Thursday, March 21, 2002

There was much gloating about the American success in the war in Afghanistan, most notably by Hitchens. Now that it is becoming apparent that the war was an utter disaster, the gloating is going the other way. The stated purpose of the war was to eliminate or at least reduce the terrorist threat to the United States by killing or capturing bin Laden, and destroying the al-Qaeda network. Of course bin Laden and al-Qaeda are still around. The Taliban have been replaced by a group of thuggish warlords, who will continue to fight each other and anyone else for the foreseeable future. The situation of the average Afghan, except perhaps for those in Kabul, has worsened both by the disruptions of war and the reductions in personal security (one of the reasons for the acceptance of the Taliban was that they managed to eliminate or reduce the banditry and general lawlessness that has now returned due to the warlords). Many Afghans have been killed or maimed by American bombs, and no doubt new hatred for Americans has been created. The brutality of the American attack has reinforced any hatreds of the United States held throughout the Middle East by Islamic fundamentalists. The Taliban had stopped the production of opium in what was once the world's largest producer, and the warlords have started production again. Battles with what the Americans call 'al-Qaeda', but what appear to be warlord militias, are inconclusive at best. The real reason for the war was to eliminate the Taliban and create a puppet government that would allow the building of a pipeline through Afghanistan. The serious problems will arise when construction of this pipeline begins. Since much of the territory remains hostile, permanent military bases will have to be established to protect the workers building the pipeline and to protect the pipeline from sabotage. There will be a low level of U. S. casualties which the Americans will try to prevent by gradually increasing the number of troops and equipment. An extremely expensive and permanent war seems inevitable. It is difficult to imagine how this little war could have turned out any worse for the Americans.