Obama Should Read up On How Roman General Pompey Dealt with Terrorists

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pompey.jpgBarack Obama is having America up the ante on its investment in rolling back the Taliban and those who follow them in Afghanistan. We are sending more troops and trainers, and are committing to civil reconstruction programs whose outlines are unclear.
But Obama and his advisers should read this bit on Roman General Pompey’s efforts to deal with the terrorists of the day at the height (and near end) of the Roman republic.
Pompey gave the pirates he quelled an alternative life — and I just don’t see that yet in the rhetoric or strategic game plan that is unfolding for America’s now seven year plus military engagement in Afghanistan.
I first saw this clip on Richard Vague’s Delancey Place:
Terror in Rome
In today’s excerpt — terror in Rome. In 67 BC, Pompey, early in a meteoric career as a Ro
man politician and general that includes conquering the East and joining with Caesar in a Triumvirate to rule Rome, is asked to overcome the pirates that have been terrorizing Rome for decades:

“Capture by pirates had recently become something of an occupational hazard for Roman aristocrats. … However, kidnapping was only a sideline for the pirates. Calculated acts of intimidation ensured that they could extort and rob almost at will, inland as well as at sea. . .
The shadowiness of the pirate’s organization, and their diffuse operations, made them a foe unlike any other. ‘The pirate is not bound by the rules of war, but is the common enemy of everyone,’ Cicero complained. ‘There can be no trusting him, no attempt to bind him with mutually agreed treaties.’ How could such an adversary be pinned down, let alone eradicated? To make the attempt would be to fight against phantoms. ‘It would be an unprecedented war, fought without rules, in a fog’; a war that appeared without promise of an end. . .
“Only once, in 102 BC, had the Romans been provoked into tackling the menace head on. The great orator Marcus Antonius, Cicero’s hero, had been dispatched to Cilicia with an army and a fleet. The pirates had quickly fled their strongholds, Antonius had proclaimed a decisive victory, and the Senate had duly awarded him a triumph. But the pirates had merely regrouped on Crete, and they soon returned to their old haunts, as predatory as before. … Bandits, like their prey, were most likely to be fugitives from the misery of the times, from extortion, warfare, and social breakdown. …
“The pirate’s growing command of the sea enabled them to throttle the shipping lanes. The supply of everything, from slaves to grain, duly dried to a trickle, and Rome began to starve. . .
The grip of famine tightened around Rome. Starving citizens took to the Forum, demanding action on the crises and the appointment of a proconsul to resolve it. … It was a tribune, in 67 BC, who proposed the people’s hero [Pompey] be given a sweeping license to deal with the pirates. … Pompey was granted an unprecedented force of 500 ships and 120,000 men together with the right to levy more, should he decide that they were needed. …
“As it proved, to sweep the seas clear of pirates, storm their last stronghold, and end a menace that had been tormenting the Republic for decades took the new proconsul a mere three months. It was a brilliant victory, a triumph for Pompey himself and an eye-opening demonstration of the reserves of force available to Rome.
Even the Romans themselves appear to have been a little stunned. … Campaigns of terror were containable. Rome remained a superpower.
“Even though Pompey’s victory had demonstrated once again that the Republic could pretty much as it pleased, there was none of the savagery that had been traditionally been used to drive that lesson home. In a display of clemency quite as startling as his victory, Pompey not merely refrained from crucifying his captives, but bought them plots of land and helped set them up as farmers.
Brigandage, he had clearly recognized, was bred of rootlessness and social upheaval. For as long as the Republic was held responsible for these conditions, there would continue to be a hatred of Rome. Yet it hardly needs emphasizing that the rehabilitation of criminals was not standard policy. . .
The town where [Pompey] settled them was titled Pompeiopolis: his mercy and munificence were to contribute eternally to the greatness of his name.”
— Tom Holland, Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic, Anchor Books, Copyright 2003 by Tom Holland, pp. 164-171.

— Steve Clemons

Comments

46 comments on “Obama Should Read up On How Roman General Pompey Dealt with Terrorists

  1. silver slipper says:

    Again, if we have our own oil/energy sources, no one else controls us! We take the control from them!
    Also, the “masters of the universe” are probably more concerned on who controls banking in our country and internationally. For other posts on previous subjects, a huge emphasis has been made on the greed on wall street. Well the real greed is with the private bankers who own the Federal Reserve. All this debt we’re going into under President Obama’s plan is making them filthy rich!!! – And then after them, it’s making China rich. And they are the one’s who control us. To quote another famous person, let’s listen to Thomas Jefferson: “I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”
    Thomas Jefferson, (Attributed)
    3rd president of US (1743 – 1826)

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  2. JohnH says:

    silver slipper–the issue is not access to oil. It’s control over oil. As Kissinger supposedly once said, “Control oil and you control nations, control food and you control the people.”
    Drilling at home won’t slake the thirst of today’s masters of the universe. But a collapsing economy will eventually impose limits on their unbridled ambition.

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  3. silver slipper says:

    If many of the wars we have fought are just about oil, why don’t we drill here in the US? That would decrease our need for foreign oil, and therefore will decrease how often we go to war. And of course, find alternative sources of energy. But more immediately (within 5 years), we could have a large portion of our oil/natural gas from here at home.

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  4. JohnH says:

    Franklin–why do you think some people suspect a conspiracy? There is no conspiracy. It’s official policy we’re talking about here–unavowed official government policy.
    In case you hadn’t noticed, the government peddled a whole series of false pretenses about Iraq. When they were all proven false, the government basically gave up trying to explain the reasons for blowing a couple $Trillion there. In case you forgot, Greenspan blew the whistle (but only because he thought everyone already knew) that it was actually about oil.
    If you don’t think the government’s standard policy is to lie about its foreign policy–constantly, I’ve got a bridge to sell you or, even better, some derivatives on a bridge.

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  5. ... says:

    franklin 1:02pm – it is always easier to see the world thru a coincidence lens..
    i don’t find anything in any of your posts challenging any basic assumptions, but more a continuation of the same agenda that i think leads the usa further into a hole it has been digging for itself for some time…..look at all the nuances you’d like to… it doesn’t change the fact the usa is involved in perpetuating war around the globe… your comments here are clearly support this… i find that disingenuous..

