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 Post subject: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 2:35 am 
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Politics is entering a "silly" mode where what little rationality there ever was flies out of the window. And as we get closer each day to the general election, it will get worse as tribalism dominates the political process and point scoring becomes the sole preoccupation of the political classes.

It is thus difficult to focus on the fact that the business of government goes on, with hard decisions having to be made, some of which will have long-term consequences – and massive spending implications.

View full article here

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:12 am 
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I've said here many times over the years that we shouldn't be in Afghanistan.
First, both ancient & recent history tells us, quite clearly, that it's not 'a good thing'. Second, the problem for the West is not Afghanistan but Pakistan...a (nuclear) powder-keg more unstable & dangerous than North Korea (which doesn't have the added radical religious problems).
N. Korea would be a more reliable 'ally' than Pakistan ever could be...but there you go.
Just as ripping off foreigners is Italy's national sport, Afghanistan's is killing them...and if they run out of foreigners there's always another local tribe or clan...all good traditional fun.
I doubt that there's anyone either reading or contributing to these pages who does not believe in the law of supply & demand...or the rationale of market forces. I ask you to consider that the best cash crop in Afghanistan is the poppy. I do so wonder why....could it be...?
Drugs, like cars & airplanes & alcohol & tobacco & climbing mountains PDT_Armataz_01_23 or whatever, kill people when unthinkingly abused.
Leave the Afghans to their own happy devices...when they want to change, doubtless they will.
In the meantime, all you alcohol addicts, legalize what you call drugs and acknowledge the law of demand & supply. Buy the Afghan poppy at a reasonable market price, put your bloody tax on it like beer & cigs...and empty our jails by 50%...making much needed room for thieving politicians.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 8:04 am 

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Quote:
I ask you to consider that the best cash crop in Afghanistan is the poppy.


The best cash crop for the farmers themselves is pomegranates, if they can get it to market. The farmers themselves get bugrall for poppies.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:59 am 
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SandyRham wrote:
Quote:
I ask you to consider that the best cash crop in Afghanistan is the poppy.


The best cash crop for the farmers themselves is pomegranates, if they can get it to market. The farmers themselves get bugrall for poppies.


Sandy makes exactly the point that many experts have been making and which we explored in an earlier piece.

As to Pakistan, the instability in Afghanistan contributes to its problems - there is a two-way flow. You can't fix one without also dealing with the other. What is also the case is that you cannot fix the problems without also dealing with the economic, political and physical infrastructures, to which effect the military effort has be fully integrated into an overall strategy and harmonise with it.

Trite historical comparisons, however, are not helpful. This is not a war of occupation and we are not seeking to subjugate the population of Afghanistan. This is an exercise in nation-building, the object being to build peace and prosperity in a troubled region which has considerable regional and strategic importance.

Not only is that a worthwhile exercise, it is one which is directly in the national interest, and indeed in the European interest - over 80 percent of heroin consumed in Europe comes from Afghanistan. Furthermore, it is undoubtedly achieveable. Before the Communist coup in 1989, Helmand province was self sufficient in food, had a healthy export trade and was a stable region, with no poppy growing - that crop is relatively new to Helmand.

Thus, if we stopped bleating about whether we should be there - in an interminable debate which is beginning to replicate the Iraqi experience - and focused on how to sort the problem out so that we can then leave the area, then we would be that much better off.

There is something frustratingly negative about the response to what is a solveable problem - you do not see a single article on the net without comments fairly early on to the effect that "we shouldn't be in Afghanistan ...". We ARE there - it is in the national interest to be there, and the best way not to be there is engage with the problems and sort them out. All the rest is drivel.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 11:12 am 

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You'll have to explain that national interest bit some more to get me aboard. It's my belief that a drugs trade comes from having users, not suppliers. It's demand driven. If we fixed the Afghan drug supply side, we'd still have a problem. OK, it's preferable to have a stable country, anywhere, than what looks like an anarchic mess. But we are not applying that principle in every failing country, only one. One which has never really worked as a nation state in the traditional way, and whose disparate politics most of us will never understand. There is a lot more case to make on the national interest front. I'd be interested to hear it.


