Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Better to Bribe Than to Kill

Better to Bribe Than to Kill
By Jerome Grossman

There are four power centers in the Obama foreign-policy establishment, each led by heavyweights with close relationships to the president: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser James Jones, and Vice President Joseph Biden. Gates and Jones have strong military backgrounds; Clinton and Biden come from political and civilian experience. Which one will have the president's ear?

Obama has a big decision to make on Afghanistan where U.S. forces have been fighting for almost eight years and where the president says we are not winning. About 35,000 US troops are in action there alongside the same number of soldiers from NATO allies. Obama has commissioned the development of a plan for Afghanistan due in April, but he is sending 17,000 more troops before the plan is ready, surely a sign that military matters are not going well in the allied effort.

Loquacious Biden has preempted the discussion. On March 10 he said that 70% of the Taliban are essentially mercenaries who possibly could be negotiated with instead of fought and said that the U.S.likely will try this approach." Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated. Another twenty-five percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, of the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency........ And roughly 70% are involved because of the money, because of them being......paid.” Notice that Biden ignores Afghan nationalism and the universal resentment against foreign invasion, expressed repeatedly over the centuries, most recently by armed resistance against the Soviet Union and the British Empire.

Biden is suggesting a strategy based on U.S. experience with the Sunnis in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan immediately after the September 11 tragedy, it defeated the Taliban with air power and dollars, with few soldiers. U.S. forces learned that the opposing forces could be defeated with cash, or at least sent back to their villages with the help of bribed local warlords.

General David Petraeus repeated this teqnique in the Anbar province of Iraq, where he was able to buy the cooperation of the local sheiks and then put 100,000 Sunni insurgent warriors on the U.S. payroll where they remain to this day. That was and is the prime reason for the sudden decline in insurgency in Iraq. Petraeus also threw into the deal guns for the vacationing warriors, who decided to wait for the U.S. to leave before using those guns against their Shia rivals.

There doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is hiding somewhere in Pakistan. The Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan have been destroyed. Poor, primitive Afghanistan is a nation of brigands with a corrupt central government to match. If we can end the war by purchase, so much the better. Better to bribe than to kill.


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