Wars against native tribal leadership - in general

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Dotini

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This morning I searched the forum for threads with Afghanistan or Taliban in the title, and was unable to find much that was recent or sufficiently relevant. So I created a new thread to document what has long been America's longest war and now is a cascading disaster. I'm sorry, but it's true.

Cascading disaster is an apt term for the US military’s strategy in Afghanistan, which involves the indiscriminate killing of terrorist leaders, whether Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS or whatever else.

In addition to heavily underreported civilian casualties, US military strikes increase the ferocity of those terrorist outfits. Not just because those outfits want to show the world how strong they are. There is another element which arguably is even worse, as it is virtually impossible to reverse. Each “neutralized” leader leaves a power void within his organization and a number of usually younger and more ruthless members start fighting among each other to take over – with cruelty and spectacular attacks obviously being stronger “election” arguments than a “softy” willingness and capacity for peaceful dialogue.

Thus in Afghanistan the original Taliban – the ones who were ousted in 2001 – probably could have been convinced to take part in negotiations. They were an unsavory lot to have as a government, with medieval habits, but they were not terrorists like the ones nowadays. Few people know that in 2000 the British charity Christianaid (yes, with such a provocative name) had an office there, run by a female Australian doctor with her husband and little Sam, their six-month-old son. They enjoyed it very much and the Taliban had no objection against a foreign woman providing medical care to women and children, despite the obvious need for careful diplomacy.

Since then, however, there have been so many cascading series of eliminations of Taliban leaders at all levels – all for the purpose of PR spin rather than any coherent strategy – that we now have the umptiest generation, which has lost whatever dignity and humanity their predecessors may have had.

Furthermore, we knew the original Taliban leaders, and they were relatively predictable. Each new batch needs to be infiltrated, investigated and analyzed from scratch, after which we kill those too. What a waste of energy and knowledge! But President Trump believes that the evident lack of success is caused by too little rather than too much bombing/eliminating, so this vicious cascade can be expected to go on and on until doomsday.

This “destroy the Taliban by assassination” strategy has one more layer: the eroding authority of their original leaders. By continuously eliminating (often after several failed attempts in which civilians are killed instead) successive leaders at all levels – from village to nationwide – the U.S. has shattered the Taliban into different splinter factions, each with its own power structure and power struggles. This has increased pressure and violence at the village level, as people who during the day were already pressured by coalition armies and at night by the Taliban, ended up with several competing “Taliban” factions all pressuring them to join. Some of these factions were foreign, as Afghan friends would tell me, meaning they were from some other part of Afghanistan, not necessarily from a different country, which made it even harder to negotiate with them. Multiple terrorist factions contributed to anarchy in which common criminality has flourished.

At the same time, as this cascading fracturing continued, successive local “terrorist” leaders became increasingly detached from central top leadership and therefore any negotiations with Mullah Omar or any other gray eminence might not translate into concrete changes in the field.

Negotiations should have been conducted in 2002, when the Taliban had been wiped out, which then was no major feat as the vast majority of its followers had been coerced into joining and were only too happy to have been delivered from this burden and being able to return home.

So few true believers were left in 2002 that the Taliban was in a very weak bargaining position, a perfect starting point for negotiations.

Systematic demonizing by the US, however, and the ludicrous strategy of killing them one by one – which is as absurd as believing that the best way to eliminate ants is by crushing them one at a time as they appear at our sugar bowl – have led to what we have now: a thoroughly opaque playing field with regularly shifting alliances and competition, which makes it even harder to keep track of who’s who, with whom, against whom. This increasingly chaotic situation makes counter-terror operations even more complicated (spectacular attacks may have more centralized backing, but smaller attacks are often initiated by local splinter factions).

The addition of ISIS further complicated the situation, as the Taliban have been fiercely fighting them – Afghans generally do not like Arabs nor any other foreigners who want to impose their ways – and thus the absurd situation developed in which everyone is fighting everyone – Taliban, ISIS, Haqqani et al, the Afghan army & police, coalition-supported local militias and coalition armies themselves. A bit like the present proxy-wars in the Middle East in a nutshell.

We also tend to forget that the Taliban – for all their senseless cruelty and often medieval ideas – were welcomed in 1996 with a huge sigh of relief when they cleaned up the murderous chaos of the civil war and restored law and order. When asking Afghan friends what part of their experiences since 1979 was the worst, they all would name the civil war. Unfortunately power corrupts and soon this relief was replaced with a different kind of horror. The Taliban regime was loathed but at least was relatively predictable. One could somehow adapt to its rules.

