It's Not a Quagmire—We're Just In it for the Long Haul


Knight-Ridder reports:

Faced with a stubborn guerrilla war in Iraq; resurgent Taliban, al Qaeda, warlords and drug traffickers in Afghanistan; rising costs in both, and no clear way out of either, the Bush administration has begun soliciting more help from its European allies and the United Nations.

In Berlin this week, more than 50 countries pledged $8.2 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the next three years, far short of the nearly $28 billion that Karzai has said his country needs over the next seven years to recover from more than two decades of war and repression.

The United States pledged $2.2 billion to be spent next year, and aides said Powell had indicated that the United States would remain committed to Afghanistan for the long haul.

[Link via Rational Review]

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  1. From Wednesday’s Washington Post:

    ?Afghan officials estimate that [international] aid would raise the per capita annual income to $500 over the next decade, moving the country from absolute poverty to what they call “dignified poverty.”


    How can anyone think that international aid to defeat the greatest Afghan source of GNP (poppy) is better than building the nation on the shoulders of that very source of GNP? And when did ?dignified poverty? become a national goal? More important, how could it possibly be worth spending $27.5 billion over the next seven years (as the article suggests is being requested) to lift a nation INTO any sort of poverty? This is a pretty stark reminder of the benefits of trade and the utter failure of foreign aid.

  2. How about balancing your snarky Afghanistan remarks with some equally snarky remarks about Bosnia? Better yet, try to grow up.

  3. The UN? Don’t we fund 3/4 of their budget? We’re not turning to them to bail us out financially, we’re just trying to get our original investment allocated to the right destination.

  4. Poppies are pretty. They should grow more of them and market them to florists the world over.

  5. I always wonder why we are putting so much money into the rebuilding in Iraq while such a small amount in comparison goes to Afghanistan which has even less of an infrastructure.

  6. Yaron,

    “The UN? Don’t we fund 3/4 of their budget?”

    No, the U.S. pays ~25% of the U.N.’s budget (2004 Assessment); or that is what it is assessed. How much it pays of that assessment is a different matter. The same is true for the countries below.

    The U.S. is followed by Japan (~19%), Germany (~9%), Britain (~6%), France (~6%), etc.

    In actual US dollars, this breaks down to $363 billion for the U.S., $260 billion for Japan, $124 billion for Germany, $88 billion for Britain, $87 billion for France, etc.

    The U.N.’s total budget for 2004 is $1.483 trillion.

  7. J.B. – I sent you some email regarding the “human agency” concept you referred to on the GM crop thread. Wondered if you got it?

  8. I thihk Jean Bart has been smoking Afghan poppies.
    I think he’s confused ‘M’ with ‘B’, or, he’s just full of **it. We don’t even pay anyway. we’re way behind on the rent (the worst offender by far).

  9. jim – Gotta say, Jean Bart’s figures look more accurate than any you’ve cited so far. How do you come to your conclusion?

    In any case, the dollars are fairly moot. The fact of the matter is that the U.N. has been more effective as a forum for airing international grievances than a venue for doing anything about them.

    I don’t know the mechanism by which foreign aid is handed out, but if it were me doing it, I’d want a detailed budget for what the money would go for, I’d block grant the funds directly to the agencies involved and insist that some of my people were installed in each of those agencies to supervise. Then, I’d use that power to mandate changes in those processes to accomodate my particular point of view, without funding those changes directly.

    Pretty much the way Federal funding goes to the states.

  10. But at least we are bitten daily by those who we feed.

  11. Jean Bart,

    I think you wrote billion (10^9) when you meant millions(10^6) and trillions(10^12) when you meant billions.

    (I realize that billion usually means (10^12) outside the anglo-sphere.)

  12. Jeff Clothier,

    I shall endeavour to reply soon. 🙂

  13. jim,

    Well, that’s why I wrote:

    “…or that is what it is assessed. How much it pays of that assessment is a different matter. The same is true for the countries below.”

  14. Shannon Love,

    Yes, I made the fatal assumption that the figures are in billions; but they are indeed in the millions. What a paltry figure – $1.483 billion for a total assessment. I try to Anglicize every mathematical figure that I state here.

