Generational Dynamics: Modern Generational Theory Generational
 Modern Generational Theory


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 22-Nov-2020
22-Nov-20 World View -- Afghan 'peace talks' threatened by terrorist rocket attack on Kabul

Web Log - November, 2020

22-Nov-20 World View -- Afghan 'peace talks' threatened by terrorist rocket attack on Kabul

Conflicting American values in Vietnam and Afghanistan

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

Afghan 'peace talks' threatened by terrorist rocket attack on Kabul

Taliban fighters relax after lunch (Washington Post)
Taliban fighters relax after lunch (Washington Post)

A terrorist barrage of dozens of rockets were fired into residential areas of the the heavily fortified Green Zone of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital city, killing at least eight civilians and wounding dozens more on Saturday.

The Taliban, which is engaged with the United States in so-called "peace talks" taking place in Doha, Qatar, has denied responsibility for the attack.

On the other hand, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks. ISIS is a terrorist group, imported from Syria, in competition with the Taliban to win the prize as the better terrorists.

This occurs amid the backdrop of negotiations taking place in Doha, Qatar, between representatives of America and the Taliban. For a long time, the Taliban refused to allow the Afghan government of president Ashraf Ghani to send representatives to the negotiations, but they've generously lifted that restriction in the last few months. However, as I understand it, the Taliban and Afghan government do not talk to each other, but only engage in "proximity talks." This hilarious phrase means that the two groups are in separate rooms, and a negotiator trots back and forth between the rooms to further the "talks."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Doha on Saturday, where he met separately with the Taliban and Afghan government negotiators. Presumably, Pompeo served as the proximity talk mediator on this occasion.

According to reports, the talks have not even reached the stage for producing a timeline. The original claim was that the Taliban would end its terrorist violence, but, as I understand it, the current demand is that the Taliban "tone down" the violence. (Believe it or not, that's the phrase used by an analyst on tv.)

So the peace talks are a huge joke, and have never been anything but a huge joke. But they do have one purpose: The provide political cover for the Trump administration to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, which was a campaign promise made by Donald Trump. Trump had claimed that he would get all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2020.

He didn't accomplish that, but he did go ahead with announcement that shocked a lot of people. First, on November 9, he fired his Defense Secretary Mike Esper, apparently because Esper opposed removing any troops from Afghanistan. Trump replaced Esper with an acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, who announced on November 17 that 2,000 troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan by mid-January. That would reduce the troop level from 4,500 to 2,500.

No one seriously believes that the Taliban will adhere to commitments made in a peace deal once the American troops are all withdrawn. The Taliban want Afghanistan to be governed by the Taliban, as it was prior to 9/11/2001, after which US forces declared war on Afghanistan, a war that's still going on. The Taliban want the war to end and want American troops gone, so that they can go back to hardline jihadist policies, such as closing girls' schools, as well as beating, raping and torturing the Hazaras and other ethnic enemies.

So why did ISIS launch Saturday's terrorist attack? Since ISIS and the Taliban are enemies, they presumably wish to sabotage the peace talks, so that the Taliban can't over the whole country. We'll probably know within a few months.

We may also know within a few months whether the American withdrawal will destabilize the relationships among other countries in the region -- China, Pakistan and India. These countries all have an interest in Afghanistan and have benefited from the American presence, and may now feel it necessary to fill the vacuum created if the Americans leave.

Why the Afghan peace agreement must fail

In 2007, president George Bush launched a "surge" policy in the Iraq war which, much to the surprise of many people, actually worked and won the Iraq war.

So in 2009, president Barack Obama decided that what worked in Iraq would also work in Afghanistan. As I wrote at the the time, and have written many times since then, Iraq and Afghanistan are completely different situations, and a "surge" that worked in Iraq would not work in Afghanistan. This prediction has, of course, turned out to be completely correct.

A summary of the reasoning is as follows: Afghanistan's last generational crisis war was an extremely bloody, horrific civil war, in 1991-96. The war was a civil war, fought between the Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan versus the Northern Alliance of Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban are radicalized Pashtuns, and when they need to import foreign fighters, then can import their cousins from the Pashtun tribes in Pakistan.

