Afghanistan: A Dream That Will Not Come True

03 February 2009 

Afghanistan is a gaunt, thorny bush, growing amid rocks and dust on dry windswept plains, sweltering deserts, and man-crushing mountains. Its neighbors are treacherous. The Afghan people are mostly living relics, only more advanced than hidden tribes in the Amazon, but centuries behind the least advanced European nations.

Afghanistan is a gaunt, thorny bush, subsisting on little more than sips of humidity from the dry air. We imagined that we could make the bush into a tree, as if straw could be spun into gold or rocks transmuted to flowers. If we continue to imagine that we can turn the thorny bush into a tree, eventually we will realize the truth, but only after much toil, blood and gold are laid under the bush, as if such fertilizer would turn a bush into a tree. We did not make Afghanistan what it is. Afghanistan has existed for thousands of years. It grows the way it grows because the bush drops seeds that make more bushes, never trees.

We must alter our expectations for Afghanistan. There are bigger problems afoot. The ice is melting, banks are melting, and the prestige of great nations that do great things is melting, because they thought they could transform a thorny bush into a tree.


# Pope Linus 2009-02-03 21:51
Absolutely fantastic piece of writing. In a few sentences, you sum up Afghanistan's history, its present and, unfortunately, its future as well. No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you want it, no matter how much you spend or how many men bleed, that bush won't just change into a tree. You hit the nail on the head.
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# Sarmajor 2009-02-03 21:54
As usual, you have a way of hitting the nail directly on the head. Most Americans will never understand the need for patience in dealing with the Afghan culture or the ongoing struggle to limit, as much as possible, the influence of destructive elements that exist in that country. They'll also never understand that the "war on terror" will never be over; that our level of security will never drop back to where it was before 9/11.

Keep your head down.

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# ACougar 2009-02-03 22:29
Maybe instead of trying to tackle the entire country at once we should be intensively focusing on small areas. Build a part of Afghanistan up into something that the people recognize as their own and of which they can be proud. We need to find good local leaders we can work with in Afghanistan and create a synergy that restores hope... even if it's one small village at a time with running water, sewage systems, electricity, roads, even Mosques. We need to learn and understand what their best and brightest want for a future and help them exceed their expectations.

Thanks for another great article,

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# Jonathan Farmer 2009-02-03 22:34
Maybe you could plant trees among the Bushes?
Maybe you could plant flowers and trim the hedges?

I think Afghanistan can change but "change" has to be modest.

We should focus on making Kandahar a modern city with enough momentum to affect the rest of the country positively. Then we need some system of complete education for the people of Afghanistan that offers some travel abroad so that they can dream about what they can become.

What about two other cities like it?

Afghanistan may end up being a loosely-governe d country with three modern cities and the rest as wilderness; but that is not a bad thing. Why must it be a Poland? Or a Latvia?

Keep the Taliban elements out and the people happy and stable and it is unlikely to deteriorate. After all, was it not the civil war that caused the Taliban to flourish? Is it not security the people want?
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# Steamboat Jack 2009-02-03 22:50

Your words ring true on Afghanistan. I applaud your knowledge and your perseverance.


The Arctic Sea Ice is back to its normal coverage. I guess they forgot to tell you. And the Antarctic Sea Ice is also normal. I guess they skipped over that too. And the British Isles had the worst snow storm in years.

The banks are melting. But they forgot to tell you itƒ??s because of years of misguided (stupid) social policy by the Democrats. And Republicans that could not/would not stop it even though they knew it was happening. Itƒ??s really too bad that the people that caused the financial melt down are now in total control. (If you donƒ??t believe me, send me an email and I will return information it. You will not get it from the NY times, of course.)

Love your work on Afghanistan.


Steamboat Jack
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# Steve Novotny 2009-02-03 22:54
Wow... I have never heard you so down on Afghanistan. But, I have been thinking the same thing. I don't understand the people. How many really want change and how many are we fighting against? If the general population is against us being there then what the h... are we doing. Michael, what do the people say on the street?

So far, all I see is a desolate place being fought over imaginary ideals on the extremists part. The only problem is their thinking seems to be part imaginary and part real. Tough call.
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# john lawrence 2009-02-03 22:57
In the words of my fellow marine, Robert Kiyosaki, "don't try to teach pigs to sing, it's a waste of your time and it irritates the pig".
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# Randy 2009-02-03 23:02
I am not altogether sure that we do expect such great things from being in Afghanistan Michael, but one thing is for sure: The American military has done a phenomenal job of turning the tide in Iraq, in the face of extreme opposition I might add. Why would it be an impossible feat in Afghanistan? Ironically, it seems as if the poppy plant offers the biggest challenge of them all, not the bush, as you put it.
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# argonaut 2009-02-03 23:11
Wow. How defeatist. If we aren't even going to try we should just leave now and give the country back to Al-quaeda and theTaliban. You are sounding just like the liberals who said we would never win in Iraq. They said things such as their cultural is different a democracy won't work, they need dictators to control them and they are animals who don't even care about their own children.

