A True Conservative Response to Afghanistan   Leave a comment

I don’t agree that the United States should pull back into its borders and reduce our military to the point where we can only defend our borders. I don’t believe that will stop radical Islam from coming after us. In fact, I think it will embolden them. Peace through strength is a sensible option that protects our sovereignty. And, we should never back down when attacked.

However, the neoconservative idea that we need to be perpetually at war or at least sticking our noses into conflicts all over the world is crazy. Yes, crazy! Unsustainable! Dangerous! At odds not only with our founding principles, but also with liberty! Our nation can be strong without being meddlesome and imperialistic.

Pragmatically speaking, it’s hard to say where founding principles would put us today in the Middle East. We would probably have supported Israel to at least some extent because it is a democratic country and because, quite frankly, the United States of American knew about the Holocaust a long time before our entry into the war and, for that, we owed the Jewish people a homeland. Had we taken a somewhat different view with the Israelis on some issues (consistent with our principles!), there’s no way to know what changes might have occurred in the surrounding countries. The Islamic people have long cultural memories and a strong sense of multigeneration revenge. It’s easy to anger them and hard to repair things once you’ve done it. That shouldn’t keep us from upholding our own principles. Maybe if we were more consistent with that, we’d have less trouble because those who oppose us would respect our adherence to principle over politics.

Again, I’m going to break with my libertarian leanings and say we should have supported the mujahideen against the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan, which was a puppet state of the Soviet Union. We did support them covertly, but we should have been more open about and we should have given them a great deal more arms and aid. They eventually grew into a democratic movement that formed the Islamic State of Afghanistan under Ahmad Shah Massoud, which tried to institute democratic elections and civil rights reform involving women. They faced an uphill battle against the Pakistan-backed Taliban and could have used our help. Would Afghanistan have been more or less prone to shelter al-Qaeda had the democratic Islamic State remained in charge? The Islamic State became the Northern Alliance that helped with the invasion of Tora Bora; in the areas they controlled during the reign of the Taliban, they instituted tribal self-government with democratic reforms and civil rights for women … consistent with our principles. There’s no way of knowing now how that might have worked out, but parts of this former administration are still active in Afghanistan today as the political party of the National Coalition of Afghanistan – still pushing for democratic reforms.

Here are some things to consider – looking at what-if the United States had adhered to our founding principles in the Middle East. Supporting the Islamic State was consistent with our principles. Giving the Pakistan government millions of dollars in support would not be. Yes, Pakistan is a democratic parliamentary federal republic, but it was supporting the Taliban attack on a democratic reform movement in Afghanistan. Pakistan is a fairly moderate Islamic regime within its own borders – women can run for president – but it was supporting a totalitarian state in the Taiban. If we had not been giving Pakistan foreign aid money, it would have made it more difficult for them to fund the Taliban and no doubt al-Qaeda.  Instead, we played politics, giving too little support to the mujahideen and then stopping the support as soon as the Islamic State seemed ready to stabilize the country AND also funding neighboring Pakistan that was working to bring the Islamic State down.

What was our government attempting to accomplish? Knowing someone who is (retired) counter intelligence for the Army, I know that THEY were not confused between the Islamic State and the “mujahideen” who were to become the Taliban. That’s something they wanted civilians to believe, but they knew the difference. Why they lumped them together to convince Congress to defund aid there doesn’t make sense to me anymore than why we were funding Pakistan at the same time as the mujahideen. Maybe someday they’ll declassify a document that will answer that question. I don’t know. I do know we should have been supporting the move toward liberty and not funding the opposition to it.

I’m going to insist that the neoconservatives were quite comfortable with what we did and with the outcome because it plays very well into their version of foreign policy where we’re constantly at war or sticking our noses in where we should not.

So, what-if wasn’t and al-Qaeda struck us. We were not wrong to hit back hard because it was an attack on our sovereignty. What should we have done after we brought down the Taliban? Again, we were funding Pakistan, which we should not if we’re going to be consistent with our principles. So, don’t support Pakistan financially and, now that our temporary allies have kicked the Taliban out of Afghanistan – being consistent with our founding principles, what should we have done?

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