Afghanistan disgrace

There was a case like this a few years ago but it is happening again:

Two Afghan converts to Christianity risk the death penalty

I always doubted that Afghanistan was capable of becoming a modern nation. We should have gotten out in 2004 and declared victory. The nation-building project made a little more sense in Iraq which was educated and industrialized. But IF we were going to stay, even if we didn’t impose our own style of government on the Afghans, the very least we should have done was to make sure that girls were allowed to go to school and that people weren’t forced to be Muslims.

The Catholic priest in the story is being careful to say that they are ministering to Christians but not converting Muslims to Christianity directly:

“We bear witness to our faith through our commitment and our lives,” he said.

But the point of bearing witness is to get people to accept Christ. I think that Afghans who had somehow gotten hold of a Bible and observed Christians and desired to convert would be told by such a priest that they may pray to Jesus if they want to, but whether the priest would privately baptize them, hear their confessions, or provide Eucharistic communion would be up to him personally, the Church would neither require nor prohibit him to do it (except if the convert was dying, then he would be required by Canon Law to do it I think). However, in the Catholic Church any Christian may baptize another, it doesn’t have to be done by a priest, so the converts probably would find a way to get themselves baptized.

If we had told the Loya Jirga back in 2003 that those were the minimum conditions under which we would leave (education for girls and freedom to be a non-Muslim) they would have accepted it. Allowing them to put a death penalty for apostasy into their constitution was insane.

Although things have been getting worse in Afghanistan since 2005, Obama will be blamed for “losing Afghanistan” since people remember that the country was pacified for several years and that the big American casualties started in 2009. He will continue to fight in a half-hearted way which is the worst policy in the long run. The recent discovery of enormous mineral deposits in the country means we could hang around and move them away from an opium-based economy if we wanted to, but we’re not ruthless enough, so we will likely end up leaving in disgrace, a Taliban-like group will take over, and enrich itself with billions of dollars in mineral revenues that neighboring countries like China, Iran, or Pakistan would be happy to develop for them. They would never have known about the minerals without our expertise, another example of how we end up giving away all our advantages without getting anything for them.


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32 Responses to Afghanistan disgrace

  1. Polymath says:

    Of course, after we left, if they changed their constitution to impose full sharia, we wouldn’t go back and stop them, but they would know that harboring al Qaeda or any other anti-US activity would get them conquered again. I don’t mind a country imposing stupid Dark Ages laws on itself if we’re not involved, but when our troops are there propping the structure up it’s intolerable. In the same way, we should never have protected the Saudis for so long, they were an enemy who promoted radical Islamism around the world whose own country enslaved women and banned non-Muslims worse than anywhere. We should have bugged out, let them be toppled by radicals, and used any attack by the radicals on us as an excuse to simply take all their oil.

  2. Gorbachev says:

    We don’t have the balls to colonize a place properly. Which is what we need to do.

    Afghanistan isn’t culturally suitable for Marshall-plan like plans. It needs to be heavily and thoroughly colonized. And it can’t be. It’s insanely violent, fractious, and oppressively ethnocentric. It treats its own minorities with near-contempt, and tribes approach each other with hostility if not outright hatred.

    There’s nothing we can do there. There never was. We should have gone in and obliterated the taliban, after 9/11, and this was the Punch in the Face that the Muslim world needed – the Afghan Taliban were shocked by the response, because they had no idea the West had such balls.

    They respect one thing: Force. They use it. You use it against them or lose. My brother has said the same thing; Iraqis want the US to hammer down opposition. The *moment* we get soft, they (all sides) lose respect for us. They might hate us, but if we toughened up, they’d at least respect us.


    In Afghanistan, we had that moment when the Taliban was toppled and the conservatives were reeling. We could have crushed opposition. Bleeding hearts would have complained and Islamists would have screamed, but we could have set up a military government, disarmed the country, shipped 500,000 soldiers there and slowly dragged the sorry, disgusting stinking wreck of a nation into the 21st century.