Now you are doing the same. People have the same dreams everywhere as you have pointed out in your numerous articles on Iraq. How come the sudden change of tune?
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# Bill Brent 2009-02-03 23:16
Well said, Steamboat Jack!
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# Cari 2009-02-04 00:53
I'm just wondering whose dream is failing. I hope not yours.

Our dreams for the Afghan people must be for them to live and love and dream as Afghans. If you say that they are bushes and we are trees, it sounds like you think we are better than them. If our trees have bled and died, so too have their bushes...

Sometimes the trees must cast a shade over the bushes so that they may prosper by blocking the light that allows the choking vines to grow. The Taliban are like the Kudzu that threatens to take over the natural and beautiful flora of our American south, but we have found ways to kill it, and eradicate it... wherever we have allowed our hope to create the will.

It takes trees and bushes and lots of different elements to make a healthy and happy planet, but they all have their inherent beauty. If we all wish to prosper we must have hope for one another. Afghans must hope that Americans will receive them on the world stage, while we must hope that Afghans will get there.

Victory can not be had without hope, nor freedom maintained without will.

Keep writing Michael, but give your readers hope... we are all too ready to give up on what seems impossible, but we should remember that all great achievements, like the image of the earth rise over the moon, seemed impossible for much of the distance traveled.

We will not make make Afghanistan's bushes into trees, but may water their soil and love their children and grow a generation that will grateful that their young girls are free, and that their young men don't have to die in order to live.
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# 13times 2009-02-04 02:13
"We" never thought Afghanistan was more than thistle, snakes, dirt and rocks.

We think Micheal needs a break from his really cool action-adventur e journalism job. We wager that its hard to come home and live a normal life now. No one wants to get up at 6am and go to a job dominated by tedium, office politics and poor 401k performance.

I quote Jim Stafford:

"And so we took a stroll and wound up down by the swimming hole
And she said - do what you want to do
I got silly and found a frog in a hollow log
And I shook it at her said, "This frog's for you."

And she said,

I don't like spiders and snakes
And that ain't what it takes to love me"
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# Matthew M 2009-02-04 02:40
The land needs to be suitable to grow trees...not to mention the tree needs to want to grow.
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# papundits 2009-02-04 03:33

Well put re: Afghanistan

As far as Obama working on and improving the World Economy... well, that's even a worst case scenario than Afghanistan. Obama and his fellow Democrats were responsible for the fiscal crisis in the USA which then spilled over to the World economy. Which surprised me, how much our economy influences the rest of the world. The Financial Meltdown started with Carter, was further aggravated by the Clintons, and this past Democrat Congress kept adding "fuel-to-the-fi re" causing the meltdown.

Bush and company spent the last 8 years trying to reverse the policies that led to the meltdown.

Now the Foxes are guarding the Hen house!
This is scary.

