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Is Syria to become the next foreign adventure for the UK?
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Posted June 15, 2013 at 5:03PM
With the news from the US that President Obama has decided to arm the Syrian rebels, on the basis that government forces have (allegedly) used chemical weapons against them, are we now on the path to being drawn in to yet another foreign adventure?
Why is it that we in the west never seem to learn from our past mistakes? We started the war in Iraq on the totally false premiss of Saddams weapons of mass destruction, only to find that this was an outright lie! We expend vast amounts of blood and treasure overthrowing one despot only to have the country descend into anarchic civil war.
We then move on to Afghanistan, a tribal feudal country whose citizens still live as if in the middle ages. We depose the Taliban and install the hideously corrupt government of Hamid Karzai, we expend more amounts of blood and treasure attempting to turn a country which still stones women to death and thinks paedophilia is a normal lifestyle choice into a modern western democracy!!
As an interlude between all out war, we assist in the deposing of Gaddafi, expend more treasure, (thankfully no blood) and what do we get in return for our aid? The assassination of the American ambassador and the burning of the american embassy by a mob that drags his lifeless body through the streets chanting some religious mumbo jumbo.
So what next? Syria! Following the unrest of the Arab spring Bashar al-Assads population looks around and thinks "we can have some of this despot bashing action" and so the Syrian civil war begins. The usual mix of lunatic fanatics from the sunni and shia islamic factions go all out to out slaughter each other with the Alawits having a go at both of the others.
Now perhaps I'm being naive? How is this anything to do with us? Why are we going to involve ourselves in another foreign adventure, expand vast amounts of blood and treasure (again!) to do what? Provide arms and probably in the end troops to install another fanatical Al-Qaeda backed government who are implacably hostile to the west and who will have access to all the shiny new weapons we have so thoughtfully provided them with!
What is the matter with the Americans, are they so blind that they cannot see that this is what they did in Afghanistan? They armed the Taliban to fight against the Russians and then had to fight the Taliban themselves with the weapons that they had provided them with!!
I know the saying that "those who fail to learn the lessons from history are doomed to repeat them" is a bit of a cliché, but really!
Are we really going to follow the Americans into another un-winnable war again?
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Posted June 17, 2013 at 7:28PM
Here is a Paper written by a friend on the issue of Afghanistan which is well worth a read. He and his co - authors know the country well, and have military experience that is relevant..
Maybe FE will comment.
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Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:42PM
The article referred to by john bunyan is worth a read, even though it refers to Afghanistan and not Syria, but it indicates the tribal or cultural aspects of the region and that part of the world.
Perhaps worth mentioning, the article is pdf 2.47Mb and 18 pages long.
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Posted June 17, 2013 at 10:55PM
Thanks, I should have mentioned the size of the paper. Yes it is Afghanistan, a bit off subject but that country was mentioned in the 4th paragraph of the original post.
This was a submission to Parliament, the second one. The so called experts on the FCO are, I suspect, less experienced than these guys.
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Posted June 18, 2013 at 7:23AM
It's an interesting paper, but with due respect to the writers it seems to make some incorrect assumptions, the main one being that "we’ve used the wrong models for the development of the Government, Army and Police"
Afghans, like people the world over, want to live in a society which allows individuals the right to choose who governs them, how they worship, what they do for a living,and how they are educated. That means one thing, and one thing only - a democracy - and it isn't going to be achieved if the tribalist attitudes of the past are allowed to dominate. It has never worked that way in other countries, and it won't work in Afghanistan. Tribalism retards development, and stifles the freedom of the individual.
That isn't to say that tribal loyalties can be entirely eradicated; that's not possible. People who write about tribal societies in countries like Afghanistan seem to think that it's somehow a unique situation, but it isn't - tribalism existed in Western countries before democracies evolved, and to some extent it's still alive and well, just below the surface. What happened in the West was that people gradually became better educated, more mobile, and better organised. They wanted self-determination more than they wanted tribalism and religious fundamentalism, and they got it. The process was a slow, painful one in many cases, but it succeeded in the end. It succeeded because people realised the benefits to be gained from rejecting the old, authoritarian tribal systems.
It will happen in Afghanistan, too, but not in the way it happened here - there isn't enough time. The Afghan people will decide their own future, provided they have the space and liberty to do it. That atmosphere isn't going to prevail while tribalism flourishes.
None of that is a revelation, the Foreign services of all the involved Western governments are well aware of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan - they're not the bumbling, ignorant people that some self-styled experts on the country would have you think. People like the writers of the paper you referred to are working with and advising both the American and British governments - it's just that they don't get publicity.
There's a broader picture here, however, and of course it involves American and British interests; I don't think anyone denies that.
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Posted June 18, 2013 at 11:50AM
As FE says an interesting paper, the conclusion I draw from it is that the real enemy here is Pakistan! Their security and intelligence organ the ISI are if this paper is to be believed responsible for funding, organising, equipping and leading the Taliban!