    If I’ve offended Muslims or Afghans, then tough shit. That’s exactly what Afghanistan, or Somalia, or Iraq is: stinking wrecks, culturally, socially and politically. You all know it. It’s obviously true. History bears this out. And *none* of this is the fault of the West.

    So we could have done that. But we didn’t.

    if you’re going to invade a country, toppled its government and replace it, you need actual testicles.

    We didn’t have it.

    My brother, a soldier who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan on many occasions, has some choice words on this subject. He also knows Iraqis.

    Most of the Iraqis he knows have contempt for America not because we were militant or harsh. They have contempt and hatred for us for not being Men.

    We should have colonized Iraq and policed the borders and built institutions and massacred Saddam’s supporters and invested what was necessary to turn it into a functioning country.


    We should not have gone there at all.

    That’s just my opinion. But many share it.

  3. Gorb, it’s better to be feared than loved anyway. Only stupid people care about being liked and loved around the world. And I don’t see why Iraqis shouldn’t view Americans like that – it’s not like they’re wrong either.

    This is why while I do hate Muslims, I do respect them. I also respect the Afghans.

  4. AJay says:

    Stanley McChrystal was totally right about the cretin in the Whitehouse. BO dithered for 6 months and instead of the 70,000 troops demanded, send a measly 30,000. That is reason for the current debacle. Gorbachev was toally correct in his earlier comment.

  5. Polymath says:

    Here’s a related story from today:

    Cables Describe Scale of Afghan Corruption as Overwhelming

    I already knew this (both Iraq and Afghanistan were very near the bottom of a recently compiled study of corruption by country). But it’s another indicator of how incompetent we have been — if you are going to occupy a place, be a ruthless SOB and it will go much better. I blame Bush for this naivete. It would actually have been OK to install Karzai as an undemocratic strongman because then he would have been OUR corrupt stooge, but now his interests diverge from ours and we can’t get rid of him. Best of all would have been to reinstall the King (Mohammed Zahir Shah) when he returned from exile in 2002 and give him real power, but our diplomats were all fooled by Karzai because he dressed so stylishly and spoke so smoothly. Remember all the stories about how sophisticated and charismatic Karzai was? Our intelligence agencies were somehow unable to take the measure of his personality, even though we had complete access to and cooperation from him while we were grooming him to lead the new government.

  6. Gorbachev says:

    This is all absolutely true.

    Liberal ideology basically made it impossible to do what was necessary.

    In the end, we’ve done the Iraqis and Afghans a huge disservice.

    Installing Karzai – or the former king – as a strongman, giving him the power to absolutely crush any other strongmen, and then pulling his strings and giving him “advisers” to forcibly bring the country to a democratic state *might* have actually worked.

    Instead, we have 100 kings on each country, no law, and no civic culture.

    In Afghanistan, it was a dodgy call from the beginning. Iraq might have been saved. We needed at least twice as many troops and the complete trust of the populace. We needed to enforce order. We didn’t.

    And we needed the strongmen to trust that if they so much as looked the wrong way, they’d be assassinated or pulverized. Without mercy.

    Afghanistan would be a much better off. And we’d be called heartless bastards.

    In 30 years, when Afghanistan is able to joint he 21st century, they could write all the history books they want about the process, but it would have worked.

  7. Polymath says:

    It would have worked, but why bother? Afghanistan had nothing worth bringing it into the 21st century for. At least Iraq had oil, some industry and human capital, and geopolitical value, as well as being easier to deal with socially, which might have given us something for our investment.

  8. It wouldn’t have worked. It’s insane to expect a devout Muslim people to vote for anything but Sharia. Besides, democracy is the form of government of idiotic people.

    Polymath, if you cared about the oil, while not pillage the place to begin with? lol

  9. Polymath says:

    It wouldn’t have worked. It’s insane to expect a devout Muslim people to vote for anything but Sharia.

    Well of course you don’t let them VOTE on it. As Gorb said, you use strongmen.

    As you said yourself, “All it takes is executing the former leaders, replacing them with new ones and having them spread the nonsense. ” If you are ruthless enough, over a generation or two you can change a culture.