FYI: All this is documented and can be proven to anyone's satisfaction.
But you won't find the LeftMedia explaining this to the public.
If it is permissible, here's a link to a Blog that cover's this and has Links to more information on the meltdown. If not permissible, please just delete this info and post the rest.
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# Geo194 2009-02-04 03:46
We in the US have bigger problems at home to solve than trying to bring Democracy to those that do not understand it nor wish it. Let the Afghan's tribes fight it out amongst themselves and whenever alQaeda or Taliban groups grow to be a problem, send in the daisycutters. I agree with Michael. Lives of our treasured military should not be wasted in Afghanistan.
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# Tom Jones 2009-02-04 04:55
Step 1: Pave the roads. How can a gardener effect a change in the landscape if he can't get to the bush that need to be pruned?
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# Jim Karthaus 2009-02-04 05:19
I enjoy your writing and greatly enjoyed your book. I am 40 years old and headed to boot camp in a month. I have many reasons for joining the least of which is being from New York and losing many friends. It is something i always wanted to do and I have the time and am ready for It. In your book and website you constantly mention soldiers that have done 3,4, or even 5 tours between Iraq and Afghanistan. No family or person should have that burden.We need a national draft system where people would do a year of service In either the Army, Guard or Marines or any service. Countries that have this share the burden and young men and women learn responsibility that will guide the rest of their lives. Maybe you can take that up with Obama. As for Afghanistan I was worried that things were worse but this article is quite shocking. You always call It straight and I strongly respect your writing. I think it is embarrassing that we have not even captued or killed Hekmatyar.Mulla h Omar is still loose as well as Bin Laden and Zawahiri. I think we should work with Pakistan to Isolate AQ from the Taliban and come to some agreement withthe Taliban that eliminates AQ. There seemed to be a significant rift between the two and we may exploit this to achieve a common goal. We want AQ dead and the Taliban want to return. Pakistan is the key, It just will take the right kind of diplomacy and secrecy to pull It off. If Pakistan can keep the Taliban under control and keep out AQ and others It might be plausible. maybe just a pipe dream. I agree with you that NATO Is useless. We should strongly start letting Old Europe save the British go It alone. I hope they enjoy the cold winters ahead when Russia turns off their gas and oil for good. The Soviet Bear Is awake again and once Oil skyrockets again they will go back to reclaiming what they think is theirs. Putin is an evil man and Is not to be trusted. Europe cowered when Putin crushed Georgia and threatened Ukraine with invasion if They joined NATO. They would be wise not to join NATO because they would not be helped by cheese eating cowards. Unless the US and Britain stepped in and then you have WWIII. Maybe Putin Is the Antichrist?
Stay safe and maybe I will see you over there.
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# wolfhound 2009-02-04 08:23
Why does you piece here not include the anti-european sneers
that were included in the e-mail which you reportedly sent to a blogger on
LGF and which he posted on the " Ben Stein creationist yada yada thread?
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# jtb-in-texas 2009-02-04 12:52
See The Man Who Would Be King with Sean Connery and Michael Caine.

Read about the two failed British and one spectacularly failed Russian/Soviet attempts to control Afghanistan.

Look at the so-called Tribal areas of Pakistan.

Our problem, as Europeans, has been that we want to establish a Western style order in that country. Against the facts of History and Afghan Culture. Against the curious mix of Islam and Animism that these people have suffered through for several thousand years.

If we want them to peacefully coexist with their neighbors, we need to either kill them all or go in with shock and awe and spead the clans, relocate EVERY family, scattering their children so the cannot attack anyone without killing a relative.

And we need to disarm a people who could practically build any weapon from scratch after stealing a firing pin or a slide spring.

It's not "impractical". Given our reluctance and the intransigence of our allies, it's impossible. Let's just nuke 'em all (and Iran) and tell them not to mess with us or we'll come back REALLY ticked off...
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# Andy Prior 2009-02-04 14:57
Iƒ??ve not heard you so down about the situation before, whist youƒ??ve been objective you have always put forward your view on how things could be made better or more effective and even pointed to the people who could make this come to reality.

Whatƒ??s changed Michael? Has the change in US administration left you without hope now when before you where so hopeful that Obamaƒ??s views on Afghanistan were not too dissimilar to your own?

Personally I still cling to hope. US and UK forces are significantly scaling down in Iraq, I know for a fact that UK forces have improved equipment and tactics from last year even. Obama stated he wanted to concentrate on Afghanistan moreƒ??why canƒ??t this bring the hope that eventuallyƒ??ev entuallyƒ??a tree will grow?

Our reason for being there is NOT to make Afghanistan a Westernised Democracy though! It was to stall, stop and eventually decrease the hold that AQ has in the countryƒ??destr oy its ability to create terror on a global levelƒ??Iraq already had the basis for Democracy, muted though it was, there is none of that in Afghanistan.

We must NOT try to drag this country into the 21st Century but give it sufficient infrastructure to be able to ƒ??policeƒ? itself.

Long haul? Oh my yesƒ??.10ƒ??s of years but whilst AQ is focused on our forces there our homes are, perhaps, a little safer? open question without an answer but again, a fools hope perhaps. Our brave troops fight to help keep us safe, we must not loose that belief OR the belief that we CAN and MUST succeed!
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# Jay Season 2009-02-04 15:35
Even conservatives question 'nation building', though. Or we used to.

It is not defeatist to decide on the proper course of action, for the interests of the United States. As I recall. the military objective was to smash the terror cell behind the 9/11 attack. That also called for wresting the Taliban from its de facto national rule. We decided it best to put the country's government back in to "democratic" hands. So far so good.

But to now morph this mission in to an economic development plan (that will no doubt take decades and cost us billions) is questionable to me. Is the argument or assumption that we have to lift up Afghanistan's standard of living to a certain level, and only that will keep Al-quaeda and the Taliban at bay?

It can be argued that the 9/11 hijackers came from much more affluent places (not Afghanistan). The root cause of their evils was not economic, but of hatred.

