Afganistan: Their’s not to reason why

Guest postlet by Troppodillian Paul Hobson.

This week news of the death of an Australian serving with the British forces in Afghanistan came as Kevin Rudd visited Australian troops.

As Britain prepares to withdraw its troops from Iraq, Simon Jenkins asked in the Guardian why any more British soldiers should die in Afghanistan.

British diplomats and military experts returning from Kabul have three performance modes. In public they declare Afghanistan to be tough but winnable. In private they admit it is getting worse not better, but might turn round in a decade if only the Afghans were less corrupt. In totally secret mode, their eyes turn to the sky and they declare the whole business a “total effing disaster.

..Afghanistan is proving a classic of sunk cost fallacy, with commanders unwilling to change policy for fear of admitting that the existing one has been a colossal failure.

Since 2001 8 Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan and more than 50 have been wounded. Perhaps Australians should also be asking our politicians why we should throw good troops after dead ones.

This entry was posted in Uncategorised. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Afganistan: Their’s not to reason why

  1. conrad says:

    I think the answer is so we can learn the hard way, like the Russians did too.

  2. Rafe Champion says:

    It is strange to see how much has been invested in regime change/maintenance in Iraq and Afghanistan and how little in Zimbabwe where it would seem that a relatively modest and low tech investment would yield very large returns.

  3. I don’t know about the assertion in the second half of your comment Rafe – but the contrast is indeed striking.

  4. Rafe Champion says:

    I am not sure what I meant when I wrote it, but I think it means that the armed forces of the regime have no armour or artillery to speak of, their recent track record is limited to terrorising unarmed civilians, there are no mountains or jungles for hiding, the local populace would give them up the moment it is safe to do so, they are not fighting a holy war and so they would either run away if the going gets tough or change sides with the offer of amnesty and ongoing employment. In other words, the factors that caused problems in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are not there, it is more like the recapture of Kuwait, but with much less opposition on the ground.

  5. derrida derider says:

    It’s really strange – one of the first dictums aspiring military strategists learn is “never reinforce failure”. Yet it is the least observed dictum in the military canon. I currently see the same mind set operating that I saw operating in my youth with Vietnam, though fortunately on a smaller scale.

    The older I get the more I think the Western foreign policy establishment is an evil thing. Everywhere, they seem totally incapable of questioning their own conventional wisdom.

    What, for example, would be wrong with Australia pursuing the New Zealand approach? We are, after all, geographically almost as safe as New Zealand and we’ll never have any more capacity than NZ to militarily protect our interests outside our immediate region. And getting involved in big-power plays on the other side of the world has always brought us nothing but grief, especially as big powers are chronically prone to overplay their hand.

    Instead, the foreign policy establishment – “great and powerful friends”, liberal interventionist, realist and neo-con factions alike – always want to err on the side of giving war a chance. Something I can understand in military men, but diplomats ought to know better.

  6. Chris Lloyd says:

    Pertinent observations Rafe, but the problem is the spectacle of white soldiers imposing their will on an African leader who has presented himself as a black liberator. But perhaps a half Kenyan US president could get away with it.not that this is likely to be even within the American consideration set. They have much more pressing problems.

    In principle, it is unethical to walk away from a country after you invade it. But in the case of Afghanistan (unlike Iraq) the place was such a nightmare before the west went in, we can at least say that we did them no harm.

  7. Rafe Champion says:

    Point taken Chris, what if the job was done by black South Africans!

  8. DD,

    Couldn’t agree more.

  9. Rafe Champion says:

    The Open Society chapter 19 suggests some guidelines on the use of force by people of good will, set in the context of the ambiguous attitude towards violence and revolution perpetrated by Marxism.

    http://www.the-rathouse.com/OpenSocietyOnLIne/Chapter-19-1-TheSocialRevolution.html

    The sympathetic critique of Marxism in OSE is important because no movement in recent times has recruited so many people of good will to support disastrous reforms and regimes.

  10. AdrienSword says:

    It is strange to see how much has been invested in regime change/maintenance in Iraq and Afghanistan and how little in Zimbabwe where it would seem that a relatively modest and low tech investment would yield very large returns.

    There’s the lack of interests in realpolitik terms. Iraq and Afghanistan both threaten resource supplies from the Mid East and Central Asia. Zimbabwe doesn’t matter so much.

    But in the case of Afghanistan (unlike Iraq) the place was such a nightmare before the west went in, we can at least say that we did them no harm.

    Is it true that just because Iraq was well-ordered that it wasn’t a nightmare? The Iraq war hasn’t been a total failure. Saddam is dead and the Kurds at least have a shot at establishing a sane country. I don’t think we should forget that.

  11. Tel_ says:

    Perhaps Australians should also be asking our politicians why we should throw good troops after dead ones.

    They died that Europe may have opium. Australia gets the not inconsiderable political leverage of being part of that deal.

    It is strange to see how much has been invested in regime change/maintenance in Iraq and Afghanistan and how little in Zimbabwe where it would seem that a relatively modest and low tech investment would yield very large returns.

    Zimbabwe was determined to go it alone, everything would be great, if only they got rid of all those nasty colonialists. No one in the Western world wants to take the African people’s education away from them (I’m sure there are vested interests wanting to make the lesson as clear and memorable as possible).

    Is it true that just because Iraq was well-ordered that it wasnt a nightmare? The Iraq war hasnt been a total failure. Saddam is dead and the Kurds at least have a shot at establishing a sane country. I dont think we should forget that.

    The blessing of the Kurds was they saw their opportunity early and got their act together, plus not too many US troops were “guarding” them so not too much chaos ensued. I believe it was mostly South Korean troops in Kurdistan who were more disciplined than the US troops, refrained from random rape and murder, and who built hospitals for the locals rather than building an Abu Ghraib.

    The next big step for the Kurds is what happens when someone asks them to give their autonomy back.

  12. Tel_ says:

    Nothing to do with Afghanistan, but there’s a story comparing Zimbabwe to Cuba (and written from an internal perspective).

    http://allafrica.com/stories/200901020127.html

    Some of the comparison makes sense (from a high level viewpoint). They both had a Socialist revolution and forced land reform onto the agricultural sector. They both were hit by sanctions from Capitalist economies who don’t want to allow an example of a successful Socialist nation.

    The difference is significant: Cuba has become moderately successful (and probably through greater hardship) while Zimbabwe is clearly a complete mess.

    Just goes to show that the outcome of a Central Planned economy depends very much on who the central planner turns out to be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.