay, the cost of their lives are even more expensive in terms of political capital for US politicians, and there’s nothing to suggest that being there actually prevents our contributions from going to waste. we also have a lot of experience of supporting unpopular, corrupt, and brutal governments monetarily from the cold war, and we’re much better at it than state building).

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