Where do we draw the line on "hearts and minds", and bribery or paying a protection racket? I say we remain in Afghanistan to safeguard their democratically elected government, and conduct COIN operations against remaining terrorist elements. But let's not stayso that they have Best Buys and Internet Cafes on every corner.
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# realwest 2009-02-04 17:40
Michael - your personal knowledge of the facts on the ground are far greater than mine. But - and it's an important BUT, we only went into Afghanistan, originally, to nail Shiek Omar and Osama bin Laden, not to nation build. In that we accomplished our mission. We've got NO BUSINESS nation building there - look what we had to do to kill or drive Shiek Omar and bin Laden so deep into hiding - Shock and Awed them and then allowed the Afghani's themselves to pretty much put away the Taliban. Then we left it to NATO to put away the Taliban. WE could put away the Taliban if we were willing to Shock and Awe, give the finger to Pakistan (a dangerous move that, given their nukes) get rid of some of the NATO troops and put 100,000 more American boots on the ground and for what?
I don't mean to sound flippant at all, but if the Afghanistani people don't give a damn about the Taliban making a comeback, why the hell should we? We only won in Iraq, ultimately, because the Iraqi's themselves saw that Al-Q and it's vile offshoots were the enemies of Iraq and the Iraqi's started helping us kill them by the truckload. If the Afghanistani people don't want "Freedom" or Democracy, then so be it.
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# Michael Orozco 2009-02-04 17:48
Mike. I have never heard you with such a down tone. I think democracy in Afghanistan is tough but what about smashing or keeping the Taliban smashed?

As far as using "gold" for "the ice is melting" are you serious? I can't believe you buy Al Gore's global warming theory. Do you know we are having record cold temps? How about that Al Gore first called his theory GLOBAL WARMING and now he calls it CLIMATE CHANGE. WHY THE CHANGE? Our government spends billions on this myth when it can be used on our troops or job growth stimulators. I recommend the book called Red Hot Lies. It is a Dennis Prager book recommendation ...

Please pull out of this tone. Letƒ??s get the high spirited YON back.
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# William Scott 2009-02-04 17:55
Please do not give up on the Afghan people. It may seem like there is little hope of bringing this nation into the 21st century, but you are seriously underestimating human nature and the Afghan people in particular. A people so use to hardship and sacrifice make excellent citizens once they see a path to a goal. So far the chaotic policy we and our Western allies have conducted in Afghanistan has not given them the hope they need. Let's start by fulfilling our commitments to them. Yes this means money which we don't have, but we seem to be spending money we don't have anyway. What's another 10 billion when we are trillions of dollars in debt? That's about what is needed to get Afghanistan going. Labor is cheap there and their will is strong, so this would make a huge difference.
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# Gus 2009-02-04 18:00
Unfortunately so many commenters are stuck in partisan mode. It's the Democrats' fault, it's the Republicans' fault. Wake up, people. There are big problems to try to solve, and as long as you're pointing partisan fingers, you're part of the problem. Jim Karthaus, keep your head down, and stay safe.
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# Q_Mech 2009-02-04 18:04
I must admit that I've come to the same conclusion as Michael after reading about Afghanistan over the past several years. We can certainly kill a lot of bad guys there, but I believe that as soon as we're out of sight over the horizon the Afghans will turn to whomever is the local tough guy just as they always have. Historically, Afghanistan is where armies go to die. Ours won't die, but it certainly can waste a lot of time and effort there. Compound this with the fact that we've essentially dangled our military out on the end of a very tenuous supply line that snakes through Pakistan and the former Soviet states.

It's time to reel in our ambitions in Afghanistan.
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# bishop 2009-02-04 18:13
William Scott, you seem to be falling into exactly the error that Yon is criticizing here. The problem lies precisely in the assumption that what the Afghans yearn for is a system that looks a lot like Western democracies, and that they could have it if only we poured more blood and treasure into the situation. At this point, that hypothesis has been more or less empirically refuted.
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# bishop 2009-02-04 18:15
William Scott, you seem to be falling into exactly the error that Yon is criticizing here. The problem lies precisely in the assumption that what the Afghans yearn for is a system that looks a lot like Western democracies, and that they could have it if only we poured more blood and treasure into the situation. At this point, that hypothesis has been more or less empirically refuted.
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# unclesmedley 2009-02-04 20:51
The thorny Bush that aspired to be a might tree has been consigned to the ash heap of history. A new arborist is now at work, restoring the ravaged forest.
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# Wesley 2009-02-04 21:05

"I Saw Americans Fighting"
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# dan098 2009-02-04 21:06
Yon: your opinions often puzzle me, but your comment is the strangest, if not most trivial.