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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 12:17 pm 
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Mosquito wrote:
You'll have to explain that national interest bit some more to get me aboard. It's my belief that a drugs trade comes from having users, not suppliers. It's demand driven. If we fixed the Afghan drug supply side, we'd still have a problem. OK, it's preferable to have a stable country, anywhere, than what looks like an anarchic mess. But we are not applying that principle in every failing country, only one. One which has never really worked as a nation state in the traditional way, and whose disparate politics most of us will never understand. There is a lot more case to make on the national interest front. I'd be interested to hear it.


Politics is the art of the possible ... the argument on Iraq was similar ... why pick on that country when there are many other failed states? We went in because we could. Just because we cannot solve all the word's problems in one fell swoop does not mean that we should not tackle those which we can deal with.

In the event, Iraq has been a qualified success. Solving the problem in Afghanistan goes some way to resolving the problem in Pakistan ... on the basis that there is no solution to Pakistan without also dealing with Afghanistan. But look west and the other border with Afghanistan is Iran. With Iraq on one side and a stable Afghanistan on the other, that transforms the geopolitical situation in the Middle East - and makes intervention easier in the event - most likely - that the regime in Iran collapses.

To that extent, a solution in Afghanistan is also part of the broader Middle East solution, the resolution of which is most definitely in our interest.

That aside, as members of the "global community" we have broader responsibilities outside our narrow domestic interests. The foul rule of the Taleban causes genuine hardship and misery to an undeserving population and is a plague which, if unchecked, will spread. Are we to stand by and tolerate that when we have it in our power, as part of the wider community, to do something about it? Are we to define our interests and compassion solely by what happens inside this country?

As to the drugs issue, the same logic applies. We cannot solve all problems simultaneously. Fixing the drugs supply in Afg would be a good start. Usage is not only demand driven - it is also driven by price.

The plentiful supply drives down the price and makes the drug more accessible. Reduce the supply and the price goes up sharply, which will have an effect on the uptake of new users into the market. At £10 a "wrap", it is affordable to kids. Make it £50 a wrap and the commercial dynamics change significantly.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 1:57 pm 
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Quote:
At £10 a "wrap", it is affordable to kids. Make it £50 a wrap and the commercial dynamics change significantly.

Indeed they do...with the ancillary benefits of your house being burgled, your car trashed, your granny mugged & the nation's jails overflowing.
Quote:
The best cash crop for the farmers themselves is pomegranates, if they can get it to market. The farmers themselves get bugrall for poppies.

Have I not been reading that (some) European farmers are quite able to get their 'pomegranates' to market but still get bugrall.
While bowing to the much better informed wisdom & Weltanschauung of Richard & other commenters, I believe that attempting to put the houses of others in order while our own is in such disarray is, at best, questionable.
Yes, the Taliban is evil...we educate & supply some of their best people.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:45 pm 

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RAENORTH wrote:
... we are not seeking to subjugate the population of Afghanistan. This is an exercise in nation-building ... Not only is that a worthwhile exercise ... it is undoubtedly achieveable. ...


It may be achievable if the nation that one is attempting to build is to be self sufficient in food, with a healthy export trade, stable with no poppy growing. However there is no possibility of a civil society acceptable to the Western Ruling Class being imposed on a country with such a high rate of endogamy. The implicit assumption that Afghanis are Westerners In Waiting is false.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2009 9:41 pm 
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Bert Rustle wrote:
RAENORTH wrote:
... we are not seeking to subjugate the population of Afghanistan. This is an exercise in nation-building ... Not only is that a worthwhile exercise ... it is undoubtedly achieveable. ...


It may be achievable if the nation that one is attempting to build is to be self sufficient in food, with a healthy export trade, stable with no poppy growing. However there is no possibility of a civil society acceptable to the Western Ruling Class being imposed on a country with such a high rate of endogamy. The implicit assumption that Afghanis are Westerners In Waiting is false.


I think you need to go futher east to find the endogamy to which you refer. Not is there any assumption, implicit or otherwise that the society will be anything other than Afghani.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 9:31 am 

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RAENORTH wrote:
... I think you need to go futher east to find the endogamy to which you refer.


According to http://www.consang.net/index.php/Main_Page and in particular http://www.consang.net/images/c/cb/Asia.pdf, the cousin marriage rate in Afghanistan exceeds 50%, at least in Nangarhar and Kunard provinces. Pakistan is somewhat similar, Iran less so.

RAENORTH wrote:
... Not is there any assumption, implicit or otherwise that the society will be anything other than Afghani.


