Afghanistan & the Eliot Spitzer Law of Love


by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

At some point during the American Revolution, a frustrated British general, deep into his evening port, must have asked, “Can’t these primitives understand the advantages we offer them?”

In Afghanistan today, exasperated American generals ask, “Can’t these Afghans understand the advantages we offer them?”

The more things change . . .

A superb piece of reporting in Friday’s Washington Post captured our self-delusion. Bewildered by the lack of local support for our efforts to “help,” Gen. Stan McChrystal and his staff decided that our problems in the Taliban stronghold, Kandahar, are all about electricity shortages.

So, with the fate of our ballyhooed Kandahar offensive in doubt before it starts, the general wants to spend $200 million on generators and diesel fuel to improve the power supply.

It’s a desperate ploy to make our politically correct counterinsurgency doctrine succeed: If we do nice things, the locals are supposed to rally to us and solve our problems with a minimum of violence. The only problem is that it doesn’t work.

Would Kandaharis like to have more juice in their shambolic power grid? You bet. But the Eliot Spitzer Law of Foreign Affairs applies: You can’t buy enduring love, just quick sex. And in Afghanistan, quick sex can get ugly.

Fiercely traditional Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban. Membership is a family affair. And Afghans don’t turn against their own kind just because the lights stay on longer. We’ve gone from fighting the Taliban to fighting human nature.

If McChrystal — a great soldier, but no strategist — doesn’t get it, our Kabul ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, does. He’s a former general with service in Afghanistan — and the man who warned long before others that President Hamid Karzai’s corruption and incompetence meant we were headed for trouble.

According to Washington Post journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Eikenberry’s not against developing a better power supply — but he’s not in favor of turning quick tricks for instant gratification. He believes that any development has to be sustainable by Afghans over the long term — and Kabul can’t even provide diesel for the generators already in Kandahar.

We do it all, while insisting that our efforts will convince local Afghans that a government they despise is taking care of them. That assumes, first, that Afghans are incredibly stupid, and, second, that the backlash when Kabul fails to fuel and maintain the generators we’ll purchase at outrageous prices — or just sells them off to cronies — won’t be even worse than today’s intransigence.

Eikenberry understands Afghanistan at a visceral level others just don’t get. Bull-headed generals obsess about the immediate mission, but Eikenberry is willing to question the mission and the strategy behind it. That kind of intellectual integrity is exactly what we need right now — when political correctness is killing those in uniform.

Two years ago, during an informal conversation in Eikenberry’s office at NATO headquarters (he was still in uniform), he impressed me with a grasp of Afghanistan I hadn’t encountered in any other senior officer. He wasn’t a party-line guy, to say the least.

It would be great to see unity of command in Afghanistan, with Eikenberry in charge of both diplomacy and military operations. We’ve got to break the hold of those generals who can’t see beyond the next helicopter ride. Fresh thinking would do more for us than fresh bribes (which is really what we’re talking about in Kandahar).

As the spring fighting season develops, we’ll see how robust the Taliban are this year. Meanwhile, we need to stop rationalizing away our problems and come to grips with reality. That means accepting that the Taliban have genuine and deep support among Afghanistan’s largest single ethnic group, the Pashtuns.

How can we be so dismissive of an enemy who’s made one of the most startling comebacks on record? Eight years ago, most Afghans thought the Taliban were finished. Now they wonder how long the Americans will last.

Power outages in Kandahar are the least of our problems. ExileStreet

NY Post / copyright 2010 NY Post

Ralph Peters’ latest book is “Endless War: Middle Eastern Islam vs. Western CivilizationHis most recent novel is “The War After Armageddon,” is on the street. His most most recent non-fiction book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.” He is Fox News’ strategic analyst.

Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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