The original problem of Afghanistan is it is a spoiler of empires. This was recently demonstrated in 9/11. "Afghanistan" is its disastrous people, who for some reason the adults of the present public cannot bring themselves to describe accurately and frankly, as if there were some virtue in avoiding or obscuring what is obvious. But that only brings us back to the beginning again: Afghanistan is a spoiler of empires - international order - because its people are - whatever select noble traits they have - barbarous.

Well, great. Tell us something we didn't know. Meanwhile, if we withdraw, Afghanistan will be worse, not better, and pose a greater threat, not a lesser, to everyone. We will be back.

I'll tell you the answer to this supposed puzzle. Set up a puppet government that can spread patronage and infrastructural improvements to a reasonable radius from Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, and Jalalabad, and kill the leaders of the groups that threaten this modicum of imperial stability. That's it. When some f*cking journalist/inte lligence officer opens his mouth about it, don't provide some ludicrous answer, say: "Yes, and if we didn't kill them, they would kill each other, and we are much better at figuring out who should be killed - the Afghans certainly don't know any better, as is proven by time immemorial pedarastic barbarism. Thank you and shut up."
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# ST333 2009-02-04 22:11
I think Afghanistan's biggest problem is the neighborhood it's in. There's a plethora of cavemen willing to go into Afghanistan and keep the jihad going and that keeps the people of Afghanistan in primitive mode. I read an interesting article saying we need to make this a special op/black ops war since we could never put the number of boots on the ground to "win". With Pakistan to the East and Iran to the west, there is no shortage of bad actors willing to sow the seeds of chaos. All that said, we have to figure something out. 911 came from there and left unmolested, the next 911 will come from there. What we need is a comprehensive plan to deal with Pakistan's NWFP. If not, we are just wasting lives and treasure. With a nuclear Iran looming, potential failed states in Pakistan and Mexico and the growing terrorist presence in many African nations, we need to prioritize and rally the Europeans to the cause. I saw Russia would like to extend "full cooperation" in Afghanistan. Not sure how that would work but I'd be willing to listen.

I don't see this article as defeatist. I see it as a snapshot in time. I view this article the same way I viewed Michael's article calling Iraq a civil war months before anyone else did. He's pointing out the hard truth. "Lowering our expectations" is smart for the immediate future. We need to start with a "Green Zone" and work out from there. Create a new Kabul and modernize it. Give the Afghans a taste of what the 21st century taste like and see how they respond. Afghanistan is going to be a long, long war.
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# Josh 2009-02-04 22:12
I agree with Matthew M. The area must want to grow and prosper. The Afghans will continue to do what allows them to feel safe and provide for their families and their tribe. It doesn't matter who comes in to try and clean the place up (except the Russians or Chinese).

I have been addicted to this blog since Michael published "Gates of Fire". I was looking for reviews of Steven Pressfield's book of the same title. Shortly after finishing Mr. Pressfield's book I picked up "The Great Game" by Peter Hopkirk. I filled each book with notes and analysis and my thoughts at the time. I leave for Afghanistan in three weeks for my deployment to assist in the Great Game. I didn't volunteer to be an augmenter for this deployment away from my family because I thought the fight was "winnable" but because it needs to be done. My brothers/sister s in arms are over there tonight and I want to go forward and help them out. I just might help a few Afghans along the way. Rory Stewart (The Places in Between) has yet to leave Kabul because of his hope for change.,8599,1823753,00.html - How to Save Afghanistan.

Hang in there Mike.

