The very idea that because Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, Afghanistan has a special, irreplaceable importance in the "war against terrorism," is false.
In the first place, the fact that Al Qaeda found Afghanistan under the Taliban (a Taliban nurtured by an American-supported Pakistan, and recognized by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) useful does not mean that Al Qaeda can only regroup in Afghanistan. The terrorist attacks in London were not hatched by those trained in Afghanistan, but by people living in, raised in, Great Britain. Those who bombed the Atocha station in Madrid were not from Afghanistan. Those who killed Pim Fortuyn (a weak-minded Dutchman put up to it by Muslims) and Theo van Gogh were not trained in Afghanistan. The Chechens who seized the theatre in Moscow, or the school in Beslan, were not trained in Afghanistan. Anywhere there are Muslims, ready to participate in Jihad through violence, they will be able to find sufficient weaponry and bombs. Afghanistan is being endowed with a significance it does not possess.
In the second place, the very idea that Americans and other NATO troops must be sent in large numbers to pacify Afghanistan, a vast country, remote from Western bases, difficult to get in and out of (just look at the sums demanded by Kyrgyzstan for the continued use of an airbase), and that requires the collaboration of another meretricious Muslim state that is actually far more hideous and dangerous than Afghanistan itself, Pakistan, is nonsense. Afghanistan, or rather the various ethnic groups within it, can be controlled, or at least the threat coming from them can be managed from afar. The very idea that the only choice is ever-increasing numbers of American troops, and ever more billions poured into Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries on earth, on the theory that Muslim hearts, if they are not with the Taliban, are therefore accessible and winnable, is absurd.
Here and there, just as in Iraq, some locals will prefer to use the Americans, and to temporarily curry favor with them out of self-interest -- that is, out of a desire for American weaponry, supplies, and money. In Afghanistan, local groups and even individual warlords, and Karzai himself, have proven adept at leading the Americans by the nose for quite a while, just as the Pakistani military has managed to do for decades, and as the Al-Saud have done in presenting themselves as not the most dangerous enemies of Infidels, but as "America's staunch ally."
The United States has squandered at least two trillion dollars in Iraq. What is the result? Possibly, a state, and an army, that consists mainly of Muslim Arabs (the Kurds are slowly being squeezed out, and Maliki's "outreach to the Sunni Arabs" will be, predictably, at the expense of the non-Arab Kurds), one that possibly will not be quite as ostentatiously aggressive as was the state run by that obviously hideous despot Saddam Hussein. But so what? How does this improve the Infidel position in the world? What has been accomplished, or could possibly be accomplished, to weaken the hold of Islam on the minds of men in Afghanistan? Nothing at all.
We, the Infidel Americans, have managed or may have managed to hold Iraq together a bit longer by doing everything we could to prevent the fissures, sectarian and ethnic, from leading to open and large-scale hostilities. And we, those American Infidels, were further kindly allowed by the local Arabs and Muslims to spend nearly two trillion dollars on this effort at a time when it is now recognized that economic warfare, and economic damage, is a key weapon in the jihadist arsenal. This remains true whether that damage is inflicted from without or self-inflicted by the assumption of responsibilities that make no geopolitical sense. And every dollar spent on Iraq, on Egypt, on Pakistan, on Afghanistan, on Jordan, on the "Palestinians," represents a transfer of wealth from Infidels to Muslims, one that goes beyond the trillions in unmerited oil revenues the Arabs and Muslims have received.
We have spent that money, and have received, and will receive, no gratitude in return. When Iraq dissolves inevitably into the warring tribes and groups, who will be blamed? America. Americans. And so much of what we spend there, by the way, is on goods (such as oil shipments from Kuwait) and services (contractors, from ditto), that enrich Kuwaitis and Qataris and Bahrainis (when our ships are in), so that we are propping up all of these statelets and peoples who are not and cannot ever be our friends, but who in the end will use and abuse us every which way. And they will do this while we spend time trying to figure out what makes them tick, when what makes them tick are the texts, the tenets, the attitudes, the atmospherics, of Islam.