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  6. Franklin says:

    Anon 12:24 PM,
    It is always easier to see the world through a conspiratorial lens.
    Rather than looking at each case based on evidence, and weighing each matter on the basis of its merits; a unifying b.s. theory like the military industrial complex vis a vis Afghanistan allows the mind to short-cut all other considerations. If you find comfort in that kind of reductive view, that’s where you find comfort. I’m not going to change your mind.
    My own view is that military contractors and military contracts are a huge source of waste. That doesn’t mean that all policy decisions are based exclusively on novel ways to justify wasteful spending.
    As far as the USA being a marketer of war, we’re not doing a very good job. Other countries including China, Russia, and France have been cutting into the U.S.’s “market share” for a long time.
    e.g. Most of the conflicts in Africa over the past decade have been facilitated with cheap weapons from China and Russia; not the U.S. The proliferation of AK-47s should be one key piece of evidence.
    As far as Pepe Escobar’s point goes, conflicts over energy are real. That doesn’t mean that the U.S.’s only consideration in military engagements is energy policy. In the case of Vietnam, N. Korea, and even more recently Granada; the intervention in Somalia; or Haiti; it’s hard to see a rational based on energy policy.
    The first Iraq War it was clearly a consideration; as it was in the second case.
    In reference to Afghanistan/Pakistan there are other issues at stake. To ignore those other consideration is, in my view, intellectually dishonest.
    It is human nature to simplify a complex reality and to engage in reductive thinking. That is one human response to a chaotic world.
    It is much harder to challenge assumptions and to look at each case on its merits without resorting to the crutch of some unifying b.s. philosophical framework.
    Escobar’s #1 this issue has been driven in recent years by the political class – not the Pentagon. The “War on Terror” framework definitely is a substitute for a new Soviet Union. There are aspects of the threat that clearly have been over-hyped; so that Muslim’s generally are all lumped together without regard to any other consideration.
    It allows people to look at issues in a lazy manner and avoid recognizing nuance. The other side of the coin, of course, is the evidence in recent attacks against civilian populations in the west on the part of ideological fringe groups. To ignore that reality and dismiss it because of “blood for oil” or the military industrial complex is equally intellectually dishonest. In some cases, our foreign policy in the Middle East antagonizes resentment — there are legitimate grievances; in other places there are resentments that are manufactured against the U.S. based on a paranoid world-view.

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  7. ... says:

    the sideways v seems to screw up posting… my comments where not included… to summarize, your post is just a lot of bullshit and excuse for continuing in the state sponsored terrorist tradition the usa has been going in for the past 60 years… keep on supporting the military industrial complex and see where it gets you… 9-11 – make sure to stand down norad for that special occasion, not to mention all the other coincidence theories that are needed to hold it up under examination…. the usa is a marketer of war and all things related to war… franklins posts are about continuing in this bullshit tradition..

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  8. ... says:

    franklin quote >>If a person believes that Afghanistan was a training base for the 9/11 attacks, and that there is a strong likelihood that it could be used again as a base of operation, then it’s important to create conditions that mitigate against those circumstances arising again.>As far as the military industrial complex issue goes, yes, this is a problem.> It’s also a problem when civilian airliners are used as a weapon against civilian infrastructure in the U.S. resulting in the murder of civilians.> I think there is always a temptation to oversimplify and reduce a complex reality to easy formulations.<< their is always a temptation to overcomplexify and extend a simple reality to complex formulations with those who like to obfuscate…. i find your comments help facilitate all the wrong things about the usa – military industrial complex being number 1….

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  9. JohnH says:

    Pepe Escobar describes the absurdity of the Afghan mission and speculates about Washington’s real ambitions: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/KD02Df03.html
    1. A Cold War mentality in action still prevailing at the Pentagon.
    2. The US Empire of Bases still in overdrive, and in New Great Game mode.
    3. The fear of a spectacular NATO failure.
    4. Last but not least, the energy wars.
    (Other regional players are more interested in the poppies. Who knows, maybe the CIA is, too.)
    Funny how the corporate media, and TWN for that matter, never talk about alternative, logical explanations for Washington’s behavior. They desperately want to believe the official pretenses, probably because their underwriters have a very vested interest in certain outcomes.

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  10. Franklin says:

    JohnH,
    Based on your line of reasoning, since oil is the predominant issue, the U.S. had been in Sudan for the past 8 years with tens of thousands of troops.
    Unlike Afghanistan, Sudan actually has oil reserves.
    This discussion has sort of descended into silliness.
    Oil certainly was part of the Iraq equation; oil is incidental to our involvement in Afghanistan.
    Afghanistan has no inherent strategic value for anyone but Russia circa 1979 in its desire for a warm water port. The country has no significant natural resource deposits of its own — just some hypothetical value involving a pipeline that would run through a several hundred mile area with a history of political instability (the pipeline would also be open to sabotage).
    Yet, in your view, a hypothetical pipeline MUST BE THE REASON. The hypothetical pipeline has greater reality for you than the 9/11 attacks and our fears about future terrorist attacks.
    As someone who experienced the 9/11 attacks in a fairly immediate way, the concerns regarding terrorism are not abstract for me. They are not so unreal that I start indulging in fantasies about the power of American oil companies (their best days are behind them and their influence is not exactly overwhelming with this administration).
    These are paranoid times, indeed.
    Needless to say, we do not agree, and it’s a safe bet that we will never agree. So be it.

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  11. JohnH says:

    Franklin–the pipeline could run through China. Yeah, right. Like we’d allow that! Fact is, there are only two nations standing between Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. One is Iran, the other is Afghanistan. And a former Unocal consultant got selected to head Afghanistan. Go figure! No, Afghanistan has nothing to do with oil. Just like Iraq had nothing to do with oil, though in the end no one could think of another reason for continuing to occupy the place.
    Now as to “disrupting the re-emergence of future networks in Afghanistan,” how exactly do you do that when you can’t even disrupt the likes of McVeigh at home? Yes, McVeigh WAS a different type of threat. But the next McVeigh may come armed with discarded low-level radioactive materials (dirty bombs). What’s really to stop it?
    I’ll concede that Afghanistan’s potential for harboring international terrorists is good, just like that of any number of other failed states and even Western nations. So Afghanistan’s future, possible potential for harboring international terrorists is not unique. But “disrupting international terrorist networks” is given as the reason for spending gobs of taxpayer dollars to chase mirages in the desert, when those same mirages could be found and chased most anywhere.
    The difference here is Afghanistan’s strategic location. And the US needs a justification–any justification, no matter how flimsy–to control that strategic location. The public “justification” rests solely on the fact that Bin Laden happened to launch 911 from Afghanistan, though he could just as well have done it from Sudan or Yemen, where he had launched terrorist attacks before. Now Bin Laden has disappeared–no captures of Al Qaeda operatives in years. He or like minded terrorists could be most anywhere.
    Yet we are to believe that Afghanistan–unless pacified under close and constant American supervision–will be the most likely launch point for the next international terrorist attack! Baloney!!! It could be launched from lots of places that we have chosen not to occupy, not because of their low potential for harboring terrorists, but because of their low perceived strategic value.