All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. - Edmund Burke
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# Col. Ben 2009-02-04 22:42
It is hard to believe that there are people as stupid and obtuse as steamboat , but they do exist and Palin and Bush are examples of their heros. There is nothing to say to these people.
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# Rob Miller 2009-02-04 23:10
I believe we can win in Afghanistan...p roviding our goals are realistic. Although the present group of amateurs in the White House are clueless and would never implement it, here's how:
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# Jim K 2009-02-05 01:09
Thank you, I agree with you that partisanship Is ruining this country. As for Afghanistan I think Michael was ahead of the curve. I was at the gym today and all they were playing Is how we are going to lose this war. Time magazine which is a rag has Obama's Vietnam on the cover.This Is defeatist liberal crap, He just got sworn in. He has the right man for the job "Patreus". I am confident that General Patreus can find the right approach to turn things around. I think we need to lean on Pakistan because that's where the solution lies. They put the Taliban In power and the Pakistani secret police support them to this day. Our goal was to crush AQ and that's what should remain. I think Obama should pay a visit to India and propose modernizing their military. That will get the Pakistani's attention, they will not give up AQ unless they are forced. If the people of Afghanistan wish the Taliban back they can have them after we kill every last member of AQ. Mullah Omar was ready to give up Bin Laden until he realized that Bin Laden had co-opted his country. Then he played the loyal Muslim. Everything Is for sale In that part of the world. We need to find the right partner and the right price. A Marine general once said that Anbar province In Iraq was lost for good, Turns out he was dead wrong thanks to AQ. The Iraqi's saw that they where an affront to Muslim's everywhere and things changed dramatically. Iraq Is very tribal and It took us too long to figure out how to work with them. I think If we convince the Afghan people we are staying and supporting them they will come around. They are thinking long term and we need to convince them that we are too. I think they see right through NATO's posturing and have no respect for NATO. We should tell NATO to leave and handle It with the British.
If you have not read Michael's book "Moment of Truth In Iraq" you should buy It today. Or read "Kill Bin Laden" by Dalton Fury an ex Delta Force member. It put things In clear perspective on what happened at Tora Bora and how Bin laden got away.
I agree with Michael that we should not think we can make a true Democracy In Afghanistan. A feudal government that respected the Koran and was AQ free would be quite a victory.
Michael keep the faith and keep up the good work!
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# Stewart Nusbaumer 2009-02-05 03:02
If by dream you mean the Bush dream that democracy would be established in Afghanistan ( and Iraq) and then like a prairie fire spread throughout the Middle East all because humans have an innate yearning for democracy, no way. Anyone who has even a superficial understanding of the Arab World, and the limitations of US power to transform other nations, understood this was a dream bound to fail.

On the other hand, the Obama administration is currently looking at what should be our goals in Afghanistan. And the leaks point to a downsizing of goals: forget democracy and all the feel good crap, the Obama team will settle for Afghanistan not again becoming a launch pad to attack America.

So it seems that a so-called liberal regime is not interested in nation building, which a conservative administration was. Interesting twist that should have the ditto heads scratching their heads.
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# Jim K 2009-02-05 03:33
Right on the money, Liberals only support communists and dictators and loath those who would make a struggling nation achieve Democracy. I cant begin to wonder why that Is? It seems It would be the other way around!
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# Stewart Nusbaumer 2009-02-05 04:11
Our military men and women swear to uphold the US Constitution and protect our country, not to spread democracy throughout the world and build schools for little kiddies in the Middle East.

A very strange thing happened in this country, very strange. Weƒ??re now full of bleeding-heart conservatives! I thought conservatives were opposed to nation building. Didn't Bush say that's something Liberals do?

If these bleeding-heart conservatives want to save the world, then they should go work for the United Nations, since saving the world is their mandate -- not Americaƒ??s!
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# Stewart Nusbaumer 2009-02-05 04:14
Our military men and women swear to uphold the US Constitution and protect our country, not to spread democracy throughout the world and build schools for little kiddies in the Middle East.

A very strange thing happened in this country, very strange. Weƒ??re now full of ƒ??bleeding-hea rt conservatives!ƒ ? I thought conservatives were opposed to nation building. Didn't Bush say that's something Liberals do?

If these bleeding-heart conservatives want to save the world, then they should go work for the United Nations, since saving the world is their mandate -- not Americaƒ??s!
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# Tatterdemalian 2009-02-05 06:05
The problem is, the Afghans want peace, wealth, and freedom for themselves, but they want war, poverty, and enslavement for their fellow Afghans. They will keep killing anyone that they can until they recieve both of these things at once, and the fact that it's impossible is just the excuse they need to keep terrorizing the world forever.
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# Angus 2009-02-05 06:13
Did you all know young military age Iraqi males are coming to the U.S. to avoid the war. I say pull all the troops out of Iraq and bring them back to the U.S. to patrol our borders and round up the 8 million illegal aliens of the 12+ million whose getting welfare, food stamps, free health care, etc. with no intentions of ever working! Obama wants to give $400 million to kept supporting them and Nancy Pelosi want to tax our future retirement funds we are funding, why? She said the illegal aliens and minorities need the money for better life styles. Yes, while us working people have to lower our life styles to support non-Americans!
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# Fred2 2009-02-05 08:52
The US isn't really trying to remake Afghanistan into a modern democracy with ubiquitous internet, competing gallerias and world class universities. The US is trying to kill al-Queda. The Taliban is protecting al-Queda and is in the way. So the Taliban has to go. All we really need is a meaner, tougher Pashtun warlord to push aside the Taliban, help us kill al-Queda, and the US can leave.
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# Canadian Mike 2009-02-05 16:31
Posted by Wesley:


"I Saw Americans Fighting"

Thanks pal. Glad I offered that fire support to you guys with M777's while I was there.