    It would have been extremely not worth it to do this in Afghanistan, of course. And to do it in the 30 years Gorb suggests would have required extreme brutality; if you are willing for it to take 2 generations instead of 1 you can do it less violently, so 50 years would been enough to bring Afghanistan into the 21st century.

    If we had not armed the mujahedeen and let the Russians kill them, they would have been brutal enough to do it in 30 years, which means by now Afghanistan would be a good Soviet satellite if the Soviet Union had survived.

    You’re right about the oil of course, we could have just pillaged it, my point was even our stupid nation-building exercise could at least have gotten us SOMETHING in Iraq, if we had done it right, while Afghanistan is worthless.

  10. The way I would have done it is simple – invade Afghanistan, execute all their political figures, including the Imams and all that and put my shills in their place with the sole purpose of stamping out any threat to the US. Otherwise, they can do whatever they want. Screw civilizing them.

    And it would have worked as long as you would have stood there. Europeans have been pretty ruthless in Africa and that place is becoming a shithole like it always was – slowly, but surely. The problem is that our countries will become shitholes too as we will have more of them around.

  11. Gorbachev says:


    Your plan is nice, but you discount resistance at home to such plans and making your enemies acquire organized hatred.

    The best way to build empires or at least police the world is to make your subjects/clients/victims think you’re doing them a favor.

    As long as you can maintain that illusion, you win. You lose that, then they always bring the battle home to you.

    Afghanistan: Nothing to gain there, but access to Central Asia. Which is not peanuts, as the Russians and British knew in 1905. The problem is, … Afghanistan.

    Acquiring Iraq is strategic and might have resulted in a huge bonus for us: A Muslim South Korea in 30 years, more or less, aligned with the US. We needed a Syngman Rhee, and we didn’t find one or allow the guy to get away with what he needed to. We should also have, Turkey notwithstanding, forcibly carved out a homeland for the Kurds and the Assyrians. A Federal Republic at the most; separate colonies at the least.

    Simply crushing the world under a bootheel only works if you’re actually willing to bash every baby’s head in with a club. Few are willing to do that.

    And for those that are: There was a reason we fought WWII. It needed to be fought – and won – and was the closest we’ve ever come to an actual holy war.

    On the other hand, we may have learned the wrong lessons.

    One: If we’re going to go into Afghanistan, the place where every foreign power in history, going back a good 4000 years to the Persians and Scythians through the Greeks to the Moguls or Indians, all the way up to the British and any Raj you want to mention –

    Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia. Especially Central Asia. It never ends well.

    Go in – do what you need – get out.

    If you’re going to go in and stay: Be prepared to pay hard. We weren’t.

    Poly is right. In Iraq, we had a chance, and we blew it completely. My brother can tell you stories that would make you turn red with anger or white with regret. The level of political incompetence we’ve shown over Iraq is stunning.

    We not only didn’t accomplish what we wanted – we spent too much but not enough, and got nothing in return; indeed, we may have lost what we had by it.

    And as for being Muslims – there was a more secular country than Syria or Turkey. They’d have loved us, the Sunni, anyway. We might have prevailed.

    No chance now. Get the fuck out ASAP. I don’t want my brother getting shipped over there again. He’s seen 3 guys he knew get killed, armored units or no. For nothing.

    So a few outfitters and corporations can rape the public purse over here. That’s what for. And so we can keep the price of oil high.

  12. Gorbachev says:

    As one guy once said, “I hope we’re not there for the oil.”

    My response:

    Damnit, I hope we’re there for the oil. We’d better be. There’s no other reason to fuck ourselves over like this, then.

  13. Gorbachev, this is why I’d let them rule themselves at home however they wish – so that resistance is minimized. And propaganda is always useful in this regard. Heck, it worked in post WW2 Europe. Still, Afghanistan would have been crappy to win over because everybody in that region has an interest in America failing and because America is bankrupt and has been since these wars started. Eventually, foreigners won’t feel like funding wars that are against their interest.

    Oh, and I’m glad America is failing.

  14. Polymath says:

    > Oh, and I’m glad America is failing.

