Monday, January 26, 2009

Judging from a New York Times report on the latest in a long list of criminally irresponsible U.S. military attacks on Afghans whose identity was unknown, the list of innocents slaughtered by U.S. forces has just grown.

Debate among people who try to sound sincere and puzzled about the difficulty of resolving the Afghan crisis is rising rapidly in the U.S. as Obama settles in. Obama would do well to focus on Paragraph 1, above. For those officials still infected with Bush-Cheney hubris, the issue in Afghanistan may still be how to compel obedience. But the question Washington should actually be asking itself is, "How can the suffering of Afghanis be minimized?"

As long as Washington seeks victory in Afghanistan (defining victory as Afghan submission to Washington's will), the suffering, chaos, and blowback will continue. The haunting image in the recesses of fevered neo-con brains of America as the new Roman Empire is fallacious. America may well be Rome in the sense of having an eternally submissive population that meekly follows the lead of aggressive politicians. But the world has changed. Goths and Carthagians did not have the Internet; it was hard to see the similarity of their respective positions. Technology also did not facilitate individual efforts to strike back against a distant empire. Today, ruthless suppression is much more likely to breed a type of decentralized, self-organizing resistance whose growth is provoked by the very attack designed to suppress it.

Rather than concentrating on more of the same tactics that have failed for years, Obama should start by concentrating on preventing the type of incident referred to in the first paragraph.

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