If this is a true reflection of events, we are perhaps concentrating on the wrong enemy? In my opinion the wars we have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were wrong on both a fundamental and logical basis. We have tried in both cases to export our version of western style democracy and governance on to countries and peoples who are morally, socially, educationally and in virtually every other respect totally unprepared and unwilling for such a style of government.
It has taken us in Britain a thousand years to arrive at the level of civilisation and society that we now enjoy, how on earth can we expect to drag a society still living the lifestyle of the middle ages up to our standards and lifestyle in a few short years? The answer is we can't, and it is foolish in the extreme to think otherwise!
In my opinion this is as a direct result of the clash of cultures and religions that we find practiced in these countries, it is my contention that Islam as a belief system is totally incompatible with western lifestyle and values and it is this most basic lack of understanding on western governments behalf that leads us into these ridiculous foreign adventures abroad. I think that our governments attempt to apply the same norms of behaviour to the civil populations in these countries that they do to their own populations at home.
They believe that if they build schools and hospitals, pave the roads, dig wells and educate woman, that this will win them approval from the local population and cannot believe it when the schools are burnt down the teachers beheaded and the wells poisoned! the hard facts are these! By and large Afghan people don't want these western gewgaws, they want to live as they have always lived, grow poppy and sell it to the decadent westerners, farm, kill each other over perceived slights and carry on their feudal existence as they always have.
Only, when we finally appreciate these inalienable facts will we have some vague understanding of why we cannot and will not ever achieve our goals in Muslim lands. We are in the process in the run up to final withdrawal in 2014 of dressing up the west's abject defeat in Afghanistan in the best way possible, we will have achieved the same as the Russians did, precisely nothing!
I give it at best six months from our fighting retreat for the whole rotten edifice of Karzais government to come crashing down and to see a Jihadist government flying the black flag of Al-Qaeda over Kabul.
All those lives, all that money and for what?
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Posted June 18, 2013 at 12:19PM
Recently there have been a number of television programs, some in three parts, about the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. The programs actually involved and interviewed the people who made some of the major decisions on all sides on these conflicts.
I would strongly suggest that obtaining copies or viewing these programs might be a very steep learning curve for some of us, as to what actually was and might be. There was also the very clear evidence of mistrust, and this still remains today?.
We also constantly hear when these post come up about democracy. Can someone tell me the true meaning of democracy, because all my years on this earth, I haven't been able to find the true meaning as supposedly being practised. The same applies to a 'far better life' by having a thing called democracy. As I said. perhaps someone can explain this to me, without referring to a dictionary, and perhaps based on personal experiences?.
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Posted June 18, 2013 at 5:46PM
I agree with Flak999 in the main. FE's second paragraph is an example of hope over reality- there are few signs that Afghanistan as a whole (with the exception of the intelligentsia maybe )have an urgent desire for democracy at all. There is no doubt that there are two different Taliban - the Jihadists (inspired and trained in the tribal areas of Pakistan and with the tacit support of the ISI) and the Afghan Taliban. I had it on very good authority from another very well placed source that the ISI is more of an enemy than the Afghan dissidents.
The country is not geared to fight a counter - insurgency war; they have few helicopters, surveillance aircraft, electronic listening expertise (like that of our Special Reconnaissance Regiment) and their Special Forces are not adequate. Many Police and many in the army are heroin addicts and most will take bribes. The Taliban will use this against them and will get stronger. The warlords mostly remain as government officials and the heroin trade has increased. I wish I could be optimistic for the future of the country, but I fear it will be years before there is a peaceful outcome.
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Posted June 18, 2013 at 6:59PM
"FE's second paragraph is an example of hope over reality- there are few signs that Afghanistan as a whole (with the exception of the intelligentsia maybe )have an urgent desire for democracy at all."
Without hope triumphing over reality some of mankind's great cultural and political changes would never have happened. Hope kept Nelson Mandela's spirits up during the long years he spent in captivity. Hope buoyed up the people of this country when reality told them all was probably lost in the dark days of the 1939/45 war.
As for there being few signs that the people of Afghanistan desire democracy, I wonder where you got that idea from? There are plenty of signs, and far from being confined to what you call the 'intelligentsia' it's the younger Afghans who will, in the end, ensure that democratic government works in their country. Public opinion surveys conducted by the Asia Foundation revealed a strong desire on the part of the majority of Afghans for personal freedom, peace, democratic government, and a society that respected the rights of the individual.
It will happen,not overnight - the problems facing any Afghan government are horrendous - but it will happen.
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Posted June 18, 2013 at 7:35PM
Was it the American Indians who used the term "Howling at the Moon"? I think the last several years have been a complete waste of human life and nothing whatever in Afghanistan, will change in the next two or three hundred years. Only my opinion of course, but I do read up on these things and I have talked with people who have experienced Afghanistan in the raw.
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Posted June 18, 2013 at 9:09PM
I hope, sincerely, that you are right and I am wrong. Time will tell. I think that Afghanistan may, unfortunately be an exceptional case in view of the history, terrain, outside interference and the drug trade.
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