Wars: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan

Afghan-wheat.jpgAfghanistan

  About 80% of Afghanistan's 30-million population live on about $1/day. Their total annual income is only $8.8 billion. So if we took just 8% of the $115 billion we're spending there and spent it on Afghanistan's subsistence farmers, we would double their incomes.

Instead we spend less than 1%, and that goes mainly goes to Western advisers and middlemen. We invent complex programs to teach them better agricultural techniques and plant pomegranate trees, which take many years to bear fruit. These programs are designed by "development" specialists who do not seem to think about what it takes to win a war.

So our allies are not the farmers, but the warlords who make far more off opium than does the Taliban. The farmers hate growing opium and hate borrowing to grow it. And often they end up so deep in debt that they send their sons to fight with the Taliban, and not because they like the Taliban. It's just economics.

It's surely too late now, but here's the sort of thing we should being doing to defeat terrorism.  more >>


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Predator Firing Missile

Pakistan

If you think drones are bad, read about Vietnam below. B52's were easily 100 times worse in terms of killing civilians. And although drones are piloted from half way around the world, their destruction is far more visible to their pilots. This is better, not worse. It makes war less anonymous. Read on an you will see that drones may well be more popular with the locals in the targeted areas than you would ever imagine.

I'm not saying drones are the right policy. The downside in terms of Pakistani politics is enormous. But those who see them as a horrible new development never seem to look at what came before. My own preference is for shifting toward smart economic policies, as I describe for Afghanistan.
 


Baghdad_Iraq.gifIraq War

The Iraq war was not Bush's war. It was Cheney's war and it was the neoconservative's war. They organized PNAC, a neocon think tank, in 1997, mainly to overthrow Saddam (who surely deserved it). They got lucky with 9/11 and were well prepared, having already made plans for the invasion, even going so far as to estimate troop levels.

They hoped the road to Iran would lead through Bhagdad, but instead, they ended up installing a Shiite government and vastly increasing the strength of Al Qaeda in Iraq (under Saddam it was essentially non-existent).  Amazingly, nine guys with overlapping roles in three "think tanks" were responsible for the entire disaster.


Bush+Nguyen+Ho-Chi+Laura_0.jpgVietnam

 The US Defense Department sacrificed over 50,000 brave American servicemen, killed 2,000,000 Vietnamese and dropped more tonnage of bombs on Cambodia (see map) than the Allies dropped on Europe in WWII. And we bombed Laos back to the stone age. All this so that Vietnam would not be taken over by Nguyen and his wife standing below a bust of Ho Chi Minh, and George Bush would not have to shake Nguyen's hand, and Vietnam would not become a tourist destination and business partner for Americans. But this massive Pentagon project failed. Completely.

Some say we could have prevented this dreadful outcome, if only the military had not been constrained, and could have killed more, lost more men and bombed more. Or we could have just used our nukes. Surely they are right. We could have won.

Programs like health care and social security spend money helping Americans, and yes, some of the money is wasted. But that waste cannot hold a candle to the Vietnam-Cambodia war. Yet the Party that says it is most concerned with big government and waste has never noticed. They just smile and ask for more hundreds of billions.