  15. Afghanistan is worth it. The UN is not.

  16. Well, I am told there are about 100,000 US servicemen stationed in Europe who need to leave for all kinds of reasons. I don’t know what the configuration is– I doubt they are the kind of heavy infantry/armor division I served in– but still, for many, a tour through Iraq/Afghan would be a fitting way to rotate out.

  17. Brian Doherty,

    Did you think it WAS a quagmire before you read this article?

  18. How come “quagmire” hasn’t been replaced by “rain forest” or something?

  19. LONDON, April 2 (AFP) – Iraq is liable to become a “land of jihad”, or holy war, if peace and stability cannot be restored, France’s powerful anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere said Friday.

    Speaking on BBC radio, Bruguiere reiterated the concern, which he expressed a year ago, that the US and British invasion of Iraq would fan the flames of global terrorism in the name of Islam.

    “My concern right now is that this country (Iraq) could become, in the future, a new land of jihad, like Afghanistan was in the past,” the veteran investigating judge said.

    “It is very important to focus our attention and to restore peace in that region,” he said. “If the situation becomes more and more restless, I fear that it will be a new focus of terror and a new ground for jihad.”

    If that were to happen, Iraq would become “attractive soil” for global terrorists looking for a place to make preparations, said Bruguiere, who spoke to the BBC three weeks after the March 11 train bombings in Madrid.

    He also warned of an “operational connection between the situation in Iraq… and the level of threat in Europe”.

    “This is an attractive situation for all the elements sharing the strategy of Al-Qaeda,” he said. “This could … continue to have an impact on the level of threat.”

  20. M. Simon, multiply what happened in Fallujah by 2000 or 3000x, and that is the horror the US military visited on Iraq last March and April. Dead burned bodies in the street, all of it.

    Did you see any footage on TV of the riot/lynchings? Did it have an effect on you? I’ll tell you, it made some pretty ugly feelings well up in my liberal, Democratic heart about “those people,” and the the need to unleash some whup ass on them. You don’t suppose anything similar has happend within the hearts of Iraqis towards Americans, do you?

    Clearly, what we need is to kill a bunch more Iraqis. That seems to really bring out their appreciation for our society and well being.

  21. If you have been checking the NASDAQ the word “quagmire” has just gained some points to rise to a five dollar word. Here is the listing:

    QGMR = 5.00 +4.31

    CONGRATS TO ALL, I smell a split pretty soon!!!

  22. All is lost.

    There is no use even trying.

    You can’t civilize the Middle East.

    It is time to give Iraq back to Saddam and let him settle scores with those who supported the Americans.

    If Saddam needs any advice on this topic he can consult with the Vietnamese and Cambodians.

    Leaving Iraq will provide a truly fitting end to American intervention.

    Unlike Vietnam America will not be following the French in leaving a mess the French made. What about French support for Saddam you say? Ah, well, never mind then.

  23. > Germany and Japan are the real quagmires.

  24. What Fallujah showed us is the depth of anti-American feeling in parts of the Sunni Arab portion of Iraq. Whether our occupation eventually proves to resemble Israel’s occupation of Palestine and our failed attempt to democratize Viet Nam or rather more like our successes in Japan and Germany, only time will tell, and my crystal ball don’t work better than anyone else’s. What I wonder about most now is whether the intense anti-Americanism we saw at work will translate to anti-Shiitism or anti whatever government we’ve left in place once we’re gone. If yes, I can’t see how civil war there can be avoided. If not, maybe there’s hope.

  25. joe,

    “multiply what happened in Fallujah by 2000 or 3000x, and that is the horror the US military visited on Iraq last March and April.”

    where did you get your Iraqi civilian death numbers from? do you not see any difference between killing the people trying to feed you (and the all the celebrations afterwards) versus accidental collateral deaths in a war?

    Based on historical facts of how many Iraqis were killed by Saddam’s regime, the last year has been a huge NET GAIN for Iraqis (including those killed by the evil Americans in the war) w.r.t. number of deaths. Do you have anything to say about the lives saved because Saddam is no longer in power? evidently not!