    Does that mean you would do what Assange did? (For the record, I don’t think he did anything we can prosecute him for, unless he conspired with the leaker before the leaker had downloaded everything).

  15. Polymath, depends on the situation, but yes, if I could, I’d expose all the idiocy of America to the world. I wouldn’t publish things related to the overseas entaglements though to avoid people dying uselessly though. I’d be less interested in war data, rather than data about domestic stuff.

  16. I’m waiting for Allen West to say something similar to the ambassadors of Muslim countries. 🙂

  17. Polymath says:

    if I could, I’d expose all the idiocy of America to the world. I wouldn’t publish things related to the overseas entanglements though to avoid people dying uselessly

    That’s what I thought you’d say, and I can’t criticize this attitude given your exception. But it’s also possible to structure a WikiLeaks type site so that anybody can leak anything and the provider takes no responsibility for the content — completely neutral content independence, subject only to the laws of the country hosting the servers. I think such a site would also be OK, as long as information was taken down when a notification was made that it violated a law of the country hosting the servers, or that specific persons were endangered; there would be way too much content on such a site for the administrator, who is only human, to pre-approve.

  18. Gorbachev says:

    RV and Poly,

    I was once asked by an FBI background checker whether or not I’d sell state secrets.

    I looked at him straight in the eye and said, without lying: Never.

    What I didn’t say was why.

    You see, I wouldn’t sell state secrets. I’d give them away.

  19. Polymath says:

    That’s funny and true. I can imagine situations in which I would give away secrets, but I cannot imagine one in which I would do it for money.

  20. Gorbachev says:

    Yeah. A leak I would be. One of those leaks that would be impossible to fill.

    I hate the fascist nature of this government and the equivalent anywhere. Undermining what is essentially oppression and arbitrary power is a duty of all free-thinking people everywhere.

    This is why, for example, I oppose arbitrary racial policies, RV.

    not because I think there’s no merit in them.

    Because I loathe and detest even the idea that governments should have this sort of power.

    So Wikileaks is doing a huge service to the people of the US and the world.

  21. FortitudineVincimus says:

    Yeah, i’m beginning to think this WikiLeaks thing is good.

    It shows the absolute outrageous why America is being treated around the world, the kind of way we have to deal with others to get things done, and I bet for most ordinary Americans, they think it stinks to high heaven any they won’t have it and would rather let Europe fall and the Muslims slaughter each other then get involved with people of no moral character.

    At least, I hope so.

    As for the Afghan War. Simple 10:1 ratio is required to beat the Taliban. That, and the will-power to prosecute war with the ferocity and force war by its nature warrants.

    However, the Russians used to brute force, and failed. So, I wouldn’t argue for that. I imagine the tactics right now are the right ones, but lack of personnel make achieving our goals in mulitple sectors impossible.

    I don’t see why we should be interested in imposing colonial rule. Ethnic genocide is the only way we can ensure peace, and I can’t advocate that. It would just lead to more hate.

    I imagine better cost-benefit analyses of determining who in the Middle East are our TRUE allies, long and short-term, and who are supposed allies (but enemies in reality) would help policy-makers determine with whom to work to achieve our goals. But we are headed for serious long-term conflict with no end insight. Not on the scale of the religious wars in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, but close.

    Globalization has made terrorism possible. We intrude on their daily lives with commercials and questionable morality, and act like we don’t care. Airplanes, missiles, nuclear weapons, fast transport and faster communications make destruction on a wide scale easier than ever. The virtual proximity leads to conflict. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. Also, has it occurred to anyone that simply by being more numerous, deaths will too. We should expect disasters with casualty rates in hundreds of thousands.

    Anyone read the “Shield of Achilles” by Bobbit?

  22. Polymath says:

    I agree that WikiLeaks is a good thing overall. It is doing good work on the Climate hoax insanity:

    More on the Wikileaks Climate Cables

  23. The problem with globalization is that we allow them to come here. That makes terrorism possible, not what we do to them. And I hardly see why the US should be involved in the Middle East at all. Let them slaughter each other and that’s that. Intervene only if they begin ruining the oil trade.

