Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Costs of Empire; or, Close But No SIGAR

Jim White doesn't draw any explicit conclusions in this post, but it makes me a bit nervous.  It's about the recently released audit report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.
What SIGAR has found is that the massive investment that we have made in building military bases and training facilities is likely to be wasted because Afghanistan will be incapable of maintaining those bases after they have been handed over into Afghan control.
This follows up a post from last summer, on "the US counterinsurgency strategy that is based on the assumption that building a Western type of 'infrastructure' will produce an Afghan populace that develops such adulation for the purveyors of such cultural 'improvement' that they will immediately in fall in line with all other desires of the West."

The writers at emptywheel, where White writes, have done a lot of good writing about "green-on-blue" attacks, where Afghan security forces have attacked NATO forces.  (Just for snark's sake, notice the repeated typo in the headlines of this article from a distinguished UK publication.)  Aside from more recent parallels to Iraq, all this reminds me of similar concern during the US invasion of Vietnam: were the South Vietnamese troops ready to defend their nation against South Vietnamese communists, or would we have to stay there for another century or so to protect them?  Just for their own good, of course: the US has always been willing to spend blood and treasure protecting peasants and shepherds from those who would oppress them. We're just too good, you know?  This kind of rhetoric in mainstream media usually betrays a certain amount of racist contempt, with much more lurking below the surface, for the hapless wogs who can't even take responsibility for their role in the American imperium, despite all the devastation we've given them, and the billions of dollars we've spent through American contractors on "reconstruction."

So I'm always of two minds when I read stuff like this.  Part of me is properly contemptuous of the huge waste of money by the Bush-Obama regime for no good end.  But another part of me goes "Oh noes!  The invaders and occupiers are going to lose their massive investment!  Poor babies!" Though Schaedenfreude is in my DNA, I have to remind myself that whether I like it or not, the invaders and conquerers are primarily my own government and its minions in NATO.  Wheeler and her co-bloggers at emptywheel are not gung-ho fans of US aggression, so I know they know better.

But not everyone does.  Try this comment, the first one on White's post:
Not only have we wasted our fortunes, we have also extracted tremendous human costs, especially the attacks on UN troops by “loyal” afghan troops.
"Especially"?  Call me disloyal and uncaring, but I think the human cost inflicted on the Afghan people has been more "tremendous."  Would the commenter say the same thing about the human cost "extracted" on the Soviet troops who fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s?  While I sympathize with them as I sympathize with the American troops now, I think the suffering of the people whose homes were bombed and whose families were butchered by invading armies counts for more.  And if the American people are willing to back presidents who 'waste our fortunes' building military bases and armored embassy compounds, it's our lookout.  We can always vote the rascals out, after all.

But as always, it's about us, first foremost and only: it's only about us.