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  12. Franklin says:

    JohnH,
    Part of the equation is to disrupt the re-emergence of future networks in Afghanistan.
    I don’t think the “potential” in Afghanistan is far-fetched given the country’s recent history, the enduring problems along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the enduring problems with Kashmir, and the ties between foreign fighters, and foreign money in the region.
    As far as the McVeighs go, you’re talking about a different kind of threat within our own borders. The circumstances are different, and so are the tools at the disposal of our state. If McVeigh had received outside support for his actions, I am certain we would have attempted to mitigate against the likelihood of his outside supporters training and bankrolling another McVeigh.
    As far as the oil pipeline goes, if you remove 9/11 from the equation, we would not be investing time, energy, and our human and financial capital in Afghanistan.
    Pakistan and bordering countries didn’t give us access to Afghanistan after 9/11, because the pipeline idea seemed to be attractive all of a sudden.
    The pipeline could just as easily run through China to South Asia — there is nothing that says the pipeline necessarily needs to run through Afghanistan. I think a conspiracy minded idea about South Asia being forced to get its energy through American intermediation doesn’t make a lot of sense. Even in the case of Iraq, there is no guarantee that U.S. companies will end up having oil service agreements with the Iraqi state (as a parallel example). Even if a pipeline does happen in Afghanistan, and U.S. companies service it, it won’t happen without support from South Asia. The U.S. is no longer in a position where it can dictate terms over foreign oil deals. Those days are at least a decade or so behind us.
    If a person believes that Afghanistan was a training base for the 9/11 attacks, and that there is a strong likelihood that it could be used again as a base of operation, then it’s important to create conditions that mitigate against those circumstances arising again. Yes, civilian casualties work against achieving that objective.
    As far as the military industrial complex issue goes, yes, this is a problem. It’s also a problem when civilian airliners are used as a weapon against civilian infrastructure in the U.S. resulting in the murder of civilians. I think there is always a temptation to oversimplify and reduce a complex reality to easy formulations. Saying that Afghanistan is just about oil — or even predominantly about oil; or that Afghanistan is just about preserving the military industrial complex — ignores the most obvious reason for American military involvement in Afghanistan post-9/11.

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  13. JohnH says:

    Franklin, it’s nice to hear your opinion on what the US objective is in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, that’s not what Obama thinks it is. He SAYS it’s to disrupt terrorist networks. Of course, he doesn’t offer any evidence there are any terrorist networks there to be disrupted. (Most international groups probably moved to safer havens long ago.) So Afghanistan has only the POTENTIAL to harbor terrorist networks at some point, a potential shared by many other locales. Timothy McVeigh is instructive: if you can’t even rid the US of terrorists, how can you ever hope to do it in Afghanistan?
    Now I find it hard to believe that the objective is nation-building. Exactly how does that guarantee the elimination of outlaw groups like Bin Laden’s or McVeigh’s? If nation-building were the ultimate goal, Obama would have explicitly called for an end to actions that spawn terrorists, such as targeted assassination of wedding parties (oh, excuse me, collateral damage.)
    It’s amazing how eager “experts” (propagandists) are to ignore Afghanistan’s strategic location for pipeline corridors from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean. Stabilizing Afghanistan for oil and gas corridors has a logical coherence that other pretenses lack. But the propaganda continue, probably because chasing terrorists resonates more with Americans, while using US tax dollars to secure one of the remotest places on earth so that South Asia is forced to get its energy through American military and corporate intermediation.

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  14. ... says:

    “I see the U.S.’s intention at this stage as nation building.” start in your own backyard… it is military industrial complex building and nothing else…

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  15. Franklin says:

    JohnH,
    We have a fundamental disagreement.
    I don’t think the primary purpose of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan at this stage is to chase after Al Qaeda. We’ve achieved the initial objective and have rolled up training camps inside Afghanistan; there is a secondary objective associated with rolling up existing networks in border regions in Pakistan.
    I see the U.S.’s intention at this stage as nation building. e.g. establish a stable state in Afghanistan so that we reduce the likelihood that Al Qaeda or an Al Qaeda-like organization will again use the country as a base of operations. Because of Iraq, we failed to finish the job in Afghanistan during the Bush administration. This is the reason for the renewed focus and commitment of resources now.
    By doing so the hope is that we reduce the need for the U.S. to return to the region militarily in the future.
    I’m not sure why you believe that Al Qaeda would cease to use Afghanistan again as a safe haven and base of operations if it could (it can’t now).
    In the event of a U.S. withdrawal at this stage, Afghanistan would revert to where it was before the Fall of 2001. That is my assumption.

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  16. JohnH says:

    Franklin–My point was NOT about “prioritizing threats”. My point is that you have to have good evidence that there is any threat at all before you decide to commit increasing levels of resources.
    The US in Afghanistan is like a bunch of cops spending years trying to find a robber at a bank that got robbed years ago. The perps are long gone. Where is the evidence that Al Qaeda is a present danger in Afghanistan? Is Afghanistan now or likely to become a more significant threat than any number of other failed states?
    Either the US is totally stupid about future havens of terrorism threats or they have covert ambitions in Afghanistan. I doubt the US is THAT stupid…

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  17. silver slipper says:

    Franklin:
    Good point – maybe reaching out to people not fully supportive of terrorism will in the end decrease support for terrorist acts.
    I guess I’m not fully supportive of idea though, even thinking of it that way. I mean, terrorism is frightening – therefore some people may give the terrorist support just out of fear. The persons we reach out to would probably have to be willing to give their life if they were determined to not give support to a terrorist when asked.
    I also can’t separate the word terrorist from extremist. Therefore, I view all terrorists as persons who are on the fringe.
    So therefore, I don’t see how lessons learned from history from Pompey could apply to how we deal with terrorists.

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  18. Franklin says:

    silver slipper,
    Who does Bin Laden represent? (Assuming the guy is even still alive, which I think is very much an open question)
    Bin Laden’s group represents at most a lunatic fringe of a few thousand out of 1.4 billion. As far as Israel goes, he doesn’t even speak for those militant groups opposed to the Israeli occupation (Al Qaeda also has said that Shi’ites are apostates — that includes a large number of Palestinians).
    Perhaps there are 100,000 or so sympathizers across the Muslim world who might provide material support — even that’s a big if.
    The authoritarian Christianist militia movement in this country has demonstrated just as much hostility to the United States as Bin Laden’s group (see the Oklahoma City Bombing, Atlanta Olympic bombing, abortion clinic bombings).
    I think the issue isn’t so much brokering deals with Bin Laden and his ilk as it is removing the appeal of Bin Laden’s “solution” for those who are disenfranchised economically and politically.
    Counter-insurgency doctrine doesn’t claim that it’s possible to co-opt every fringe movement.
    Counter-insurgency doctrine does assert that it’s possible to defeat fringe movements by marginalizing them. Pompey’s prescriptions should be viewed along these lines.
    One of the ways to marginalize groups like Al Qaeda is through economic development.
    There will always be ideological nutjobs and demagogues who make a career appealing to the lowest common denominator. In the U.S. some even get TV shows on Fox’s cable channel. That’s just part of the reality.

