The Talking Dog

October 11, 2009, Old school

The Grey Lady treats us to this profile of a man who just won't go away: Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Omar's reputation as incorruptible, and a fierce fighter (who, after an eye was wounded during a battle against the Soviets, removed that eye and kept fighting, according to the story anyway)... who has shown a remarkable military sophistication despite being only semi-literate... are all legendary. Omar is either a military genius in his own right, or he has been made one care of friends in the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

The result is the same: a once wildly unpopular Taliban that is now operating as rag-tag guerrillas, both on their own and in conjunction with other local warlords, has confounded the Mightiest Military in the History of the World (TM), and our NATO allies, who, alas, have, in the interest of "nationbuilding on the cheap," thrown our lot in with a fundamentally corrupt Karzai government that leaves much to be desired. Among its many failures is that it has not been able to provide basic security or any other government services to most of Afghanistan-a gaping vacuum which the Taliban has filled (despite its insane unpopularity).

The Grey Lady can't bring itself to utter the words "Pashtun Honor Code" as to why Omar won't give up bin Laden or A.Q.... but that's why. Omar has extended his hospitality to OBL, and having done so, pledges to protect his guests if necessary with his own life and the lives of his family, tribesmen, et al. and... well, that's that. Getting the Taliban to hand over their guests will, in short, be somewhere between "not easy" and "not going to happen."

At the end of the day, the quagmire fatigue that has already taken over the Iraq mission (which goes on largely because casualties from there tend not to be reported so much) will eventually subsume the Afghan mission as well (particularly if Gen. McChrystal's "surge" requests are heeded and 40 or 60 thousand more American targets are brought to the theater on a "mission" that doesn't bring us any closer to a resolution there). And Mullah Omar will still be there. And so will the Taliban. And so will their A.Q. guests. Something to keep in mind as we consider "negotiating" with the Taliban, which, said quagmire fatigue will eventually force us to do.

Well, Smartypants College Classmate of The Guy With the Nobel Peace Prize ... what's your "solution," TD?

That's wildly over my pay grade. But unfortunately, there is an answer, but it is rather boring, and unsatisfying to an American populace that measures progress in terms of sh*t blowing up on CNN. We need to provide basic "on the ground" security, stability and infrastructure so that the Afghans can have a sustainable economy, growing things like raisins rather than opium. Our troops, and we will indeed need more of them, will have to have a defensive posture, not in barracks, but in villages and hamlets, protecting the locals from rampaging warlords (and, of course, the Taliban) and otherwise providing "order"... because the Taliban gain ground because they can provide "order," as even their brutality is at least "order". It won't be exciting, it will be time-consuming and expensive...but unless we help the Afghans gain enough stability on their own... we will never "win." We will just have to put away our video-game mentality, and play this the patient, time-consuming way that Mullah and Omar and our enemies are playing it: old school. Will we do it? Not how you bet... but there is no other way.