Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Afghanistan - where western leaders go to ‘find themselves’


When western political elites appear in Afghanistan - President Lech Kaczynski was the latest to turn up today - it reminds me of the old hippy trail, when disaffected, angst-ridden sons and daughters of ruling elites and the middle classes travelled from Istanbul to Kabul in ‘search of themselves’ and a meaning of life back home seemed unable to provide.

But what did they hope to find among the poverty, backwardness and poppy fields?

President ‘Kaftan’ Kaczynski was in Afghanistan to meet the 1600 Polish troops stationed there and later went on - after his plane was late - to Kabul for meetings with President Karzai. The Afghan leader was probably beside himself with gratitude for plucky Poland’s help in trying to stabalise a country that was never stable in the first place. Kaczynski promised more troops - 400 are leaving soon from Poland to be stationed in the Gahzni province - but he almost certainly parroted concern in Washington and London that Karzai was “not doing enough” to deal with the corruption, the war lords and the resurgent Taliban.

The West is tiring of their (democratically elected) cheerleader, and would prefer someone else to take charge.

Note the outrage - from Western leaders - at the move to make formally legal a practice that has been, up to now, put in place by local custom, that the ten percent Shia Muslim population should abide by the medieval dictates of Sharia law, where women’s status is second class, at best. This really was screwing things up for President Obama etc - Afghanistan is his Big Foreign Policy Mission. With Afghani legislators acting like they didn’t particularly want western NGO-sponsored women’s drop in centres littering up the place, and acting a bit…well, backward…is no help at all. How would Washington justify the American troops dying for such a great and noble cause?

Luckily, Karzai backed down and revoked the offending legislation. Few! But still, thinks Washington, London, Warsaw…“Wouldn’t it be better if we got someone else to run the place?”

Afghan is where some of the Western political elites are getting their kicks - this was meant to be the theatre of the ‘war on terror’; this was where the bad guys have to be whipped; this was where the poor people of Afghanistan could gratefully receive “humanitarian intervention”.

With the Soviet Union gone, where else would those guys get their reason to be; their sense of purpose? Like the hippies of old, places like Afghanistan have become a place to find oneself, when finding a sense of purpose at home is increasingly difficult for them.

In Poland, being the good boy of NATO is the number one foreign policy goal. Afghanistan is the perfect opportunity to show willing. When the US asked for more troops to go and fight the Taliban, many of the European governments started staring at their shoes, or noticing bits of fluff that had to removed from their suits. Not Warsaw! You want more troops? Even at a time when we are slashing our defence budget? Nie ma problemu!

Poland wants to be the NATO guard dog of its eastern borders, too. This is a consensus that crosses political divides in Warsaw. This is what Poland’s leaders need to feel useful, give them purpose.

Who is the bigger hippy?

It gets all the more complicated when President Kaczynski and Prime Minister Tusk are currently involved in a bloody battle over who is the more important as far as foreign policy is concerned, the underhand ruthlessness of which would make a Taliban leader look like a wuss.

The latest shenanigans at the NATO summit in Prague last weekend illustrates the point, nicely.

President and government had agreed to not back the eventual winner, Rasmussen, straight away, but try to wheedle a few concessions out of the other NATO leaders - like Turkey eventually did. Last week, the Foreign Ministry sent a note to President Kaczynski with the title: How to play the diplomatic game. Kaczynski obviously took a brief skim-read of the contents and, riled by the patronising title of the memo, chucked it into the bin.

So at the dinner last Friday night, before the summit proper, Kaczynski - suffering under his usual political-turrets-syndrome - blurted out that “Poland will support the Great Dane.”

Oops! Game over.

Foreign Minister Sikorski, who was basically rejected as a candidate for secretary-general because the Russians wouldn’t like him, must have been spitting blood. Kaczynski had done it again! Who was ruling Polish foreign policy, anyway?

And so the farce continues…

The political elite in Poland has had a hard time in Poland since 1989 convincing Poles that they are worth taking any notice of. And then something like Afghanistan, the EU, NATO come along, and suddenly they can feel important in high places. Afghanistan has become like opium for our leaders. They can’t get enough of it.

27 comments:

ge'ez said...

Real hippies drink:

www.threecupsoftea.com

jannowak57 said...