The Western Ruling Class are attempting to create a Western democracy in Afghanistan, rather than a geographical area not hostile to the West.

I do not assume that you assume that the assumption that Afghanis are Westerners In Waiting is either valid or invalid.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 1:44 pm 
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Bert Rustle wrote:
The Western Ruling Class are attempting to create a Western democracy in Afghanistan, rather than a geographical area not hostile to the West.


This is what we are dealing with:

Quote:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/the-new-front-britains-fight-for-hearts-and-minds-1656050.html

Rahimtullah Khan, a shopkeeper in a nearby village, was typical of many Afghans who have learned to hedge their bets during 30 years of war. He told British soldiers how glad he was they were there to protect him and his community from the Taliban. He later said to me – non-white, non-soldier – that the insurgents were not far away, the police were corrupt, and he remained unsure about the future. He had stayed on during Taliban times and no doubt said the appropriate things at the time to ensure his survival.

As we were leaving, there was an urgency in his voice. "No one wants all this fighting. We are tired. We are no different from anyone else, we just want to live and look after our families. I look at these foreigners and think 'You say fine things, will you stay to see we get the new clinic and more things for the school? I will vote in the election, but will these foreigners stay to protect me if the Taliban comes to kill me because I voted? These are the things we need to know."

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 1:53 pm 

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Well, I've thought about your national interest arguments. I don't think the case is proven. As I've said. my Dad was there on the frontier in the 20s/30s. He even got the medal. In those days, Afghan stability, or in real terms any condition short of chaos, was an Empire interest. Trouble on the frontier strayed into Indian territory and was thus a problem. In the 19th Century of course it was the frontier of the Great Game. I see no such interest now. If it is to end the heroin trade, by all means let's figure the best way to do that. If it is to bring enlightenment/democracy/whatever to Afghanistan, are we sure the Afghanis themselves are on board with that? I suspect many are not, even among those we consider allies.

We went there to close the Al Q terrorist camps. We got involved with regime change. There was at that time no clear intent to stay until the country was fixed. Or to get involved in the rather more difficult job of fixing Pakistan, a nation conceived in blood on a false premise.

I'm not aware (although I might just be ill-informed) of a logical progression that goes UK interest -- Aims -- Means -- Methods -- Exit criteria. Or any sort of national commitment on the part of the UK. We don't act as if there's a war on, we don't give it any priority in resources, as you have so ably pointed out over the years.

I am not sure we can win anyway. If we had better tactics/resources/ROE etc we would easily win every engagement, and suppress the insurgency. But if the other side are smart (and we have no reason to think they are not) they won't keep coming out to be beaten. They'll put the sword in the thatch, and behave for a while. When the security lid is released, they will be back. As they always have before. They'll use the time to restock, they'll get new weapons from their sponsors. Is our patience greater than theirs?

In short, I do not see what there is to win (for us, not the Afghan people whose interest is different to mine) that is worth the price. I may be wrong, but this is the debate which ought to be taking place. Not tactics. Not legality. Just return on investment. Realpolitik.


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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 2:29 pm 
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I suppose it depends on where you start ... If you just want to address Realpolitik, then the fact is that we are there, working with our coalition partners. The implictions of a precipitate departure have to be weighed against the advantages of achieving the aims and then departing.

The issue of whether the conflict is winnable, however, is intimately bound up in the broader political issues. If it is not winnable, then we should cut out losses and depart ... if, that is, you can define what in meant by a "win". But as long as we are there, then it is in our national interest to win. Unlike you, I believe it is winnable. In those terms, the focus should be on how we win - leave the other issues aside and concentrate on what matters.

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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:43 pm 

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Oh, I agree we can win, if we pick the right definition of what a win is. Of course we cannot secure the country in perpetuity, only the Afghans can do that, but we can probably give them a chance.

But then I could win the lottery. I only need to buy about 14 million tickets, and cover all the numbers. The problem is that I won't win enough to cover my 'investment'. And that sums up my problem with Afghanistan, what prize is there worth the price? And that is what our country has never looked at, in my opinion.


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 Post subject: Re: Real politics goes on
PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2009 3:47 pm 

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Oh yeah. It would be ignominious to leave. But on the other hand, when our country is a laughing stock for other reasons, an economic basket case, and while our despicable Prime Minister is touring the world being insulted by everyone from D. Hannan MEP to the President of Chile, this little bit of ignominy would be of limited extra effect.


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