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  19. Oreo_and_Milk says:

    ^it really is amazing how bin laden thinks the west is stealing oil while something like OPEC exists; I guess he means he wants greater freedom in manipulating prices, hurting the west with the oil weapon while looting the poor and developing nations of the world, something that probably makes too many liberals wet just thinking about it.

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  20. ... says:

    oreo and milk – you go with corporate rule, i will stick with the small farmers… i’m not spending any more words on ya…

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  21. silver slipper says:

    I don’t know how the problem the USA has with terrorists CAN’T BE seen as fully related to ideology. I say that based upon Osama bin Laden’s letter to the US in 2002. You can find that letter at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/nov/24/theobserver . In the letter, Bin Laden says the reasons why it’s okay for them to attack US citizens are:
    The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased.
    You steal our wealth and oil at paltry prices because of your international influence and military threats.
    Therefore, the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. Thus the American people have chosen, consented to, and affirmed their support for the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, the occupation and usurpation of their land, and its continuous killing, torture, punishment and expulsion of the Palestinians.
    The American people are the ones who pay the taxes which fund the planes that bomb us in Afghanistan, the tanks that strike and destroy our homes in Palestine, the armies which occupy our lands in the Arabian Gulf, and the fleets which ensure the blockade of Iraq.
    Osama says these are things America can do to keep further attacks from happening:
    The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.
    (2) The second thing we call you to, is to stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you.
    (a) We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling’s, and trading with interest.
    ii) You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions. Yet you build your economy and investments on Usury.
    (3) What we call you to thirdly is to take an honest stance with yourselves – and I doubt you will do so – to discover that you are a nation without principles or manners, and that the values and principles to you are something which you merely demand from others, not that which you yourself must adhere to.
    (4) We also advise you to stop supporting Israel, and to end your support of the Indians in Kashmir, the Russians against the Chechens and to also cease supporting the Manila Government against the Muslims in Southern Philippines.
    (5) We also advise you to pack your luggage and get out of our lands. We desire for your goodness, guidance, and righteousness, so do not force us to send you back as cargo in coffins.
    (6) Sixthly, we call upon you to end your support of the corrupt leaders in our countries. Do not interfere in our politics and method of education. Leave us alone, or else expect us in New York and Washington.
    (7) We also call you to deal with us and interact with us on the basis of mutual interests and benefits, rather than the policies of sub dual, theft and occupation, and not to continue your policy of supporting the Jews because this will result in more disasters for you.
    If you fail to respond to all these conditions, then prepare for fight with the Islamic Nation. The Nation of Monotheism, that puts complete trust on Allah and fears none other than Him. The Nation which is addressed by its Quran with the words: “Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him if you are believers. Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of believing people. And remove the anger of their (believers’) hearts. Allah accepts the repentance of whom He wills. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” [Quran9:13-1]
    Hmmmm…. Maybe we ARE overstating ideology as a problem of dealing with terrorists (extremists)! Maybe if we just offer them some farming land and a way to ensure a good way of life, and we can be like Pompey and just solve this conflict with terrorists! – Maybe Osama Bin Laden will start growing wheat on the hillsides in Afghanistan!
    Hmmmm……, maybe we could solve the problem this way if we would just give them THE ENTIRE LAND OF ISRAEL! – And we all became Muslim! Maybe then, we would have peace.

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  22. Franklin says:

    kotzabasis,
    It may seem obvious that “knowing the adversary” also entails “knowing the adversary’s capacity” for achieving intentions. Still, the idea a small danger can evolve into the greatest one sound reminiscent of Cheney’s alleged “one percent doctrine”.
    Ultimately, a nation’s resources are limited, so it is necessary to prioritize threats. A nation that spends its time pursuing every potential threat without any regard to likely outcomes wastes its resources. Ultimately, that nation makes itself vulnerable to a range of threats that may have seemed remote otherwise, because it squanders its military and economic capacity chasing marginal threats. When a real threat emerges, the state is in a weakened condition to deal with those other challenges.
    e.g. If the Russian Czar had prioritized threats correctly in advance of WWI, he might have removed the conditions for revolution, and have had some say in the future course of the Russian state. Instead he bankrupted the economy and wasted millions of soldiers’ lives fighting the Germans. It didn’t help things that the Czar’s failure – and that of his predecessors – to modernize the Russia economy and political order helped to create conditions for the rise of Bolshevism. The failure of the Russian monarchy to modernize its state over one-hundred years after the Napoleonic invasion helped establish the conditions for a crisis.
    In reference to JohnH’s point – this idea of prioritizing threats is the main argument against a continued presence in Afghanistan. (e.g. on the one hand, the presence of western military forces in Afghanistan creates more problems than it solves; and that the security threat posed by militants in Afghanistan is only a marginal threat to the U.S.’s security. e.g. 9/11 was a fluke; by pouring money into a sink-hole we only weaken our national security).
    I don’t agree with the premise, but I understand the reasoning.
    I think a more immediate threat due to a renewed failure of the Afghan state exists for Afghanistan’s neighbors. Pakistan-India in particular, but also Iran, and to a lesser extent China are impacted by the stability of Afghanistan. The persistence of an Al Qaeda presence in Afghan-Pakistan also poses a threat to the U.S.’s security and its interests. Perhaps the threat is not existential, but it is one that still needs to be dealt with.
    We might ask: At what cost ultimately? Can we achieve the same objective of limiting the threat posed by anti-Western militants through a different set of measure? I think these are fair questions to ask. Certainly energy independence is part of the long-term solution that mitigates against a whole range of problems; in the near-term though I believe that the U.S. and NATO’s continued commitment to Afghanistan is necessary. I think the likelihood of success is even greater if the U.S. can get buy in from Afghanistan’s neighbors (e.g. I define “success” as the creation of a stable state that is not hostile to neighbors and does not serve as a training ground for anti-western militants). A power vacuum in Afghanistan had a destabilizing impact on the region before 2001; I think it’s reasonable to assume that a return to the conditions before 2001 will only recreate the crisis conditions that existed before 2001 (e.g. in addition to the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban and Iran almost went to war; Pakistan and India’s tensions ratcheted up).

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  23. Oreo_and_milk says:

    Those pirates had real-world needs and problems while the savages that hang homosexuals on street lamps are driven by a dangerous delusion that overrides their rational self-interest.
    To the poster “…”,
    “when one thinks of how small farmers are treated, maybe helping them to a lifestyle of that isn’t all that great either…. our world has become one big corporate raid, with small people being eaten up by the system… i guess that makes me a terrorist too, because i don’t believe in this kind of bullshit and am opposed strongly to corporate rule… that is one of the things i think these terrorists are against and i am with them on that…”
    What a disgustingly sickenig post. Poor farmers shouldn’t recieve any help for a better life because that would translate to ‘corporate rule’ in your reality? And you have the nerve to say such a twisted thing sitting on a PC and probably in an air-condition room, while those poor people struggle for their lives.
    I recently watched a youtube vide of ‘progressive’ hero Galloway defendig bashir and saying there’s no genoicde in darfur or it’s just war or whatever leftist drivel that’s linked to that region. And I really just can’t stop being amazed how at how rotten you liberals can be. Don’t you people have a fucking limit? What a shame Obama won, what a shame. You don’t deserve any better than McCain. Actually, McCain, if he reverted to his 2000 self, would still be too good. Palin would suit the US perfectly in my opinion.