Nie ma problemu! is right.

Why don’t we just take the lead from France and Germany after all as established members of Nato and the European union could they actually be wrong?

Well let me tell you no red blooded Pole could stomach the depravity of the French and German positions. To conduct yourself as a duplicitous, cynical coward in full view of the entire world is outside of the cultural norms of most Poles.

We are represented by 1600 soldiers (soon to be 2000) who operated without elaborate restrictions and this is a real contribution proportional in size to our population and economy. These soldiers are doing a good job and should be fully supported by the nation that sent them. That means the politicians taking time to show some interest in the mission.

There can be no greater failing of the character than conniving by means of lies and deception to avoid doing your fair share, especially if you were the nation that received the greatest benefit from the alliance. The German keeps telling us how they were traumatized by the war and now remain reluctant to get into a combat mission. After all our great grand fathers were raving Nazis so don’t have any great expectations from us on the world scene. Wrong! Your great grandfathers had no moral fabric and your just carrying on with German tradition.

The German forces have many restrictions on the use of their forces in Afghanistan one of which is no patrolling without the presence of a motorized ambulance. This sleazy little restriction was designed to avoid foot patrols and therefore making their units of no use in the areas where combat is taking place. The French are demonstrating their little better.

Poland is doing the right thing in Afghanistan and has nothing to apologize for.

beatroot said...

I agree that say Germany tries to have it both ways as far as their role in Nato is concerned. and how much longer can they play the history card in this.

But my point was more about what Nato forces are doing in Afghanistan in the first place. I don;t think it has got much to do with the Afghanis. And when things go wring...Nato blames the Afghanis and not themselves - who are ultimatly responcible for what is happening that region.

And Obama's foreign policy is Bush-lite...no great CHANGE there...

ge'ez said...

No, the Taliban are responsible for most of what's bad that's happening in that region. You completely left them out of the equation.

That said, I would rather have troops concentrating on building schools which will prove to be the greatest protection against Islamic extremism.

beatroot said...

No, the Taliban are responsible for most of what's bad that's happening in that region. You completely left them out of the equation...

That's simply not he case. The region was comparitivly stable with the Taliban in power. That's why many Afghanis and Pakistan supported it. Before the Taliban there was civil war betwen groups funded and supported by the Us against Soviet occupation.

Since the invasion and occupation by the US etc the region has destabilised massivly...and the policies of the occupaying forces have been the main contributor for that.

So I am afraid the west cannot pass the BUCK that easily...

ge'ez said...

So you are supportive of Taliban-brand stability?

Why do you insist on analyzing the situation now by comparing the period before the Taliban took power to the period when the Taliban had power?

beatroot said...

Me supporting or not taliban anything is immaterial...that's Afghanis problem to sort out. Which they have before and will do again.

The problem for Afghanis has always been foreign occupations. They are the destabalisers...British, Russia, Obama...

jannowak57 said...

beatroot said: “ Obama's foreign policy is Bush-lite”
I don’t see where he has a lot of choices short of the Taliban cutting a deal to sell out Al-Qaeda. Were it not for Al-Qaeda who would care how backward and primitive the country was under the Taliban.

ge'ez said “That said, I would rather have troops concentrating on building schools which will prove to be the greatest protection against Islamic extremism.”

I don’t s see how you can do this, you can not build schools, hospitals and roads while you’re your under fire. If you build that new school and have the teacher beheaded by the Taliban or the students sprayed with acid your getting nowhere. It has to be security first and aid second. And yes your right the Taliban are responsible for the instability.

beatroot said “The region was comparatively stable with the Taliban in power. That's why many Afghanis and Pakistan supported it.”

Yes that’s correct and in itself would not have inspired western intervention. But the Taliban took Al-Qaeda’s money and allowed its territory to be used as a centre for training and planning operations against the west. We must remember that the Taliban were given a chance to hand over the Al-Qaeda people in order to avoid invasion but chose not to.

ge'ez said...

There are stabile areas in which schools can be built which which will keep them stabile.

And on the experience of building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, see: www.ikat.org

And seek out the book Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.

Finally, I'm sorry, but self-determination for fascists has never been my cup of tea, wanton-wild-wooly interventionist that I am.

beatroot said...

