Part I is here.
People of sense are dismayed. It is one thing to have someone in public life, anyone at all, at least present, sensibly and soberly, the facts about the ideology of Islam, and about the major theatre of the Jihad, which is not in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, but in the countries of Western Europe. We’ve all been so busy creating a new America. That new America is now run by people who did not, as did an older political elite, travel to Europe and learn – really learn, not merely take a few courses in – the languages of Europe. They were at home with, if not everyone in Europe, at least with some in England or in France, who might have made a kind of grand tour of the Italian museums, who might be aware that whatever happened, America remained — in its language, its literature, its art, its science, its political theory — a child of Europe. And that did not change, could not change, no matter what changes in demography occurred because, say, of the changes in immigration laws passed too unthinkingly back in 1965.
The war in Afghanistan is based on a notion that because Al Qaeda was located there when the attacks of 9/11/2001 took place, that somehow Afghanistan retains pride of place, that without it Al Qaeda cannot exist, that it is the main refuge of “violent extremists” who apparently “just happen” to be Muslim.
The other day I heard Andrew Bacevich make a telling remark. He noted that this fixation on Afghanistan was akin to Americans thinking that in order to prevent assassination attempts on American presidents, that the School Book Depository in Dallas would till the end of time have to be massively guarded. It makes no sense. Where, after all, have the terrorists been who attacked the London Underground and busses, or the metro station at Atocha in Madrid, or who have been responsible for thousands of terrorist attacks (see Fort Hood, just a few weeks ago) all over the Western world? It’s absurd that Afghanistan should be made so much of. Let it slip back into the tribal society it was, where people enjoy making war on one another. If the Three-Cups-of-Tea Mortensen, if Sarah Chayes and her projects for women, can somehow continue, let them, but don’t make the mistake of holding onto Afghanistan at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, to make sure that Mortensen and Chayes and others feel good about “giving hope” to the people of Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan are held back by Islam. If one were sincerely interested in their welfare, one would be cruel only to be kind, and realize that the best way to decrease the fatal hold of Islam on the minds of men is to allow things to degenerate, to longer try to improve things, no longer to try to prevent internecine warfare, no longer to try to rescue this or that Muslim society from the violence and aggression that are natural to peoples raised on the texts and tenets of Islam (some more so, and some less).
Afghanistan had a kind of brief period, under the Afghan King in the 1930s who so admired Ataturk, and as long as everyone stayed away, and Afghanistan remained a state in name only, with the writ of the King hardly extending beyond a few cities, things were semi-okay. The disruptions brought about by the Soviets, and by the Arabs who came in to fight the Soviets, have unsettled Afghanistan. We can’t and shouldn’t try to settle it. We are Infidels, and are incapable of doing so.
Those who now will tell us “but the surge worked in Iraq” don’t realize that it did not work, or rather, it worked only in the sense that Sunni Arab tribesmen in Anbar Province, who for good reasons of their own wanted to settle scores first (before moving on to the Shi’a in Bahgdad and the south) with members of Al-Qaeda, were happy to receive American money and American weapons, and to fight Al Qaeda. But that had nothing to do with being willing to accept the new dispensation in Iraq, nothing to do with accepting rule by the Shi’a Arabs, or domination, in northern Iraq, by the non-Arab Kurds (even if most of them are Sunni).
The constant repetition of this phrase “the surge worked” misreads that situation. Iraq will inevitably relapse into some kind of hostilities, based on ethnic and sectarian tensions that will not go away, that were not created by the Americans but have a long history. It is not the Americans who made the Sunnis despise the Shi’a, and also now to fear them, as possibly being successful in efforts to convert Sunnis (this at least is a fear expressed by Sunni political and media figures in Egypt and Jordan). It is not the Americans who caused Arab Muslims to treat with contumely the non-Arab Kurds, and to acquiesce or even support the mass-murdering of Kurds by Saddam Hussein – and the Kurds are not going to give up the autonomy, in the north, that they have enjoyed for almost twenty years, ever since 1991, when the Americans kept the skies over Kurdistan free from Saddam’s Arab air force.