Oh and Mike Yon? The ice ain't melting up here.
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# Mike P 2009-02-05 18:38
Yeah, Mike, that place can definitely get ya down, sometimes. I found myself referring to it as the place of "Uggeries" - Thuggery, Skullduggery, and Boy-buggery. Your poem's beauty is in it's sad truth. Hang in there, pal.
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# john l 2009-02-05 19:21
I agree with Michael Yon, there is no strategic US interest at stake in Afghanistan, the costs are high and the rewards few, if any.
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# Maddy 2009-02-05 20:17
What happened to the adage, "Teach a man to fish and feed the masses?" I agree with the green zone establishment, then build out from there and then start some large irrigated farms to grow crops that are indiginous to that area and maybe introduce soy beans, corn, wheat, whatever can grow over there. Teach them to farm. Start with a large land owner, or war lord, if need be, hire the locals to work the farms and increase their standard of living.

If they can earn an income and stay away from the poppy fields, then maybe you can teach them to be farmers. Fill the area with tractors, plows, discs, harrows and combines teach them how to grow their food.

Wipe out the Taliban and Al Qaeda and teach the country how to export legal products. Will sugar cane grow there and be turned into sugar and ethanol? Let's start thinking outside the box, instead of war, war, war. What other natural resources have we looked for there, diamonds, gold, silver, coal, oil, natural gas, potash, uranium, bauxite, etc, etc. Hell, they may be setting on natural resources that could bring them riches beyond their wildest dreams. Has anyone in the coalition, or NATO researched this line of thought? Maybe it's time someone did! If none of these resources are available there and the soil can not grow anything, but poppies, then the place may be truly destined to stay in the dark ages.

We may have to lower our expectations, but we don't have to leave the country in absolute poverty either. Keep up the good work Michael and keep telling it the way you see it!
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# Vnce Emmer 2009-02-05 20:59
I love your stuff Michael. I've supported you financially.

If I respectfully disagree. We don't need to turn it into into suburbia, but we've got to keep it from turning into Somalia.

Thanks for all you do.
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# Goose 2009-02-06 01:54
After several years of reading dispaches and your book I sense a great tiredness in you. I suspect some ugly realizations are no longer being supressed by a vision of victory. Possibly this, there can be no victory because the enemy has no corpus. Unlike facism, communism, dictatorships and other types of cults there is no dependence on a man or group of men. This is a battle against a philosophy that hates us. All we can ever do is try to hold it at arms length. Like pimples on a teenage face, we can only treat (fight) what pops up.
Europe is doomed to either a war (ethnic cleansing a la the 14 and 15 hundreds) or the hegemony of a brutal religious philosophy. Personally I think Europe faces the latter. Europe killed off the Jews and thought they were now the blessed in the light only to find after 50 years that europeans will be the new objects of oppression and genocide. We can face a similar long term fate. So many of the people I know cannot conceive that I speak a simple truth. I have read the lines of the enemys battle plan - they take no prisioners as they have only victory before them. They have been at war for over 1300 years and if it takes twice that into the future it makes no difference.

We can not win in the classic sense but we must suppress those elements who would thrust terror and fear into our society. If persistant we can project a softness into their resolve that wil allow two different worlds to exist on one earth.
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# Steamboat Jack 2009-02-06 03:51
Col. Ben

I understand where you are coming from because I was once like you. I was raised a liberal Democrat and worked union all of my life. Then, back in 1996, I realized how the people I trusted to keep me informed (National Public Radio, primarily) was distorting the truth to make me believe things that just werenƒ??t true. Once I realized that I began to double check everything I got from the news.

For example, an analysis of sea ice recovery here:

Here is a graph of Arctic Sea Ice anomalies (difference from average):

Here is a graph of the global sea ice anomalies:

Here is a link about the worst snowfall in England in years:

And finally, here is some CSPAN footage of a hearing on Fannie May and Freddie Mac. Back in 2004.

It isnƒ??t your fault. The people that you trust to keep you informed betrayed you.

Good luck.

Steamboat Jack
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# Kevlaur 2009-02-06 12:14
Hey libs... how about adding something useful to the debate besides "bush lied, people died" or "people are dumb for being like steamboat jack"

Hang in there. Afghanistan will be different, and tougher in a way, than Iraq. Russia is offering to help - a sop as they bring Kyrgyzstan back into their clutches with $ (this after they promised use of Manas as long as needed).

Obama needs to use his hope and change charm on our NATO allies and re-invigorate them to help (article 5 not withstanding). A stable Afghanistan will keep Pakistan more stable and keep the Iranians in check.