  24. Polymath says:

    Here are some stories showing how badly we managed the nation-building with Iraq: we did a lot better than in Afghanistan, but still made the same two inexcusable mistakes of allowing the governments we put in place to be explicitly Islamic states and to be massively corrupt. Afghanistan was always a worthless place, but with Iraq we could have had a much better ally if we had avoided those two mistakes and also insisted on oil concessions (considering how much Bush was accused of fighting for oil, he should have just gone ahead and done it, instead of letting the Chinese make oil deals and acquire enough influence to get Iraq to boycott the Nobel Peace prize awards ceremony for the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo).

    Suicide Attacks Leave at Least 15 People Dead in Iraq

    With New Violence, More Christians Are Fleeing Iraq

    Nobel Peace Prize faces boycotts over Liu Xiaobo

  25. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Polymath, considering that Wilson, who pretty much created the conditions for WW2 has one, does that prize has any point? I’d refuse it even if they wanted to give it to me.

    And why should you enforce your insanity on Iraq? We should be doing that to Muslims.

  26. Polymath says:

    We shouldn’t have tried to remake Iraqi society. But given that we were there and doing it, we shouldn’t have fooled around, we should have just put in a strongman who would keep order and let us have oil cheap. You can’t give Muslims the vote and expect they will choose anything but Sharia, elections should have waited until after a secular constutional framework was in place and Sharia was not a choice.

  27. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Polymath, they would have drafted a new constitution as soon as you would have left Iraq. And you should extend your rationale to other groups too. 🙂

  28. Polymath says:

    Iraq managed to not have Sharia but a secular constitution under Saddam, and lots of other Muslim countries have avoided it too, because once there is a secular state the government can keep it that way. But of course it has to be a ruthless government to do that, like in Egypt, Turkey, or Iraq under Saddam.

    If you put it up for grabs they will vote for Sharia. Even as minorities in Western countries Muslims are making progress towards Sharia.

    I get your point about other groups, though no group is as good as Muslims at accumulating power within a society. (Power, not influence, before you say anything about Jews….)

  29. Gorbachev says:


    The point isn’t what they would have replaced the government with.

    The trick is enabling stakeholders.

    After 10-15 years of “reconstruction”, there’d be a connected upper-middle class and their clients who relied on the new system; you’d have reengineered the social and political order, with its own power structures that fed themselves; and some ideas would have infiltrated society. Sure, they might draft a new constitution, but they might not; what you want to end up with is not fighting the radicals yourselves, but having moderate and “modern” Iraqis fighting the radicals – not on your behalf, which is the point, because then they’ll lose, but on their own behalf.

    For that, you need balls. We didn’t have them.

  30. Polymath says:

    Gorb, you are right about the way to rebuild Iraq. The question is whether the effort would be worth it. If you think Muslim societies can become modern democracies, sure, Iraq was the best place to try it, but the evidence is (and was before we started) for the opposite view; and even if you regard this evidence as inconclusive, we are committing a large amount of blood and treasure to a questionable proposition. If you want to promote modern democracy, it is much cheaper to do it by example; the problem with that method is that as long as we let everyone in, people who appreciate our way of life will come here rather than try to remake their own countries.

    RV, you may assume I am talking about promoting those aspects of our way of life that you approve of (economic freedom, rule of law, etc.) rather than the ones you don’t approve of.

  31. rebelliousvanilla says:

    Gorb, Attaturk failed in Turkey and the place is becoming pretty much an Islamic Republic after being a secular place for almost a century.

  32. Polymath says:

    Well, if he managed to keep it secular for almost a century, that’s not exactly failure, that’s pretty good statesmanship considering how much things have changed since the early 20’s. No political structure can endure without maintenance, and the Turks eventually decided they want to be more Islamic, 3 generations later, but you can’t say Ataturk was wrong or ineffective.Trying to look a whole century ahead with any confidence is laughable, I’ll be happy enough if our politicians can look 40 years ahead which is about as far as demographic projections provide any useful information.

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