…billions of American assistance dollars poured into programs in Afghanistan designed to help win “hearts and minds,” and bring stability to the troubled nation.
But, who unleashed the recent storm of chaos into this ‘troubled nation’ anyway? We did, of course! We also know that US expansionist plans, a.k.a. globalization, were crafted, honed, and rationalized by brainwashed policy wonks – graduates of the most prestigious Western institutions of indoctrination. Their mission is to build and establish stable social platforms receptive to our cultural, economic, and political agenda – our relentless hegemonic advance. This is no more clearly manifest than in the case of the USA international development process known as counterinsurgency.
The “hearts and minds” strategy [in Afghanistan], known as counterinsurgency, or COIN, called for a delicate balance of military pressures and civil incentives: military action against the enemy, combined with generous programs designed to win over the gratitude and trust of the people.
That has a nice ring to it – military action against the enemy. Tell that to the tens of thousands of dead Afghan civilians (directly or indirectly) from the war we waged in their country and the stench of death we left in every mountain ravine and on every village path. This is a clear picture of the Janus-face of America’s totalitarian policy, in both its straight-up belligerent phase, and its subtler, inverted format – bribery and other incentives, a.k.a. “development assistance.” It is nearly the same game we used across the face of the globe: from war-torn Europe to the fall of the Iron Curtain, across Northern Africa to the Middle East, establishing military outposts and economic pawns all along the watchtower. It is no different than our military occupation and reconstruction of Japan after the war, transforming it into a democracy – a genuine mini-me of Roosevelt’s New Deal. (I know, the Japanese attacked us first, just as Al-Qaida did in 2001 as we understand; but it was the perfect excuse to extend the reach of our hegemonic influence and imperial will).
Of course, counterinsurgency was engraved in our mission statement, long before it had a proper name. The earliest pilgrims to the New World, and explorers as far back as Chris Columbus, exercised this same methodology with the Native Americans: kill them with kindness and then, if they don’t comply, kill them with the sword. Subsequently, our government plied the tribes with trinkets, whiskey and promises; and when the going got rough, or some tribal groups refused to submit, the government sent in the troops, killing not only young braves defending their homeland, but elders, women, and children as well. (see H Zinn)
But, let us read from the 2006 copy of the Counterinsurgency manual issued by the United States Department of the Army.
…leaders at all levels [of a counterinsurgency operation must] adjust their approach constantly. They must ensure that their Soldiers and Marines are ready to be greeted with either a handshake or a hand grenade while taking on missions only infrequently practiced until recently at our combat training centers. Soldiers and Marines are expected to be nation builders as well as warriors.
What the army along with the policy wonks fail to understand is that some folks, particularly the tribal peoples of Afghanistan, just aren’t buying what we are selling; they don’t want our propaganda, our stabilization plans, or our occupying forces. We, the conquistadors – the warriors and nation builders – have finally met some real contemporary nomads and pastoralists who just will not fall for our tricks or our trinkets. How dare those savages! The indigenous populations of North America were not so fortunate, even as they resisted. But, I am sure the cavalry is not yet through with the tribes of Afghanistan. And we shall see how our armed forces will handle our own tribes again here in the homeland who are even now preparing a blockade of the Keystone XL tar sand pipeline. (I recommend that everyone go to Truthdig and read Chris Hedges latest posting from October 14th.)
One could argue, as I am sure the poli-wonks do constantly, that such counterinsurgency activities are beneficial to struggling nations, an exercise in extraordinary civilized behavior and conscience; that these efforts are intended to help people, demonstrating the good will of the aggressor. As the military handbook says:
COIN forces aim to mobilize the good will of the people against the insurgents. Therefore, the populace must feel protected, not threatened, by COIN forces’ actions and operations… Effective commanders know the people, topography, economy, history, and culture of their area of operations (AO). They know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance within it.
The avowed concern is to give those ‘peoples’ – the unwashed, the less than civilized barbarians – a helping hand so they can partake of the many benefits of our advanced culture, our advanced technologies, and most especially our evident material progress. Yet, the arrogance and ethnocentric condescension lodged within this view is itself unconscionable, as is the self-righteousness of the assumption that we have the solutions to their challenges. The bottom-line is we want to exchange their lifestyle for ours; homogenize the globe, so they all look, believe, and behave like US. Globalization 101 — covert colonization! And no matter how many sushi restaurants pop-up around the globe, we all know that globalization really means Americanization, the unbridled spread of capitalism and its unrelenting temperament – consuming all resources in its wake.
In other words, the real motivation of the American imperial will may not be very difficult to ascertain. It seems to be our intention – under the cloak of ‘national security interest’ – to gain some concrete or meaningful control over foreign territories and their populations, economically and culturally, absorbing their diverse resources into empire for exploitation by its corporate benefactors. Although we have recognized that colonization no longer requires actual physical take-over, still we leave occupying forces in place, and we utilize very effectively the softer tools at our disposal to control the colonized – economically, culturally, and politically with puppet regimes.
To this day, Okinawa remains a major offensive U.S. military base over the bitter objections of its inhabitants who, right now, are less than enthusiastic about dispatch of accident-prone V-22 Osprey helicopters to the Futenma military base, located at the heart of a heavily populated urban center.*
Yet, the Afghans seem to be telling us quite clearly that they want no part of it, that they do not want to be colonial subjects of this consumer-driven, commercialized, capitalist state. They do not care for our curriculum or its spectacle. I also believe that some of their Muslim brethren sent a very loud message to us concerning this item back on 9/11/2001. Unfortunately, I do not think our politicians read that memo carefully.
It has been noted by different poli-wonks and theorists of this ilk that “development assistance programs have limited impact in societies where tribal structures and dynamics remain strong,”* for example, in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan. Yet, all of these analyses are intended not as a deterrence to counterinsurgency efforts, but rather, as thought experiments enabling empire and its allies to overcome more primal tribal barriers to stabilization – colonization, commercialization, consumerism, and compliance with our wishes or demands, explicitly or otherwise. Why do we feel compelled to destroy tribal and other “third-world” cultures? Because the “Other” threatens our own sense of rightness, while blocking access to resources required in maintaining empire.
This is not unlike the game of chicken we have witnessed before and we still see with the economic development programs of the IMF and World Bank throughout the “under-developed” world; it is all a matter of subjugating the recipient country, and making their indigenous populations prisoners or slaves to the demands of our political and economic will: the acquisition of new markets, retention of cheap labor, and ready access to limited or shrinking natural resources. When will it ever end?
As Chomsky concludes:
In 1962, war was avoided by Khrushchev’s willingness to accept Kennedy’s hegemonic demands. But we can hardly count on such sanity forever.