Indeed, it's much worse than that. The ethnic groups in Afghanistan are COMPLETELY NON-UNITED and loathe each other. Pashtuns still have scores to settle with the Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks that formed the Northern Alliance, especially the Shias. These opposing groups have fresh memories of the atrocities, torture, rape, beatings, dismemberments, mutilations, and so forth that the other side performed on their friends, wives and other family members, and they have no desire to be friends or to work together. They'd rather kill each other.

Obama's surge policy failed because it had to. Obama never had any clue what's going on in the world, so his multiple foreign policy failures aren't surprising. In addition, he appointed that idiot John Kerry as Secretary of State, who stumbled from one disaster to another making things worse.

When Trump began running for president, it was clear that he also had no clue what was going on in the world. I once mocked him for knowing nothing about other countries except his golf courses. But then he did something that was completely unexpected and surprising: He hired Steve Bannon as his principal advisor. This is something I never dreamed would happen. I had worked off and on with Bannon over a period of years, and he's an expert on both military history and Generational Dynamics analysis. Even before taking office, Trump was educated for a year on foreign affairs by Bannon.

Even after Bannon left the White House, there was still somebody left who knew what was going on in the world -- John Bolton. Bolton left the White House last year, and as far as I know, Trump no longer has anyone who can credibly inform him about what's going on in the world, beyond the catalog of facts you can find in the CIA World Factbook.

By the way, Joe Biden has been hiding out in his basement for a year, and apparently knows less than nothing about anything. But he thinks that it might be a good idea to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, though he isn't sure.

Conflicting American values in Vietnam

Working on my forthcoming book on Vietnam has given me plenty of time to contemplate how American values contradict each other, and how well-meaning presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon tried to navigate through the conflicting values and were often forced to make bad decisions that led to bad outcomes.

After World Wars I and II, a traumatized, exhausted America feared they would be fighting a third world war, this time against the Communists. This anxiety increased as Communism seemed to be on the march everywhere -- behind the Iron Curtain in eastern Europe, in China, in northern Korea, in northern Vietnam, and even in the United States in the form of a strong American Communist Party (CPUSA). It became the highest priority of American foreign policy to stop Communism before it led to World War III.

But American values went far beyond that. America was committed to democracies, and South Vietnam was a young vibrant democracy which was being invaded by Communist North Vietnam. There was no way that the leaders who had survived World War II would have tolerated just standing by and letting the South Vietnamese democracy die at the hands of the Communists.

But there was another American value that was equally strong. America had been a British colony and had won its independence from a colonial power. America valued its independence, and would not tolerate having another country, even a friendly country, interfere in its affairs.

South Vietnam was a democracy that had just won its independence from a colonial power, France. America was interfering in South Vietnam's affairs to defend it from the Communists, and so was violating another American value -- not interfering in the affairs of another democracy.

It was this contradiction in American values that led to contradictions in American policies that led to issues that could be exploited by the antiwar activists and American Communists, using the contradictions to sabotage the American war effort politically, leading to the final defeat, and the American betrayal of the people of South Vietnam.

Conflicting American values in Afghanistan

It's worthwhile exploring those conflicting American values in Vietnam, because exactly the same conflict exists today in Afghanistan. However, this time the enemy is a vicious Islamist terror regime, rather than communism.

On the one hand, there is a strong American drive to preserve the democracy in Afghanistan, and protect it from the Islamist terror regime.

On the other hand, there is a strong American drive to avoid interfering in the Afghan government. With the Americans negotiating in Doha with the Taliban, almost to the exclusion of the official Afghan government, there are major policy contradictions, as there have been for the last 19 years.

These contradictions are now in full force, as Americans try to decide how aggressively to take control in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban, or to let the Kabul government make its own decisions. After almost 20 years in Afghanistan, Trump has decided that Americans can't stay there forever, and that it's time to withdraw completely, and let the Taliban take over if that's what's in the cards.

There's another issue. Many American soldiers fought in Afghanistan, and many people lost fathers, brothers and sons there. The same is true of Nato countries. Was all that lost blood and treasure for nothing? Apparently so.

