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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Historian Gareth Porter on latest plan to win in Afghanistan...

Historian Gareth Porter has written a piece on the latest administration ideas about pacifying Afghanistan:
Plan to Split Taliban Lures Obama Deeper Into War.

The plan to "buy off" supposedly "reconcilable" Taliban fighters and thus split the insurgency projects an image onto the situation in Afghanistan that is contrary to the assessment of Afghanistan experts about the true motivation for the hostility toward coalition personnel. It is a repeat of numerous cases under the Bush administration of ignoring the real cultural context on the ground. It fails to recognize real fault lines among the insurgents - for example between the Arabs associated with al Qaeda and the local Taliban.

In the accompanying radio interview at http://antiwar.com/radio/, Porter assents to antiwar.com's radio host Scott Horton's charicature of the Afghans as a warlike people who will always fight, among themselves and against foreigners, implying either a Hobbesean state of nature or a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland view of the "noble savage". The two say that this image of eternal war represents the consensus of experts - it is in their ancient culture. As the conversation moves on, and as the article presents it, however, a more subtle view emerges: The Afghanistan insurgency is rooted in hostility to foreign occupation troops based primarily on desire for revenge for violence inflicted by the occupation forces on members of their groups. That view would seem to fit in better with the history of the clan/tribe-based society there, where sub-national loyalties and honor are so highly valued. Against that background, the idea of buying off parts of the insurgency seems absurd.

Afghani conceptions of honor, reconciliation and compensation do allow for monetary reimbursement for killing, however. So a scenario where the coalition buys off insurgents is not total fantasy. But each case would have to be personally negotiated by men (sic) of recognized authority and accompanied by ritualized actions that would be difficult to reconcile with military or bureaucratic traditions in the west. And any such action would leave the issue of the presence of foreign troops and the anger generated by foreing occupation as such unaddressed.



Blogger David T. Beito said...

FYI, my libertarian friend Scott Horton, interviewed Porter. Here is the link for the audio:


Porter it seems has no problem with the maximum encourage of libertarian/progressive dialogue.

Horton has also interviewed Howard Zinn, the publisher of the Nation, Gabriel Kolko, Rusti Eisenberg (I arranged that) and other progressives. I have often posted links to these and other Horton interviews. Marc Becker: are those other examples of pushing libertarianism too?!

I would have liked to post this as a new thread but I'll have to settle for your comments section.

12:23 PM  
Blogger Thaddeus Russell said...

Great post, Mark! As I've said many times on the blog, antiwar.com is a wonderful source of information and analysis from both the left and the right. It is the model of what I would like HAW to be.

12:30 PM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...

Oops, sorry didn't notice that you had posted the inteview. Thanks for posting it.

12:31 PM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...

Oops, sorry didn't notice that you had posted the inteview. Thanks for posting it.

12:31 PM  

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