But the Taliban took Al-Qaeda’s money and allowed its territory to be used as a centre for training and planning operations against the west. .

Training? Have you seen the "training" these ace jihad fighters were getting in Afghanistan? Doing pseudo-combat training on caveman style wooden gymnasiums?

Many of the guys who did 9/11 were radicalised in Hamburg - not Kabul - and trained in the United States. That’s where they learned to fly the plains. Afghanistan had no substantial input at all.

Afghanistan was invaded because bin Laden was there. But he has had little to do with the three al-Qaeda attacks in the west: 9/11, Madrid, London. Afghanistan was invaded by a President Bush myth, so as to be seen to be "doing something" to get revenge for 9/11. So was Iraq.

Geez
No - self determination for Afghans to sort this for themselves. That's the way to empower people.

ge'ez said...

Sorta like letting the Palestinians and Israelis sort things out for themselves...

Ain't gonna work.

Intervention may not work either.

Maybe Afghanistan is just damned.

beatroot said...

It ain't gonna work is not a foreign policy, Mr Geez. But, in fact, most conflicts end. No - ALL conflicts end. But when intenetion risks making things worse then that is a bad foreign policy. Obama's is a bad foreign policy.

ge'ez said...

I think the term "Ad nauseum" came about for a reason.

Your prediction as to when the Palestinian - Israeli conflict will end?

I ain't holding my breath...

peter said...

I have no prediction when that conflict - entriely created by outside interference, of course, will end. But do you really think, they need help, like unruly children, from the wise, wise west?

Don;t flatter yourself.

ge'ez said...

Lemme guess. You're saying that the Israelis are puppets of the US?

And the US was responsible for WWII thereby driving European Jewry to Palestine?

beatroot said...

Well...you can go back to belfore agreement...1917 or so and then just keep going forward to present day...that part of the world has always been an Imperialists play thing...and outside powers, having created the situation in the first place should not keep flattering themselves that they are suddenly part of the solution...because they were not, are not, and will not be..

ge'ez said...

Well. as long as you admit it's the fault of the British....

beatroot said...

Them Brits...bastards!

ge'ez said...

And it even looks like Ireland may even have a better football team.

Hoppy holidaze.

beatroot said...

Northern Irish!

No Surrender!

Bunnies.

varus said...

Out of all of that debate, the last four cooments were the best by far!!! Generally i dissagree with a lot of what has been said. 1) Security and infrasstructure go hand in hand; to seperate them goes against all the lessons that have been learnt in the last twenty years of peacekeeping/counter-insurgency. 2) To get involved in Afghanistan was just a matter of time and oppurtunity/motivation. We (the "west") could not have allowed this State to exist much longer, just as Somalia is becoming a sore upon the international landscape. I am sorry for putting it bluntly, but in these respects i am a realist in that i know that it takes a selfish reason for countries to get involved in other's turmoil. Tak Sudan, where countless deaths had not motivated people in the way that Bosnia's proximity to the EU did. Therefore Somalia'spoverty is nothing as long as it does not touch anyone else, howevetr, if it touches valuable ships, then that is different.

beatroot said...

I can;t work out if that is pro invading Afghanistan - and invading its sovereignty - or not? Neither do I know if you realise that the invasion helped cause the instability? It's not a cure, it's one of the causes.

varus said...

The stability issue as regards the security and infastructure is abot the present day. Whether we like it or not, Nato in involved. We can not just up sticks and leave. The issue of whether we should have gone in in 2001 is ofcourse another issue entirely. In terms of soveriegnty, this is ofcourse and aquard issue and the present day precedent was ofcourse set in 1999 with Kosovo. Does a third party have a right to intervene in an independent countries domestic affairs. Acording to the Westphalian system: no! However, we also have to take into account that the 2001 War was the first time that Nato's 5th Article was invoked and so prehaps this overides soverignty. Beetroot, i am not supposing that i have all the answers, but i am sure that the Talaban needed to be got rid of. Whether this was the best way, prehaps onoly history will tell.

varus said...

p.s. ofcourse i understand that the invasion caused the instability; give me some credit!!

varus said...

p.s. ofcourse i understand that the invasion caused the instability; give me some credit!!

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