When is a war winnable?

As I work on my forthcoming book on Vietnam, I've also reached some conclusions about when a war is winnable or not winnable.

These conclusions are based on examination of the following wars: Vietnam War, Iraq war, and Afghanistan war. What these three wars have in common is that they're all guerrilla insurgencies -- internal rebellions against the government. Why were we able to win the Iraq war, while losing the Vietnam and Afghanistan war? This analysis does not apply to wars fought by opposing armies.

The insurgency in Vietnam could not be defeated because it was impossible to distinguish between the insurgents and ordinary civilians. The South Vietnamese government adopted a counter-insurgency strategy that had been successfully used a decade earlier by the UK in its Malay colony. In that case, the civilians were indigenous Malays, while the insurgents were ethnic Chinese. The British were able to segregate the Chinese from the Malay population for a simple reason: They looked different. They could easily be distinguished.

The South Vietnamese government adapted this same strategy into something called "strategic hamlets," where North Vietnamese insurgents would be segregated from civilians. This worked for a while, but it had to fail because it was impossible to tell the difference between an ordinary civilian and a Communist insurgent.

President George Bush's "surge" strategy won the Iraq war because the insurgents were quite distinguishable from Iraqi civilians. The insurgent group "al-Qaeda in Iraq" consisted almost entirely of fighters imported from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria. They were not Iraqis, and the Iraqis hated them. That's why the Iraq war was winnable. (See "Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq" from April, 2007.)

The Afghan insurgency was hopeless from the beginning. Yes, we were able to quickly defeat the Afghan army after 9/11/2001, but after the situation turned into an insurgency it could not be won because ordinary civilians were ethnic Pashtuns, and so were the Taliban.

The Afghan war turned into a guerrilla insurgency about 15 years ago, and since then it has been unwinnable. This is the justification for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. Sooner or later, we'll have to lose.

Unfortuately, that conflicts with important American values about protecting young democracies. This political battle will be fierce.


Related Articles:

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the Generational Dynamics World View News thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (22-Nov-2020) Permanent Link
Receive daily World View columns by e-mail
Donate to Generational Dynamics via PayPal

Web Log Pages

Current Web Log

Web Log Summary - 2020
Web Log Summary - 2019
Web Log Summary - 2018
Web Log Summary - 2017
Web Log Summary - 2016
Web Log Summary - 2015
Web Log Summary - 2014
Web Log Summary - 2013
Web Log Summary - 2012
Web Log Summary - 2011
Web Log Summary - 2010
Web Log Summary - 2009
Web Log Summary - 2008
Web Log Summary - 2007
Web Log Summary - 2006
Web Log Summary - 2005
Web Log Summary - 2004