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  24. JohnH says:

    Franklin said, “Afghanistan has been used as a training base for terrorist attacks.” In other words, we’re still fighting the last war. When was the last time a major Al Qaeda figure was found or killed in Afghanistan? Or Pakistan?
    The next terrorist attacks won’t originate from Afghanistan. They’ve moved on. We’re stuck (mentally and physically.)
    The whole Afghan-terrorist rationale for wasting $Billions of taxpayers’ money is weak. It’s pretty obvious that it’s mostly just a cover for doing something else. And that something else has a lot to do with the Great Energy Game in Central Asia. Like Pepe Escobar said, “never reading the words “Afghanistan” and “oil” in the same sentence is still a source of endless amusement for me.”

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  25. kotzabasis says:

    Dan Kervick’s idealistic Icarian flight of polished, but empty of substance, rhetoric, fully contradicts some of his other posts. In some of the others he recommends covert deadly operations sans borders against the terrorists while in this post he is prepared to live like an ascetic a “poorer and simpler life… to break the economic back of the empire.” If one reads his posts over the years carefully one will find them to be full of monumental inconsistencies.
    FRANLIN
    It’s stating the obvious that “knowing thy enemy” also entails the “capacity for achieving” his “intentions.” But those capacities in our tech age are not in a static state but in an accelerated one. Also, the Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine lucidly demonstrates in his co-authored book “Order Out Of Chaos,” that it’s small fluctuations “that start an entirely new evolution.” This exquisitely also applies in politics. Lenin’s Bolsheviks is the example par excellence. So the ‘small’’ danger of terror can evolve into the greatest one.

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  26. Philippe says:

    to Dan
    That’s a better source than my quote (probably a history book), I had forgotten it. Now I remember that while reading Thucydides, thinking ‘hey that’s a possible source about the pirates’. Strange how memory works.
    I grabbed this book recently looking for Pericles’s speech in it, Obama’s inaugural address made me think of it…

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  27. Franklin says:

    JohnH,
    Why Afghanistan?
    Because unlike, say, Iraq, Afghanistan has been used as a training base for terrorist attacks against civilian targets in the U.S.
    It’s not as if we threw a dart on a board and decided to take a vested interest in Afghan tribal culture in the Fall of 2001.
    In fact, the U.S. had wiped its hands clean of Afghanistan in the 1990s after the Soviets left. We had no vested interest in internal Afghani politics. We weren’t even taking sides in the internal conflict between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban during the late 1990s.
    After 9/11 we felt compelled to remove a sanctuary from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. No perceived transgression by the U.S. — especially with reference to Al Qaeda — justified the attack on a civilian population here in the U.S.
    As far as this notion that Al Qaeda was responding to attacks against their own national interests — where’s the evidence? So Bin Laden wants the U.S. out of Saudi Arabia so that he and his gang of misfits can overthrow the Saudi royal family and replace it’s authoritarian regime with his own? Thanks, but no thanks.
    I agree with you that we need to fix our energy dependence issue; and we need to limit our exposure to the Middle East. Until that issue is resolved, we can’t pretend that we don’t have strategic interests in the Middle East — we do.
    I’m also unclear how a U.S. and NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan at this stage will necessarily result in an improvement of the current situation.
    That’s effectively what the U.S. did in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal and a decade later, we experienced blow-back. It may not be possible, but better this time to establish some kind of a central authority that won’t harbor foreign terrorist groups.
    As far as Somalia goes, the 9/11 attacks, and the operational planning for the Cole attack weren’t centered in Somalia. Clearly failed states offer a potential safe haven for terrorist groups, so the U.S. has a vested interest in doing what it can to limit the ability of those groups to train against and target interests in the west.
    A military occupation isn’t going to be the answer in most situations; although the U.S. isn’t going to sit on its hands in reference to provocations and threats against its interests and its citizens.

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  28. Kathleen Grasso Andersen says:

    JohnH…Pompey had pirates in Cilicia, not Sicily, so your analogy doesn’t hold….I think the more important point of that era was the very wise horror Romans had in giving military people power..it marked the end of the Republic.

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  29. Dan Kervick says:

    This whole discourse is utterly ridiculous. When were Americans ever consulted about whether they wished to build and maintain a vast overseas “empire”? What maxims of the American political philosophy we imbibed in our youth taught us that we should be taking lessons from the bloody, expansionist Romans on how to conduct our affairs abroad?
    Washington, DC, and its whole smug, bloated, parasitical imperial apparatus of think tanks, intelligence agencies, military-industrial lobbyists, strategic consultants and media apparatchiks ought to be shoved into the damn ocean so we can start from scratch.
    How on earth did we get ourselves into this situation of being compelled to take an interest in the domestic affairs of Afghan tribesmen? Afghanistan! How did we come to be some madrassa-reared Afghan or Saudi tribesman’s “far enemy”? How did it come about that to be an American now means being a stakeholder in a system devoted the high-tech obliteration and subjugation of human beings in remote corners of the world?
    There is probably some possible America I could love. But America as it actually exists in 2009 is loathsome to contemplate, and its prospects for becoming a decent, harmonious and modest country are dismal. I think those of us who hate this leviathan ought to be thinking of ways of divesting ourselves from our interests in and obligations to the rancid imperial project run from Washington, and find some way of living a life apart. I’m willing to live a poorer and simpler life if that’s what it takes to break the economic back of the empire, and chase out the Washington warlords, clubby IR school chums and smarmy beltway nabobs who presume to run our lives.

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  30. JohnH says:

    Franklin, I agree with your points. However, the thinking that “without establishing stability in Afghanistan; without establishing a legitimate central authority; we will need to have a permanent military presence in Afghanistan in order to check groups like Al Qaeda.”
    This line of thinking begs two questions:
    1) Why Afghanistan? There are other failed states, like Somalia, that the US could occupy as well. But we only care about Afghanistan. What’s the strategic rationale behind that? (Silence from TWN and the rest of the foreign policy establishment.)
    2) A permanent military presence is likely to guarantee a festering sore that only exacerbates the problem. It’s as if the DOD needs a festering sore to justify itself.
    Or, like Pepe Escobar said, “never reading the words “Afghanistan” and “oil” in the same sentence is still a source of endless amusement for me.”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/KC26Ag01.html
    Unlike Pompey, the US might be able to deal with its terrorist problem by simply backing off from looting other people’s resources. Of course, this would require an enlightened energy policy, something anathema to the energy security complex.