  26. I have a “base” in Hit & Run.
    Who should I reach out and touch/kill next?

    When will our trusted Government invite both sides of warring parties to hie they asses here to sort it out?

    There is no other way. They must be here to appreciate how assorted fruit/nut-cases can live, more or less, side by side.

    Our trusted Government don’t really want no sortin’ out.

    Once again I must point out that the US gummint is more afraid of foreigners than a whole passel nukear wippins.

  27. Andrew,

    Most of them are support personnel; they support the sorts of functions that go with maintaining and manning military airports, hospitals, etc. Indeed, the Rumsfeld rotation is less of a rotation to “foward bases” as it is a rotation back to the U.S.

  28. “Faced with a stubborn guerrilla war in Iraq” – Drew Brown

    Can’t see what is happening in Iraq as a guerrilla war.
    An insurgency for sure, or even terrorist insurgency
    would be more descriptive in light of some of the targets.

    As far as Afghanistan, or even Iraq goes, if & when the time comes
    that either or both are of no use or of lost cause,
    the US could just declare victory and pull out, a la Gore Vidal.

  29. “do you not see any difference between killing the people trying to feed you (and the all the celebrations afterwards) versus accidental collateral deaths in a war?”

    From the point of view of condemning the killers, yes – a pilot who carries out a mission to drop a bomb on a set of coordinates has much, much less blame for the deaths that occur than a gang that sets out to kill civilians.

    But from the pov of the dead innocents’ families, I don’t think is much of a difference. Imagine your house is levelled and your daughter cut in half before your eyes by an airstrike. Do you think you’d give a shit about explanations, or do you think you’d want to kill the bastards that ordered and carried out the deed?

  30. joe

    Maybe I am a little weird…am I the only one who wasn’t THAT upset about it? Concerned yes– but I don’t particularly feel like carpet-bombing Fallujah yet.

  31. joe

    I am no expert. but my understanding is that the Sunni Triangle as a whole, and Fallujah in particular (not being in the line af advance) was spared intense bombing during the war, and has LESS casualties due to collateral damage than other parts of Iraq.

    Civilian casualties have been fairly inconsiderable by any reasonable standard, and I have yet to see a single publicised record of an insurgent even claiming to be acting out of family revenge.

    Most doves nowadays supported action in Afghanistan. Apart from the pretext for the war– irrelevant, I assume, to the motives of a man who lost his family– how could the dynamic be any different?

  32. Andrew,

    “I am no expert. but my understanding is that the Sunni Triangle as a whole, and Fallujah in particular (not being in the line af advance) was spared intense bombing during the war, and has LESS casualties due to collateral damage than other parts of Iraq.” I’d be plenty pissed if some other country’s army killed innocent Americans in Arizona, and I’ve never been there. And hearing about how many more American military were killed than American civilians wouldn’t make it all better, in my mind. Remember, given the apocalypse our military unleased on the poorly led, overmatched Iraqi military, the military/civilian casualty ratio is more a testament to how many soldiers were killed than how few civilians.

    The dynamic is no different in Afghanistan. But in that case, we had no choice.

  33. Joe,

    Hmmm. Y’know, I was just about to write that one’s understanding of the situation likely does affect one’s perspective of the situation, especially the less personal it is, and I was going to cite the hawks’ favorite examples of Germany and Japan, and how folks there likely understood, at least to some degree, that their own governments brought on the destruction and killing around them which likely tempered the kind of reactions your example would predict.

    But then I remembered a moment during my visit to an American in Germany. When some grumpy old folks with cross looks passed us in his apartment building, he said of them something like, “They don’t like me. Nor you. They lived through WWWII and they don’t like Americans.” Of course there was no fear they’d KILL us, either! So I’m not sure what to think now exactly, but my best guess is that there’s shades of gray across a spectrum. I imagine many Iraqis understand there was a reason for the war and allow that and their relief at Saddam’s departure to temper their view of what happened. OTOH, the damage that can be done by those who don’t see things so reasonably (from our perspective) is clearly significant, as even more recent events than Fallujah are continuing to show….

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