Tarbaby Iraq is about to be followed by Tarbaby Afghanistan. The military men involved focus on the immediate task at hand. They do not have time to study, or so they think, the texts, the ideology, of Islam. They do not have time, or do not have the inclination, to think beyond the immediate theatres of war -- war understood only in the military sense, or at least in the sense of either making war or "winning hearts and minds" of combatants -- in Iraq and now Afghanistan. Do you think General Petraeus, General Odierno, General McKiernan, has stopped to consider what is happening in Western Europe? Do you think they understand that there many ways to conduct Jihad, and that deployment of the Money Weapon, campaigns of Da'wa, and demographic conquest (already showing its effects on the fear displayed by many in the political and media elites of Western Europe, determined to appease Muslims and meet their demands on so many levels), is a much greater threat to the United States and to the civilization of the West than any conceivable outcome in remote and impoverished Afghanistan, or in Iraq?
Local entanglements of course inevitably engender human sympathies -- sympathies, say, by the American officers for this or that local gunga-dinnish figure, who seems -- and in a certain sense may be -- appealing. But policy should not be based on that kind of sentimentality, and on a handful of local exceptions. We need to weaken the Camp of Islam and Jihad. And we need to do this without unduly squandering men, money, materiel, and morale. Propping up Afghanistan has to come to an end. Instead, officials should be soberly, coldly, even ruthlessly, deciding to manage the situation from afar, through help given to now this, and now to that, local group whose interests temporarily coincide with ours. They should be stopping all this wasteful "construction" that earns no gratitude, and merely rescues Muslims from the obvious consequences of inshallah-fatalism.
The logic of events will in the end require this realization. But how long will it take? Another few years? It ought to have been understood long ago, and would have been, if those making policy had understood, had allowed themselves to study, the meaning, and the menace, of Islam.
In the end, if Obama wishes to staunch the flow of American lives and money, he will have to pull out of Afghanistan and adopt what is suggested here. But he can protect himself from criticism on the right only by adopting, as well, the rationale offered here: pull out of Afghanistan not because Islam, and Muslims, are no threat, but precisely because they are. And resolve never to help them out of their problems, but to allow their political, economic, social, intellectual and moral failures to be on obvious display, not least to themselves. If Infidels, or a sufficient number of them, grasp the connection between the nature of Islam and the failures of Muslim states and societies, then Muslims themselves will have to begin at least to attempt to answer the argument that insists upon that connection. And in so doing, the most advanced Muslims will have to admit, to themselves if not to Infidels, that in fact Islam does explain those failures.
It explains the natural tendency toward despotism of Muslim lands, for the political theory of Islam is not one that pays attention to the will expressed by the people, but rather to the will expressed by Allah. Islam does explain, through its inshallah-fatalism, the economic paralysis, does explain the mistreatment of women and of all non-Muslims, does explain Islam as a vehicle for Arab cultural and linguistic imperialism, does explain the stunting of mental growth among those who are taught to regard themselves as merely "slaves of Allah" in a collectivist Total Belief-System, and discouraged from the kind of free and skeptical inquiry without which no progress in anything can be achieved. Infidels cannot undo all this by rescuing Iraqis, or Afghanis, from the consequences of Islam itself.
They may do so, just possibly, by removing themselves from Muslim countries, keeping Muslims from acquiring the kind of weaponry that can inflict great damage, and halting Muslim immigration to non-Muslim lands while working to reverse as much as possible the aggressive Muslim presence already achieved in those lands, through a fit of criminal negligence by our ignorant-of-Islam elites. This is the way, the only way, to divide and demoralize the Camp of Islam. Winning hearts and minds cannot be done, and those who think they can do so with armies, expensively maintained in the wilds of Afghanistan, are committing folly upon folly.
In their inattention to the real context, and their monomaniacal attention to the immediate task at hand -- the wrong task, undertaken for the wrong reasons -- they all remind one of Alec Guinness, as Colonel Bogey, building that bridge, urging his men to do more and more and more, and forgetting, in his mad attention to that bridge, that he is actually building it for the Japanese, helping them in their war effort. And that is exactly what some, both in the military and in the civilian part of our government, appear to be doing: overlooking the larger picture, the only picture that counts.