Afghanistan: Heroin-ravaged State

Published on Global, by Prof. Peter Dale Scott, May 8, 2009.

Why one should think of Afghanistan, not as a “failed state,” but as a heroin-ravaged state:

One of the most frustrating features of observing American foreign policy is to see the gap between the encapsulated thinking of the national security bureaucracy and the sensible unfettered observations of the experts outside. In the case of Afghanistan, outside commentators have called for terminating current specific American policies and tactics – many reminiscent of the US in Vietnam.

Observers decry the use of air strikes to decapitate the Taliban and al Qaeda, usually resulting in the death of other civilians. They counsel against the insertion of more and more US and other foreign troops, in an effort to secure the safety and allegiance of the population. And they regret the on-going interference in the fragile Afghan political process, in order to secure outcomes desired in Washington.[1]

One root source for this gap between official and outside opinion will not be addressed soon – the conduct of crucial decision-making in secrecy, not by those who know the area, but by those skilled enough in bureaucratic politics to have earned the highest security clearances. However it may be more productive to criticize the mindset shared by the decision-makers, and to point out elements of the false consciousness which frames it, and which should be corrigible by common sense.

Why One Should Think of So-Called “Failed States” as “Ravaged States”:

I have in mind the bureaucratically convenient concept of Afghanistan as a failed or failing state. This epithet has been frequently applied to Afghanistan since 9/11, 2001, and also to other areas where the United States is eager or at least ready to intervene – notably Somalia and Guinea-Bissau. The concept conveniently suggests that the problem is local, and requires outside assistance from other more successful and benevolent states. In this respect, the term “failed state” stands in the place of the now discredited term “undeveloped country,” with its similar implication that there was a defect in any such country to be remedied by the “developed” western nations …

… In short, President Obama should make it clear that America no longer has ambitions to establish military or covert control over a unipolar world, and that it wishes to return to its earlier posture in a multipolar world community.

It is common sense, in short, that America’s own interests would be best served by becoming a post-imperial society. Unfortunately it is not likely that common sense will prevail against the special interests of what has been called the “petroleum-military-complex,” along with others, including drug-traffickers, with a stake in America’s current military posture.

Vast bureaucratic systems, like that of the Soviet Union two decades ago, are like aircraft carriers, notoriously difficult to shift into a fresh direction. It would appear that those in America’s national security bureaucracy, like the bureaucrats of Great Britain a century ago, are still dedicated to squandering away America’s strength, in a futile effort to preserve a corrupt and increasingly unstable regiment of global power.

Just as a by-product of European colonialism a century ago was third-world communism, so these American efforts, if not terminated or radically revised, may produce as by-product an ever widening spread of jihadi salafist terrorism, suicide bombers, and guerrillas.

In 1962 common sense extricated the Kennedy administration from a potentially disastrous nuclear confrontation with Khrushchev in the Cuban missile crisis. It would be nice to think that America is capable of correcting its foreign policy by common sense again. But the absence of debate about Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the White House, in Congress, and in the country, is depressing. (full long text).

(Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat and English Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, is a poet, writer, and researcher. His most recent book is The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War, It can be ordered from the Mary Ferrell Foundation Press at MFF Store. See also Peter Dale Scott’s website).

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