Keep the faith. Keep praying. We can do this.
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# TMLutas 2009-02-06 16:30
I respectfully disagree with your pessimism if not your assessment of present conditions. It is simply not necessary for Afghanistan to advance to the level of the Bulgaria or Albania. They but need to advance to the level of the barbaric colonies of North America circa, oh 1750. I suspect that even these 'living relics' of the past can manage that.

The genius of the democratic republican system is that repeated elections generate an improving political class so long as the polls are honest. 4-5 electoral cycles (perhaps truncated ones as in Iraq) and you have a populace that has acquired the habit of judging their leadership and holding them to account. The habit sustains the process and the polity self-improves after that until things grow so well that complacency kicks in and matters can degenerate.
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# Mike 2009-02-07 14:38
The article has compromised truth with poetic sentences. The writer is a mere pesimistic indidual who has read Afghanistan's ancient history, not the modern one.

Numereous surveys suggest that the majority of Afghans support NATO presence in thier country. This is a major turningpoint in this country's history as they historically opposed foreignors in their land. As a small nation, they have now learnt that should NATO leave, they will be swallowed and torn apart by greedy neigbours.. and that is the secret behind NATO's success - the support by the majority of the population.

Should the US and NATO leave this country at the mercy of its neigburs again, as they did after the cold war, the cost of neglegence could be much higher than the 9/11 tragedies.
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# rss 2009-02-07 21:34
with which i must agree. afghanistan is an irrelevant outpost of evil, the thorny branch farthest away from its corrupt roots.

sadly, a supermajority of elected officials - and even voters - in America are traitors to reason, the Constitution, and our national sovereignty. we won't turn our attention to Saudi Arabia until it is - once again - too late.
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# Jim K 2009-02-08 00:40
The Saudi's are the root of evil, They play a doublegame very effectively and No US President will do anything while we are addicted to oil and In a depression. They sponsor all the madrases In Pakistan turning out Aq and Taliban faster than we can kill them. We should have fed them to Saddam. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi's and on September 12 The only civilian plane flying was carrying Saudi's out of this country. Guess who they were carrying? Being from New York and knowing many firemen that died that day. I think the country deserves an answer. I would like to know!
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# meh130 2009-02-09 00:08
If we cannot make it into a tree, then we must make it into a better bush.
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# marinepapa 2009-02-09 17:00
I have been a reader and financial supporter of Michael for a year now, and always look forward to receiving the latest e-mail notifying me of the posting of another of his articles.

It is time for me to start putting in my 2 cents worth, because it looks like I'll be having a dog in this fight. My son, after being laid off from his second engineering job in the auto industry, decided to cast his fate with the USMC for the ensuing 5 years. After struggling through Parris Island as a 30 year old private, he upped the ante and applied for OCS. He was accepted and went through basic a second time - as an officer candidate. He next completed The Basic School and is now in training with a Recon Unit. So it is easy to imagine that he will be doing his thing in Afghanistan in the not too distant future. His mother thinks he is crazy. As his father, I am proud as hell of him. May God watch over him.

My thoughts on the present situation is a little more positive than Michael's latest posting - but hey - doesn't everyone have a "down" day every now and then. But do we really have any choice? This international Islamist Extremist Movement isn't going to go away on its' own, and the US is the only nation strong enough to try to turn the situation around. We are going to be fighting the extremists for a long time to come, so it makes sense to me to try to attract their meanest "bad-asses" to a spot of OUR choosing and try to kill or capture as many of them as we can.

For this plan to work in Afghanistan, we will be obliged to improve the security situation for the average (non-extremist) Afghani to the point that they, of their own volition, decide to fight with us instead of against us. Right now the best option (as mentioned in previous postings in this Blog) appears to be the establishment of 2 or 3 "green zones" and slowly move out from there. That, and getting as much cooperation from Pakistan as we can in making live miserable for the AQs and Taliban hiding out NW territories.

This Plan of Action also has an additional benefit not mentioned previously - and that is having a real, live laboratory for our armed forces to practice and improve their COIN ops on a continuous basis. After reading every USMC history book extant, I have come to the conclusion that the Marines' fitness and preparation levels deteriorate rapidly during times of "peace". To me, the biggest problem we will face is getting a majority of the populace, and the present administration, to muster up enough fortitude to keep on keeping on in this 1300 year war. I'm not real confident in that regard.

Michael, keep up the fantastic work. I always look forward to reading all of it - whether I agree or not.

I would also like to comment on the bloggers on this site. I read 25 to 30 different Blogs weekly, and without a doubt the intelligence, variety, insight, and (in most cases) civility exhibited on the MY Blog far exceeds most of the others.

A good day to all, STEVE
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