Obama's Peace Gambit in Afghanistan
I just received an email briefing from Stratfor (http://www.stratfor.com). Their free Geopolitical Weekly email newsletter is a great resource for learning about important events around the world. Even though I don't always agree with their analysis, they often seem accurate and their distillation and presentation of important geopolitical events is oft second to none. The email message is reproduced on Stratfor's site and -- unlike the majority of their site -- is freely available: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20090511_afghanistan_and_u_s_strategic_debate
In short, it sounds like our dear President Obama is now hell-bent on losing in Afghanistan. SecDef Gates and Obama are arguing that that our best chance of victory in Afghanistan is to reestablish Taliban control over Afghanistan, in return for an EFFING PROMISE not to give shelter and aid to al Qaeda. General Petraeus is arguing that such would be dangerous folly and that it ignores the lessons of Iraq.
Sadly, Obama and Gates appear belligerently ignorant (at best) or perhaps willfully blind to a few key concepts:
1. Hudna: Radical Muslim forces are NEVER allowed to create a permanent peace with infidels. At most, they are permitted to a ten year cease-fire when they are potentially too weak to succeed for the nonce (based on the Mohammed's similar truce with the Quraysh tribe during his ascent to power). In reality, Muslim forces will sometimes extend a truce beyond 10 years, but when the group in question is legitimately of the jihadist mindset (as are the Taliban), it cannot ever be permanent. In any case, it is very unlikely that the Taliban would agree to ANY terms favorable to us as they are doing well enough fighting and a peace offer to the Taliban High Command will only further embolden them.
2. Mailmastia and Pashtunwali - The only rules that have influence approaching that of Islamic jurisprudence among the Taliban are those of pashtunwali. Pashtunwali is the honor code of the Pashtun tribes, and the Taliban are made up near exclusively of Pashtun tribesmen. One principle under the code of pashtunwali is Mailmastia, or "hospitality and sanctuary". It is this same code that prevented the Taliban from handing over Osama bin Laden and his cohorts in 2001, when the failure to violate this principle all but guaranteed the destruction of their regime. Indeed, they chose to suffer the full force and terrible power of American military wrath instead of violating this most sacred of Pashtun codes. It is almost unthinkable that the Taliban would willingly violate this principle by agreeing to turn over (or even evict) al Qaeda. But if they did, it would likely be either very brief (as an example of hudna) or, even more likely, a ruse (as an example of al Taqiyya), which brings me to my next point.
3. al Taqiyya - Islam allows a Muslim to lie, deceive and dissimulate under certain conditions, including (but not limited to) when doing so would save their life (in fact in this case, dissimulation is mandatory) or allow them to soften the hearts of an enemy and thus bring them to reconcile favorably with the Muslim forces.
Surely, any agreement to oust their holy Muslim warrior allies would be overturned and justified under hudna, pashtunwali and al taqiyya.
This would be terrible enough if the only effect would be a long-term sanctuary for al Qaeda. But there is far more at stake. Briefly, some aspects of the price we'd pay include:
1. A permanent sanctuary for the Taliban. The Taliban have effectively declared war on Pakistan, a nuclear armed nation. They have been succeeding over and over again in their military advances and having unlimited sanctuary in Afghanistan, combined with the (albeit limited in this case, but non-zero) assets of state control, renders their victory over the government of Pakistan far, far more likely.
2. The betrayal, yet again, of stalwart American allies. All of our allies in Afghanistan who stood so bravely against the Taliban will be at best exiled and surely in many, many cases killed. We have a terrible record of fulfilling our promises to the weak and endangered among our allies, and this new stain will not serve us well in our future endeavours. Besides that, it is morally reprehensible and cowardly.
3. A clear victory for the jihadists. The Taliban and their al Qaeda allies would (legitimately-!) claim victory over the US. Twice, al Qaeda and the jihadists in Afghanistan will have defeated a superpower. This will encourage the defection of many in jihadist society from the "we approve of war but find it presently futile" party to the "let us destroy the infidels now, Inshallah" camp. Jihadists across the globe will revel in the glory of victory, and those standing against them will quiver with fear. These emboldened jihadists will be far more likely to strike out at the presently weakened US in an attempt to remove our influence permanently.
I've only touched on the costs we will ultimately pay should Obama proceed with his plan; what prize could be possibly worth such a steep price?