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  31. anatol says:

    Steve,
    here’s a much more troubling look at the same episode in history: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/30/opinion/30harris.html
    Pompey’s War on Terror seems to be a major step in the demise or Roman centuries-old republic, and rise of military dictatorship. Yes, Pompey shared some of his wealth with the pirates – after becoming the wealthiest and most powerful man in Rome, and irreversibly harming the republic. Not a good example to follow.

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  32. Dan Kervick says:

    Phillippe,
    You may be thinking of Thucydides, not Plato:
    From Bk. I, Ch. 1 of the History of the Peloponnesian War:
    “For in early times the Hellenes and the barbarians of the coast and islands, as communication by sea became more common, were tempted to turn pirates, under the conduct of their most powerful men; the motives being to serve their own cupidity and to support the needy. They would fall upon a town unprotected by walls, and consisting of a mere collection of villages, and would plunder it; indeed, this came to be the main source of their livelihood, no
    disgrace being yet attached to such an achievement, but even some glory.”

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  33. Franklin says:

    JohnH,
    In reference to your points:
    “The ideological dimension is far over-rated.”
    Perhaps this is true in the sense that those in power and those seeking power use ideology as a means to the end of maintain/obtaining power.
    Ultimately, the conflict is about power relationships, not about ideology.
    “But most people called terrorists just want to get on with their lives, free from attacks by elite local gangs and foreign forces on their families and their livelihoods. Given the prospect of a reasonably free and prosperous life, most people would abandon the crazies in a heartbeat.”
    Perhaps, although, in a place like Afghanistan, which has been a center of conflict for the better part of the past 30 years; in a place where the authority has traditionally been decentralized and the society is still feudal in its arrangement outside of cities I would guess that more than freedom and prosperity people simply want stability. Those “elite local gangs” have been the dominant force for the better part of the past several decades — the central authority inside Afghanistan is also so weak that it will continue to be vulnerable to outside interference.
    If the U.S. and NATO were to leave Afghanistan tomorrow, I think it is highly unlikely that ordinary Afghans would suddenly find themselves on the way to “reasonably free and prosperous lives.”
    Odds are we would be back to where we were in 1999-2000.
    The thinking seems to be that without establishing stability in Afghanistan; without establishing a legitimate central authority; we will need to have a permanent military presence in Afghanistan in order to check groups like Al Qaeda. We cannot achieve a stable political outcome without some military component.
    In reference to kotzabasis’s point about Sun Tzu, “knowing the enemy,” part of that knowledge consists not just in correctly identifying an adversary’s intentions – but also identifying an adversary’s capacity for achieving their intentions.
    I think JohnH, and I agree in the sense that the “terrorist” threat is real, but over-hyped. The “terrorists” do not pose an existential threat to the U.S., and there is certainly a strong likelihood that a purely military solution will continue to create more animosity than a more nuanced foreign policy approach that seeks to isolate the “crazies”.

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  34. kotzabasis says:

    Clemons completely inverts the true lesson of Pompey’s campaign against the pirates. In his incorrigible and barren wont to demonstrate that soft policies toward the terrorists might be the answer that could influence the latter to exchange the scimitar for the plough, with a bit of ‘enlightened help’ from the West. In his soft policies solvent that could dissolve, according to him, the deadly aggression of terrorists, he shows himself not to be an Alpha student in politics but… since he doesn’t “know thy enemy,” the sine qua non in military strategy according to the Chinese sage Sun Zi.
    Pompey displayed his generosity and clemency toward the pirates only after he decisively defeated them in battle. And what else could the poor pirates do other than farming and plough their land after they were deprived once and for all of making a living by piracy?

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  35. Philippe says:

    As for characterising the pirates, if someone remembers that the classics better than me can attibute this quote. I remember from one famous greek (Plato ?) “At the time piratry was an acceptable way of making a living, not despised as it is nowadays” he was refering to Greece around 800 BC. It seems that the seamens of the time (well before Rome) where part traders, part pirates, maybe the remains of sea peoples. They were considered barbarians to be submitted, but there was a memory of a time when everybody did the same. And don’t forget the romans and others at the time (except the Jews) where polytheists, when there was a new people conquered into the empire they simply added it’s gods to the Pantheon. It worked until the Christians annoyed the others by insiting there was only one God.

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  36. JohnH says:

    “In the case of other conflicts — Israel/Palestine; Afghan/Pakistan/the West — there’s an ideological dimension which complicates the problem.”
    The ideological dimension is far over-rated. Yes, there are often a few crazies at the heart of it. But most people called terrorists just want to get on with their lives, free from attacks by elite local gangs and foreign forces on their families and their livelihoods. Given the prospect of a reasonably free and prosperous life, most people would abandon the crazies in a heartbeat. Pompey’s experience illustrates this well.
    The ideological dimension is probably more significant on the part of the dominant player, who wants land, resources, or pipeline routes and invokes ideology to justify his actions (freedom and democracy) or demonize his opponents (they hate freedom).
    It would be interesting to know how the Roman elite characterized their pirates. Perhaps they were more honest than today’s politicians and just acknowledged that the pirates were trying to get a fair share of the elites’ wealth. I doubt it, though. They probably demonized them in their own ways, calling them godless, uncivilized barbarians–until Pompey proved that most of them were rational actors after all.

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  37. Franklin says:

    Interesting example in reference to Pompey.
    Definitely this would seem to have some application to challenges similar to those involving the Somali pirates and the drug war in Mexico — raise the cost of piracy/illegal activity; provide an alternative revenue source; problems contained if not solved. Economic dislocation and economic challenges are at the center of many conflicts.
    In the case of other conflicts — Israel/Palestine; Afghan/Pakistan/the West — there’s an ideological dimension which complicates the problem.
    Technological development including the AK-47, and things like IEDs have raised the costs associated with colonial expansion. In cases where the issue is simply perceived and not real colonial expansion, reversing the perception is certainly part of the equation.
    In the case of Afghanistan/Pakistan what would a “Pompeyian” equivalent be? 3-4 million soldiers and non-military advisers? Over what time period, and at what cost? Would neighboring countries participate, or obstruct?
    Rome had a degree of advantage in its dealings with the pirates because it owned the neighborhood in which the pirate activities took place. Afghanistan/Pakistan is not within the U.S.’s sole sphere of influence. The U.S. has influence in the region, but we aren’t the only player in the neighborhood. If the neighbors of Afghanistan/Pakistan don’t share the same agenda as the U.S., the cost of achieving objectives increases exponentially. So a Pompeyian solution would require active participation from other stakeholders in the region — I don’t think the U.S. could do it alone, even with NATO allies. Regional participation in pursuing a common agenda is an essential part of the equation.

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  38. Mr.Murder says:

    A friend has experience from prior times in dealing with Contra era conflicts.
    That’s where we have the best comparison at this time.
    Narco traffic from poppies, rule by warlord.
    Long standing ethnic and tribal overlays.
    One dominant overlying religion.
    Hopefully he’ll have things to share on this.