Web Log - December, 2020
Web Log - November, 2020
Web Log - October, 2020
Web Log - September, 2020
Web Log - August, 2020
Web Log - July, 2020
Web Log - June, 2020
Web Log - May, 2020
Web Log - April, 2020
Web Log - March, 2020
Web Log - February, 2020
Web Log - January, 2020
Web Log - December, 2019
Web Log - November, 2019
Web Log - October, 2019
Web Log - September, 2019
Web Log - August, 2019
Web Log - July, 2019
Web Log - June, 2019
Web Log - May, 2019
Web Log - April, 2019
Web Log - March, 2019
Web Log - February, 2019
Web Log - January, 2019
Web Log - December, 2018
Web Log - November, 2018
Web Log - October, 2018
Web Log - September, 2018
Web Log - August, 2018
Web Log - July, 2018
Web Log - June, 2018
Web Log - May, 2018
Web Log - April, 2018
Web Log - March, 2018
Web Log - February, 2018
Web Log - January, 2018
Web Log - December, 2017
Web Log - November, 2017
Web Log - October, 2017
Web Log - September, 2017
Web Log - August, 2017
Web Log - July, 2017
Web Log - June, 2017
Web Log - May, 2017
Web Log - April, 2017
Web Log - March, 2017
Web Log - February, 2017
Web Log - January, 2017
Web Log - December, 2016
Web Log - November, 2016
Web Log - October, 2016
Web Log - September, 2016
Web Log - August, 2016
Web Log - July, 2016
Web Log - June, 2016
Web Log - May, 2016
Web Log - April, 2016
Web Log - March, 2016
Web Log - February, 2016
Web Log - January, 2016
Web Log - December, 2015
Web Log - November, 2015
Web Log - October, 2015
Web Log - September, 2015
Web Log - August, 2015
Web Log - July, 2015
Web Log - June, 2015
Web Log - May, 2015
Web Log - April, 2015
Web Log - March, 2015
Web Log - February, 2015
Web Log - January, 2015
Web Log - December, 2014
Web Log - November, 2014
Web Log - October, 2014
Web Log - September, 2014
Web Log - August, 2014
Web Log - July, 2014
Web Log - June, 2014
Web Log - May, 2014
Web Log - April, 2014
Web Log - March, 2014
Web Log - February, 2014
Web Log - January, 2014
Web Log - December, 2013
Web Log - November, 2013
Web Log - October, 2013
Web Log - September, 2013
Web Log - August, 2013
Web Log - July, 2013
Web Log - June, 2013
Web Log - May, 2013
Web Log - April, 2013
Web Log - March, 2013
Web Log - February, 2013
Web Log - January, 2013
Web Log - December, 2012
Web Log - November, 2012
Web Log - October, 2012
Web Log - September, 2012
Web Log - August, 2012
Web Log - July, 2012
Web Log - June, 2012
Web Log - May, 2012
Web Log - April, 2012
Web Log - March, 2012
Web Log - February, 2012
Web Log - January, 2012
Web Log - December, 2011
Web Log - November, 2011
Web Log - October, 2011
Web Log - September, 2011
Web Log - August, 2011
Web Log - July, 2011
Web Log - June, 2011
Web Log - May, 2011
Web Log - April, 2011
Web Log - March, 2011
Web Log - February, 2011
Web Log - January, 2011
Web Log - December, 2010
Web Log - November, 2010
Web Log - October, 2010
Web Log - September, 2010
Web Log - August, 2010
Web Log - July, 2010
Web Log - June, 2010
Web Log - May, 2010
Web Log - April, 2010
Web Log - March, 2010
Web Log - February, 2010
Web Log - January, 2010
Web Log - December, 2009
Web Log - November, 2009
Web Log - October, 2009
Web Log - September, 2009
Web Log - August, 2009
Web Log - July, 2009
Web Log - June, 2009
Web Log - May, 2009
Web Log - April, 2009
Web Log - March, 2009
Web Log - February, 2009
Web Log - January, 2009
Web Log - December, 2008
Web Log - November, 2008
Web Log - October, 2008
Web Log - September, 2008
Web Log - August, 2008
Web Log - July, 2008
Web Log - June, 2008
Web Log - May, 2008
Web Log - April, 2008
Web Log - March, 2008
Web Log - February, 2008
Web Log - January, 2008
Web Log - December, 2007
Web Log - November, 2007
Web Log - October, 2007
Web Log - September, 2007
Web Log - August, 2007
Web Log - July, 2007
Web Log - June, 2007
Web Log - May, 2007
Web Log - April, 2007
Web Log - March, 2007
Web Log - February, 2007
Web Log - January, 2007
Web Log - December, 2006
Web Log - November, 2006
Web Log - October, 2006
Web Log - September, 2006
Web Log - August, 2006
Web Log - July, 2006
Web Log - June, 2006
Web Log - May, 2006
Web Log - April, 2006
Web Log - March, 2006
Web Log - February, 2006
Web Log - January, 2006
Web Log - December, 2005
Web Log - November, 2005
Web Log - October, 2005
Web Log - September, 2005
Web Log - August, 2005
Web Log - July, 2005
Web Log - June, 2005
Web Log - May, 2005
Web Log - April, 2005
Web Log - March, 2005
Web Log - February, 2005
Web Log - January, 2005
Web Log - December, 2004
Web Log - November, 2004
Web Log - October, 2004
Web Log - September, 2004
Web Log - August, 2004
Web Log - July, 2004
Web Log - June, 2004

Copyright © 2002-2020 by John J. Xenakis.