Afghanistan in 3-D

by PETER HARLEY

The Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mr. Sproule, has identified three Ds which underpin our policy: defense, development and diplomacy.

However much defense may be necessary for the other two Ds, it creates problems by killing local people. We may like to think of ourselves as noble warriors protecting the weak, but as soon as we set ourselves the task of killing undesirables we can be certain that Afghanis will fail to see us in such a positive light.

The United States and other major powers have proved repeatedly in recent decades that the good which can be done by the prolonged presence of foreign armies in a country is zero or less. Nobody can make a place better by going there to kill bad guys. The outsiders don’t know who’s who; the foreign army become identified as an occupying army; the so-called bad guys’ friends and relatives are recruited to their cause by their deaths; more good people than bad are killed; property is damaged and the entire atmosphere fouled by the condition of open violent conflict. Inevitably the foreign armies have to go home.

In Afghanistan, there may have been a need, originally, for aggressive military action, but the major part of the work was, and still is, peaceful. We have to recognize that no enduring good can be established at gunpoint.

Let us concede that defense is necessary for the safety of people performing the two peaceful Ds, development and diplomacy. But let us also ask whether NATO’s military action is as effective as possible. Canada recently sent tanks to Afghanistan. Development and diplomacy will not take place inside or on top of tanks. A tank is among the ugliest images of foreign presence. If we want to succeed in performing the two peaceful Ds I think we must reduce the offensiveness of the defense.

Military people may be the best qualified to deliver much of our contribution to Afghanistan, but let us ask them to do it either unarmed, or else armed for specific, limited, defensive purposes, such as guarding the builders of roads or schools. It is obvious that if military people are to do demanding constructive work they must lay aside their arms, at least momentarily, to do it. So the fewer the guards, the more good can be done.

Admittedly, there are precise questions to be answered in proposing such a shifted emphasis. Specifically, what would be the rules of engagement? One purely defensive possibility is that measured peripheries, perhaps determined by the range of enemy artillery, be established around the peaceful Ds. Inside these boundaries our military personnel would stand guard and fight off attacks, but be forbidden to pursue attackers beyond these limits.

While such a policy might give vast safe zones to the enemies of reconstruction, it would also give a moral high ground to NATO forces. It would go a long way toward eliminating so-called collateral damage to NATO actions, damage which ultimately spells death to a foreign mission.

Needless to say, a mission so-conceived is dangerous, and nobody should be part of it except volunteers. Moreover, there would still be casualties, but probably fewer than are incurred in efforts to do good through proactive killing.

It should not take long for a population to learn that certain foreigners are in their country exclusively to help. If a uniform marked its wearer as someone present for the sole purpose of nonviolent reconstruction, the local population could become the best possible protection for a person in that uniform. In this connection, if the American and British forces went home and left the job to other NATO troops, the remaining forces would not then be so tainted by association.

The risks to personnel by this proposal might be increased in the short term, but the risk to the entire mission might be reduced.

Peter R. Harley lives in Newfoundland. He can be reached at: pharley@nl.rogers.com





 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by Police
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown
Paul Craig Roberts
Wall Street and the Matrix: Where is Neo When We Need Him?
Kerry Emanuel
The Real Lesson of Katrina: the Worst is Yet to Come
Dave Lindorff
Why Wall Street Reporting is a Joke
Pepe Escobar
Brave (Miserable) New Normal World
Ramzy Baroud
‘Islamic State’ Pretence and the Upcoming Wars in Libya