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  • Obama's Vietnam-lite

    Pepe Escobar: It's not Vietnam, said Obama, but neither it is what he said it is -   December 2, 2009
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    Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.


    President Obama's widely expected surge in Afghanistan is the "gift" US taxpayers received right in the middle of the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. The Pentagon for its part got (more or less) what it wanted - for now. As much as Obama stretched himself to stress this was not a new Vietnam, he trapped himself by conflating al-Qaeda with the Taliban and rehashing the same "war on terror" rationale - all clad in the glorious robes of a "noble struggle for freedom". Pepe Escobar argues the most significant point about Obama's West Point address is what he omitted. He simply ignored the current, high-stakes New Great Game in Eurasia, on which the Pentagon is focused like a laser, and of which Afghanistan is just a peon.


    Obama's Vietnam-litePresident Obama: “…having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home”

     Pepe Escobar: Cut. Rewind. Rephrase. And it goes something like this.

      After Barack Obama followed George W. Bush in lavishing trillions of dollars on a few big banks while American taxpayers got nothing, now they get…a Vietnam-lite surge.  

      Each of the 30,000 soldiers of Obama’s surge will cost 1 million dollars, although the Pentagon insists it’s ONLY half a million. Who will be paying for this? China’s purchase of US Treasuries.

      History now does repeat itself as farce. With Obama’s surge-lite, US plus NATO occupation troops in Afghanistan will reach in the first half of 2010 the level of the Soviet occupation at its peak in the first half of the 1980s. And all this formidable firepower to fight no more than 25,000 Afghan Taliban - with only 3,000 fully weaponized.

    Obama insists AfPak is a, I quote, “war of necessity” – because of 9/11. Wrong. The Bush administration had planned to attack Afghanistan even BEFORE 9/11. See it here


     and here

      Even if not totally convinced himself, Obama is still pulling a Bush, not making any distinction between al-Qaeda – an Arab jihadi outfit whose objective is a global Caliphate – and the Taliban – indigenous Afghans who want an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan but would have no qualms in doing business with the US, as they did during the Bill Clinton years when the US badly wanted to build a Trans-Afghan gas pipeline. On top of it, Obama cannot admit that the “Pak” neo-Taliban now exist because of the US occupation of “Af”.

    And even while he still emphasizes the drive to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat” al-Qaeda and deny it a “safe haven”, Obama is fully contradicting his own national security advisor, Gen. James Jones, who has admitted that there are less than 100 al-Qaeda jihadis in Afghanistan.

     Obama bought into the Pentagon premise that America can re-colonize Afghanistan with counter-insurgency.

    In General Petraeus’s own counterinsurgency doctrine, which also involves a heavy rain of US dollars, the proportion of soldiers to natives must be 20 to 25 per 1000 Afghans. Petraeus and McChrystal got 30,000. Let’s bet this made in China iPhone that the generals – just like in Vietnam – will ask for a lot more till they get what they want – at least 660,000 soldiers, plus all the extras. That’s trillions of dollars more the US does not have and will have to borrow… from China.

     And what will that buy in the end? The Soviet Red Army used every single counterinsurgency trick in the book. They killed a million Afghans. They turned 5 million into refugees. They lost 15,000 soldiers. They virtually bankrupted the Soviet Union. They gave up. And they left.

     Obama: “We have no interest in occupying your country”

    Escobar: So why is the US occupying the fifth poorest country in the world, totally tribal and definitely not a consumer society?

    For Big Oil the Holy Grail is access to Turkmenistan natural gas from the Caspian Sea - Pipelineistan at the heart of the New Great Game in Eurasia, avoiding both Russia and Iran. But there’s no way to build the hugely strategic TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline – crossing Helmand province, and then Pakistan’s Balochistan - with Afghanistan mired in chaos, despite, or because, the US/NATO occupation.

    There’s a hand in surveying/controlling the $4 billion-a-year drug trade, directly and indirectly.

    Since the beginning of the US/NATO occupation Afghanistan became a de facto narco-state, producing 92% of the world’s heroin under a bunch of transnational narco-terrorist cartels.

     And there’s the Full Spectrum Dominance Pentagon agenda – Afghanistan as part of the worldwide US Empire of Bases, monitoring strategic competitors China and Russia at their doorstep.  

     Obama simply ignored there’s an ultra high-stakes New Great Game in Eurasia going on. So because of all that Obama did NOT say at West Point Americans are being sold a “war of necessity” draining a trillion dollars that could be used to reduce unemployment and really help the US economy.

     What about the Taliban? Well, they WILL inevitably come up with their own, finally tuned, counter-"surge".  Even surge-less, and up against loads of Petraeus’s counterinsurgency, they recently captured Nuristan province.

     And remember Obama’s SUMMER surge in Helmand province? Well, Helmand is STILL the opium capital of the world. 

     Obama is trying to convey the impression that the Afghan war can be controlled from Washington. It can’t. And Afghans know it.

     Referring to his new troops, Obama said: “…they will help create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans”

    Now check this example of Afghan “responsibility”

     Or this one

     For all his pledges of “partnership with Pakistan” (mentioned 21 times in the speech) Obama could not possibly admit his surge-lite will destabilize Pakistan even more.  Unlike the Obama-approved July 2011 date for the (possible) beginning of a withdrawal, subject to “conditions on the ground”, he could turn over the war to Pakistan, with a REAL exit strategy with a FIXED timetable for a COMPLETE withdrawal attached. That would be the go-ahead for Islamabad to do what neither the Soviets nor the Americans can do – sit down with all the relevant tribal locals , and negotiate through a series of jirgas (tribal councils), and not expect anything from the supremely tainted Hamid Karzai. 

    Obama:“…We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government. And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future."

     Escobar: And all this by July 2011? Forget it. I can see for miles groups of Taliban gathering around campfires in Kandahar or Helmand and muttering in Pashto – “the Yanks are coming…and in one year they’re leaving!”

    Obama and his advisers also seem to have ignored a message on the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice in late November by the leader of the historic Taliban, Mullah Omar. Even before Obama’s speech he said, and I quote, “It is because of your sacrifices and the grace of Allah that the arrogant enemy is facing a major embarrassment and defeat and is panicking…” And there’s more: “Cut all your ties with the mercenary administration in Kabul.” 

    The likely endgame for Afghanistan will be a coalition – with the Taliban as the strongest party. Why? We just have to examine the history of guerrilla warfare since the 19th century – or take a look back at Vietnam. The guerrillas who are the fiercest fighters against foreigners always prevail. And even with the Taliban sharing power in Kabul Afghanistan’s powerful neighbors - Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, India - will make sure there won’t be chaos spilling over across their borders. This is an Asian issue that has to be solved by Asians; that’s the rationale for a solution to be developed inside the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), not the US or NATO. 
Obama: “For what's at stake is not simply a test of NATO's credibility - what's at stake is the security of our Allies, and the common security of the world.”

    Escobar: No, what’s at stake is the Pentagon’s Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine. The Pentagon gets more or less what it wanted – for now.  Call it the Revenge of the Generals. 

    Who wins, apart from them?  Australian armchair warrior David Kilcullen, adviser and ghost writer for Petraeus and McChrystal who passes for a demigod in Washington. Some light neo-cons – certainly not THIS one…

     And overall, everyone subscribing to the Pentagon concept of the “Long War.”

    Two weeks before going to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama sells his Vietnam-lite surge to the world out of a US military academy. George Orwell, we salute you. War IS indeed peace.


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