    Reply

  39. ... says:

    when one thinks of how small farmers are treated, maybe helping them to a lifestyle of that isn’t all that great either…. our world has become one big corporate raid, with small people being eaten up by the system… i guess that makes me a terrorist too, because i don’t believe in this kind of bullshit and am opposed strongly to corporate rule… that is one of the things i think these terrorists are against and i am with them on that…
    it is sorta like the military corporations against the terrorists.. if we get rid of the one, the other will disappear… bin laden was quoted as saying he had a problem with military installations in saudi arabia.. i don’t blame him, if that is his sentiment.. it seems perfectly reasonable to me… it is the military corporations with mindless shareholders like cheney that see profit in spreading fear without any understanding as to why these folks threaten to do what they say…

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  40. phil smucker says:

    On the subject of turning fighters/ would-be terrorists into farmers, the jury is still out. I thot to contribute this for the discussion. A little quirky …
    Asadabad, Afghanistan —
    The slight Californian agronomist who traded in his dreadlocks for a beard when leaving for his first deployment in a military zone, is often mistaken by American soldiers he works around for a “terp,” or an interpreter. He wryly notes that “terp” in the local Pashtu language also means radish, a vegetable that grows well here in Eastern Afghanistan. “Only once have I been mistaken for a US Special Forces fighter,” joked Pedro Torrez, 35, who is one in a small but expanding army of experts that the Obama Administration hopes can help defeat al Qaeda and its affiliated jihadist groups.
    Torrez and other experts like him represent the “soft power,” also known as “smart power,” that the Administration believes can be used to alter the outlooks of young Afghans who join forces with hardcore insurgents. It is a strategy that defies the tried and futile logic of what the Bush Administration set out to do here in 2001; eradicate one “bad guy” at a time in a zero-sum game still glorified in a T-shirt sold on American bases here, reading, “The Taliban Hunt Club.”
    More likely to undermine the insurgents than the thousands of fresh US troops on their way to Afghanistan are experts like Torrez, say diplomats and soldiers. His best weapons? Eggplants, walnuts, pomegranates, grapes and – not to be overlooked – beehives and radishes.
    Torrez, who has also shared his expertise with American Indian tribes in California, believes that poor Afghan villagers are the key to peace and stability in Afghanistan.
    “I think it shows a positive evolution when the Pentagon recognizes that helping people grow more food is an answer to settling military action,” said Torrez, who advises Afghan farmers and implements irrigation and erosion control projects.
    Counter-insurgency, the US military has learned the hard way, has more to do with separating the broader population from the enemy than it actually has to do with killing insurgents, one at a time. As Chairmen Mao knew, guerrillas “swim like fish in the sea of the people.” Dry up the sea and a guerrilla movement will wither. This can be accomplished – in no easy manner – by giving young Afghans better and more exciting opportunities than those on offer from the Taliban and its al Qaeda military advisors.
    The Obama Administration has ordered a “surge” of civilian experts into Afghanistan, providing no specific numbers but suggesting the number will be in the “hundreds.”It remains unclear if Washington’s cumbersome, security-conscious bureaucracy can actually make its new strategy work. Experts of all stripes have been in demand for several years here in Afghanistan to fight poverty and create more support for the local government. Deteriorating security – translated gun battles, roadside bombs and kidnappings – has prevented most development workers from even setting foot in most Pashtun-dominated provinces of Afghanistan, particularly here along the Af-Pak border. No Western aid workers are to be found in Kunar or neighboring Nuristan, apart from a handful of US government development and agricultural experts living on US military bases. All of them work under harsh security restraints and rarely make it to the remotest regions.
    A senior State Department official here, Derreck Hogan said that Torrez and experts like him in economic development and good governance are the key to an American exit strategy for Afghanistan. Indeed, the resurgence of the Taliban has created alarm among Afghan officials here this Spring. “This is a hard time for us because small-scale development assistance has slowed to a trickle, but it is a good time for the Taliban because they have signed ‘peace deals’ in Pakistan,” said Kunar Governor Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi in an interview.
    American officials insist they are aware of hold-ups in foreign assistance as well as the Taliban’s expected offensive. “We’ve seen the amount of fighting and the number of insurgents infiltrating from Pakistan rise significantly here in the East,” said Hogan, who recently signed on as a special assistant to Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. The Administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, unveiled last week makes it clear that the Obama Administration is ready to move forward with what Hogan described in detail as a new “village by village” approach to counter-insurgency. On the one hand, thousands of “maneuver forces” are being brought into Afghanistan’s Pashtun regions in the East and South of the country to hold the line at the border, he said. “Forces like the 10th Mountain Division are part of a major push to stem the infiltration of insurgents from Pakistan,” said Hogan. “Their work is creating space for our big push for economic development from experts like Mr. Torrez.”
    Nearly a dozen Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Eastern and Southern Afghanistan are already attempting to appeal to Afghans who would fight the Americans for economic reasons. In Kunar Province, alone, which has less than 500,000 residents, the US government is trying to spend over $100 million dollars on development assistance this year, but much of that money is taken up by large infrastructure projects that do not focus on village or agricultural development. Half the districts in the province are virtually off limits to the NATO-run Provincial Reconstruction Team.
    “We have got to make the shift now,” said Hogan. “We are trying to integrate teams of outside experts into Afghan community teams to work in remote districts,” said Hogan, acknowledging that the effort will not be easy. In the late 1960’s the United States initiated a similar, military-coordinated development effort in South Vietnam, but the effort eventually failed when fighting intensified and US public support dwindled. Western military powers have a poor record of trying and failing to implement rural development schemes in the Third World. “Our fundamental goal should be to convince locals to resist the insurgents – village by village, valley by valley. In that regard, Afghanistan is nothing like Iraq.”
    Torrez, a cigar-smoking Puerto Rican-Columbian and the son of a Vietnam veteran, has always viewed life as an adventure. It has come as no surprise to his friends at an American military base here that he plans to ride a motorbike from Kathmandu, Nepal to Lhasa,Tibet on his first ten days of work leave. But he is already frustrated by some of the financial and security obstacles he is facing in his first month of work in Afghanistan. “Right now, I’m still looking at Afghan fruit markets through the three-inch thick, bullet-proof glass of a US Humvee,” said Torrez, who is currently writing a agrarian plan of action for Kunar Province and who has plans to link up with rough-and-ready platoons of 10th Mountain Division fighters to get out to some of Afghanistan’s remotest districts. “The US government’s current priorities are still roads and bridges, not smaller-scale development.”
    As it turns out, the expert “soil conservationist” already knew a bit about how Afghan gardens grow — even before he arrived here earlier this year. He owns a 25-acre farm in Aguanga, a small town in Southern Riverside County, California in the mountains between Palm Springs and San Diego. His farm sits at almost the same latitude and altitude — about 3,500 feet — as many of the farms here in the tiny province of Kunar in Afghanistan. While working as a soil conservationist for the US Department of Agriculture, he also grows apples, grapes, tomatoes, squash, melons and dabbles in the honey bee business, poultry and goats.
    Torrez wants to help Afghans jump-start an age-old dried fruit business. “In the 1930s, Afghanistan was one of the world’s biggest exporters of dried apricots and it has the potential to recover some of this market, but much of the expertise has been lost in the years of conflict,” he said. The staple crop in Eastern Afghanistan is wheat, which grows on terraced mountainsides. “Like California, he said, this is semi-arid land, but there are diverse micro-climates within an hour’s walk due to extreme changes in elevation. That means you can grow oranges in the valley but have to switch to apples when you get higher up.”
    Torrez wants to encourage local Afghan farmers to grow a diverse set of crops, including nuts, fruits and wheat. “It is not that there is a lack of food here, but what we are seeing is better described as malnutrition because diets are not always as diverse as they should be.”
    ENDS

