Thursday, December 11, 2014

"Worse than a Defeat": James Meek Reviews Four Books About Britain’s Afghan War In London Review Of Books

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were utterly pointless atrocities. Really, war crimes by the neocons in command of the NATO countries. It's important to understand some of the details for investing purposes because, unfortunately, we live in borderline command economies still run by those same neocons. The review by James Meek in London Review of Books has the astonishingly awful details.

In 2012, when Frank Ledwidge was researching his book, which tallies the personal and financial cost of Britain’s Helmand campaign, he approached all six ministers who had held the defence portfolio since the start of the operation to ask what they thought its legacy would be. Not one – not Labour’s John Reid, now Baron Reid of Cardowan, or Des Browne, now Baron Browne of Ladyton, or John Hutton, now Baron Hutton of Furness, or Bob Ainsworth, or the Conservatives’ Philip Hammond or Liam Fox – was prepared to answer. For those not directly affected, the acceptable form of exculpation and remembrance involves obliterating any consideration of dead Afghans and folding the British war dead into a single mass of noble hero-martyrs stretching from 1914 to now. That, and more, bigger, shinier poppies.

The consequences of the Afghan war will linger. Neither the British in particular nor Nato in general kept count, but Ledwidge estimates British troops alone were responsible for the deaths of at least five hundred Afghan civilians and the injury of thousands more. Tens of thousands fled their homes. ‘Of all the thousands of civilians and combatants,’ Ledwidge writes, ‘not a single al-Qaida operative or “international terrorist’” who could conceivably have threatened the United Kingdom is recorded as having been killed by Nato forces in Helmand.’[...]

Because the British were ignorant of what was really going on – due, in large part, to their short six-month tours of duty and lack of linguists – they were manipulated into becoming pawns in long-running conflicts over land, water, drugs and power between local leaders.
A Credit Bubble Stocks correspondent writes,
"Some of that Kill My Neighbor’s Cow stuff happened in Vietnam where locals would tell the US military that the Viet Cong were holed up in some village, but it was sometimes more that the people telling the military to napalm the village had an ancient clan feud against the people they were denouncing."
Awful. Another key quote from the Meek review:
"[N]ext time we think about military intervention in a foreign country that hasn’t attacked us, it might be worth running a thought experiment to work out at exactly which moment, in the many internecine conflicts that have afflicted the British Isles, our forebears would have most benefited from the arrival of 3500 troops and eight helicopters, and for which 'side' those troops would have fought."
Our same correspondent writes,
"That's kind of the plot of Thomas Flanagan's (Caitlin Flanagan's dad) old bestseller 'The Year of the French.' In 1798, a small French army landed in Ireland to encourage an uprising. I've read the book twice, but stopped each time with 20 pages to go because it's so sad."
Afghanistan is the only topic I've ever seen Tom Friedman write something intelligent about:
"America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan."
More than four years ago, I posted a video called "Inside Afghanistan - Fighting Alongside Stoned Afghan Soldiers", which was about British soldiers. Looks like the youtube video was taken down but has been reposted here.

The pointless imperial atrocities are directly related to the essay by Ugo Bardi that James linked to earlier about the fall of the Roman Empire:
"I think we could pause for a moment and remember these men, Germans and Romans, who fought so hard and died. We have seen so many similarity between our world and the Roman one that we may feel something that these men felt as well. Why did they fight, why did they die? I think that many of them fought because they were paid to fight. Others because their commander or their chieftain told them so. But, I am sure, a good number of them had some idea that they were fighting for (or against) the abstract concept that was the Roman Empire. Some of them must have felt that they stood for defending civilization against barbarians, others for defending their land against evil invaders.

Two millennia after the battle of Teutoburg, we can see how useless it was that confrontation in the woods soaked with rain. A few years later, the Roman general Germanicus, nephew of Emperor Tiberius, went back to Teutoburg with no less than eight legions. He defeated the Germans, recovered the standards of the defeated legions, and buried the bodies of the Roman dead. Arminius, the German leader who had defeated Varus, suffered a great loss of prestige and, eventually, he was killed by his own people. But all that changed nothing. The Roman Empire had exhausted its resources and couldn't expand any more. Germanicus couldn't conquer Germany any more than Varus could bring back his legions from the realm of the dead.

Civilizations and empires, in the end, are just ripples in the ocean of time. They come and go, leaving little except carved stones proclaiming their eternal greatness. But, from the human viewpoint, Empires are vast and long standing and, for some of us, worth fighting for or against. But those who fought in Teutoburg couldn't change the course of history, nor can we. All that we can say - today as at the time of the battle of Teutoburg - is that we are going towards a future world that we can only dimly perceive."
Be sure to read Bardi's explanation why no one could have convinced Romans (elites as a whole, or specifically emperors) to do anything different. The same is true here. Read Father Joseph Fessio's essay "The Family: Monastery of the New Dark Ages".
"If we look briefly at the 5th century, we will find that the situation is instructive. Rome was an old empire. The leaders were often morally despicable, but were popular because they fed the people (welfare), and entertained them with violence in the Colosseum. Everyone thought that life was going to go on and on in this one great superpower. I remind you I'm describing the 5th century."
Of course, it's possible that I'm wrong to be worried, and that 2009 was the beginning of another 70 year bull market. But to look at these ten charts of stock market index dislocation from economic indicators is to wonder how that is possible.


whydibuy said...

This is more about the brevity of human life in respect of civilizations and environment. To someone in the roman empire, the civilization did go on forever as was his perspective. Its only over long stretches of time that we detect the changing social landscape.

The same thinking could be said about longer stretches of time when micro organisms ruled Earth and then, later, dinosaurs dominated the landscape.
Wars are inherently dumb because, like the author says, the civilization changes to what it wants to regardless of men getting killed over it. Not to mention that govs decide who is friend and who is foe. My departed uncle lost an arm fighting in Iwo Jima only to see the U.S. become buddy buddy with Japan. That always bothered him.

Unknown said...

To someone in the roman empire, the civilization did go on forever as was his perspective.

Someone who lived in 3rd-century Rome would have experienced a noticeable societal collapse over the course of his life.

CP said...

Anonymous said...

I watched a NatGeo doco on Netflix last night, "Restrepo", about an Army outpost in Afghan wilderness. Man, depressing.

It's so odd to me why barging into a country, murdering its inhabitants, stomping over existing power structures without care or concern by low IQ flunkies and "rebuilding the economy" with military Keynesianism isn't working. That seems like a surefire recipe for peace, prosperity and political stability.

But who will conduct the shura councils? But who will fire mission the local Afghan peasantry and murder their women and children by accident? But who will get perfectly good guys shot in the face at age 35, sending their friends into depressionary spirals?

League of Women Voters said...

And the poor, dumb US foot soldier is the tool used to tug at those people’s heart strings while picking their pockets clean. “Thank you for your service,” indeed.