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  41. Hijikata says:

    Yes, Pompey succeeded, but in part because he dealt with the pirates concrete needs. Religious extremists require cowtowing to their chosen mythical God and his alleged rules. Are we to suggest that the root of their evil is not religious but secular?

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  42. JohnH says:

    I like the gist of this post, even though the historical analogy is somewhat weak.
    Yes, we should make terrorists stakeholders. (Warning: this will jeopardize corporate profits.)
    For Pompey having had pirates in Sicily is more akin to the US having terrorists on the Mississippi. For the analogy to hold, Pompey would have had to seen it as necessary to pacify pirates in some place far removed from the Republic–Afghanistan, say. But what, exactly, would have been the strategic rationale for Pompey to pacify pirates in Afghanistan? Maybe the same, secret rationale as the US uses for justifying its occupation of Afghanistan?

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  43. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If you have been following events in Iraq, you must have noted how the logical and common sense conclusions about the inevitable collapse of the “success of the surge” are indeed unfolding. Sunni “Sons of Iraq” are being rounded up in sweeps by American and shiite Iraqi forces, and many “Sons of Iraq” are threatening to quit because they have not been paid in months. As I have predicted many times here, when the money dries up, so too will the “success of the surge”.
    So, Obama’s promise of combat disengagement in Iraq becomes an impossible promise to uphold. Meanwhile, if the “success of the surge” holds together just long enough for Obama to drastically increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, and possibly deploy troops to Pakistan, we may indeed find ourselves with THREE very hot military fronts, with inadequate troops in Iraq to quell a resurging Sunni/Shiite civil conflict.
    This isn’t rocket science, nor does it require the brainpower of a bunch of think tank eggheads. These crazy pieces of shit in Washington are driving this bus full speed at a brick wall. When one considers that they aren’t stupid, and they too must be reaching common sense conclusions, one has to believe that they’re driving this way on purpose. If I was a Muslim, I’d be damned worried right now, because if these crazy bastards in Washington can’t exterminate you with troops, then there’s no telling what they’ll drag out of their tool chest.

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  44. ... says:

    simplistic view – terrorism/terrorist is a label – it works to justify spending more on the military, and murdering all sorts of folks that hinges on the definition and automatic assumption of guilt… ever wonder why terrorists exist? the article above outlines this, but many in their thickheadedness still aren’t interested in the ‘why’ for any of this…
    keep on chasing terrorists – it’s a perfect excuse for a continuation of expanding the military industrial complex and never ask the question ‘why’ to any of this, in particular why terrorist exist…
    just believe the line ‘they hate us for our freedom’ and go back to sleep…

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  45. Richard Shepard says:

    I not sure about the relevance of Pompey’s tactics against the pirates as applied to Afghanistan. First, the Romans were dealing with a non-state entity which operated, largely, out of Cilicia. They were not an opposing political force and certainly, in the end, were no match for Rome in traditional battles where Roman resources were relatively close. Pompey was given 500 ships and their associated troops with significant authority to use them. His generous offer – unlike his slaughter of Sparticans during the Servile War – was made quite conveniently after he crushed the pirates militarily. This is hardly analogous to Afghanistan.
    I also have an issue with the reference to Afghanistan as a state. Its history bears only the slightest resemblance to our concept of a nation state. There is nothing to rebuild. The stability of 1965-75 is, I think, a pleasant fiction. During that period, Pakistan was also relatively stable. Its present stability is much open to question and there will be very little chance of Afghan stability if Pakistan continues to dissolve.

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  46. John Stuart Blackton says:

    Steve, we should be appreciative of the movement towards strategic realism reflected in Afghanistan portion of the new AFPAK plan.
    The plan may not be entirely realistic, but it wisely replaces goals of Afghan “transformation” with goals of Afghan “restoration”.
    NAF’s own Peter Bergen says in a NYT op-ed yesterday: “Measures like these would help return Afghanistan to something like the state it was before the Soviets invaded in 1979”
    Perhaps they will. I knew pre-war Afghanistan very well and rather enjoyed living and working that rough-and-ready frontier society. I knew (Soviet) war-time Afhganistan intimately also, and I can confirm that it left much to be desired.
    The pre-Soviet era was not a halcyon age, however. Afghanistan was (through the 50’s, the 60’s and the 70’s) the most aid-dependent nation in the world. Poppy production was rampant throughout this period.
    The Afghan government of that era collected almost no revenues, meeting 100 percent of its capital budget and 80 percent of its recurring budget with resources from the US and from Russia.
    We financed the Southern half of the country, while the Soviets financed the northern half.
    We financed the Kabul University Faculty of Engineering while the Soviets financed the Kabul Polytechnic.
    We financed the “soft” ministries (Agriculture, Rural Development, Education, Health) while the Soviets financed the “hard” ministries (Defense, Interior, etc).
    Rent-seeking bureaucracy and unfettered poppy production were the order of the day. But most Afghans lived relatively secure lives. Their children could walk down the road without fear of thugs or militias.
    Justice was basic and mostly traditional in nature, but it was satisfactory to the majority. Local “qazis”, rather than university trained judges, presided over most rural court proceedings, drawing on a mix of tribal law, Sharia, and bits of the formal Afghan civil and criminal code.
    With a succession of tough Afghan dictators at the top of the political system and with the competitive dynamics of Cold War financing in good order, the mid-20th Century Afghan system ensured a relatively stable equilibrium.
    If the United States brings plenty of money (as contemplated in the new Plan) combined with a willingness to tolerate both poppies and corruption (not contemplated in the new Plan) we might, indeed, be able to restore the general conditions of 1965-75 Afghanistan.
    Restoration, if and when achieved, won’t be heaven, but both the Afghan people and the citizens of the United States will be better served by a restoration of Afghanistan 1970 than by another decade spent tilting against the windmills of a foreign vision of transformation.
    John Stuart Blackton

    Reply

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