I am convinced that given a bit more time, the Afghans would have gotten rid of that regime themselves and the ensuing civil war would have been relatively short-lived as then they all were thoroughly fed-up with fighting.

Today, the chaos and corruption in Afghanistan is being hidden further, as the U.S.-led coalition acts to suppress information, specifically the reports of SIGAR, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, has always been a hero of mine, shining a bright light on the mess that otherwise was swept under the carpet.

Now even that light is being switched off.

William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at wastore@pct.edu. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.

https://original.antiwar.com/Pamela/2018/02/02/americas-cascading-disaster-afghanistan/
 

Liquid

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I'm not saying Afghanistan is all kittens and roses but how long was the "manifest destiny" war against indigenous peoples?

Surely that went on far longer.
 

Dotini

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I'm not saying Afghanistan is all kittens and roses but how long was the "manifest destiny" war against indigenous peoples?

Surely that went on far longer.
Your question perplexes me. It seems somewhat off-topic. One might as well ask how long was the war of European agriculturalists against European hunters and gatherers. Perhaps European wars of colonial conquest and mercantilism could be similarly assessed. I created this thread because there was no thread on the US adventure in Afghanistan. If your question is one of real intellectual curiosity and honesty, I suggest that you create a new thread to explore the topic of nation building, agriculturalism, colonization and mercantile expansion on a global basis. But if the question was meant to immediately derail the OP onto a bunny trail, then I would prefer to delete the OP and revise the thread title to something more appropriate to the direction you would like to take the thread. Maybe later I'll create another new thread dealing with Afghanistan. Okay?

from Wikipedia:
In the 19th century, manifest destiny was a widely held belief in the United States that its settlers were destined to expand across North America. There are three basic themes to manifest destiny:

  • The special virtues of the American people and their institutions
  • The mission of the United States to redeem and remake the west in the image of agrarian America
  • An irresistible destiny to accomplish this essential duty[3]
Historian Frederick Merk says this concept was born out of "a sense of mission to redeem the Old World by high example ... generated by the potentialities of a new earth for building a new heaven".[4]

Historians have emphasized that "manifest destiny" was a contested concept—pre-civil war Democrats endorsed the idea but many prominent Americans (such as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and most Whigs) rejected it. Historian Daniel Walker Howe writes, "American imperialism did not represent an American consensus; it provoked bitter dissent within the national polity ... Whigs saw America's moral mission as one of democratic example rather than one of conquest."[5]

Newspaper editor John O'Sullivan is generally credited with coining the term manifest destiny in 1845 to describe the essence of this mindset, which was a rhetorical tone;[6] however, the unsigned editorial titled "Annexation" in which it first appeared was arguably written by journalist and annexation advocate Jane Cazneau.[7] The term was used by Democrats in the 1840s to justify the war with Mexico and it was also used to divide half of Oregon with the United Kingdom. But manifest destiny always limped along because of its internal limitations and the issue of slavery, says Merk. It never became a national priority. By 1843 John Quincy Adams, originally a major supporter of the concept underlying manifest destiny, had changed his mind and repudiated expansionism because it meant the expansion of slavery in Texas.[8]

Merk concluded:

From the outset Manifest Destiny—vast in program, in its sense of continentalism—was slight in support. It lacked national, sectional, or party following commensurate with its magnitude. The reason was it did not reflect the national spirit. The thesis that it embodied nationalism, found in much historical writing, is backed by little real supporting evidence.[9]
 

Liquid

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Your question perplexes me. It seems somewhat off-topic.

I was querying you calling Afghanistan the United States' "longest war" where I would suggest that the collective wars against the native people of the North American continent were longer.

But now I see you've changed the thread title from Afghanistan to Manifest Destiny anyway.
 

Dotini

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I was querying you calling Afghanistan the United States' "longest war" where I would suggest that the collective wars against the native people of the North American continent were longer.

But now I see you've changed the thread title from Afghanistan to Manifest Destiny anyway.
Yes, and now that I see where you're coming from, I'm neither going to deny nor resist, but go with the flow. May I be so bold as to suggest that wars against native peoples were not restricted to only the North American continent?
 
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Rallywagon

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Isnt the idea behind the "Manifest Destiny" that the US is justified in taking over the Americas? Last i knew, and correct if i am wrong, but, Afghanistan is really far from the American continent's, thus having nothing to do with Manifest Destiny.
Liquid would be exactly right to bring up Native Americans since they would be the ones who were directly effected. While OEF may be the longest modern conflict, its neither americas longest, which would be the Indian wars (1540-1924) nor pertinent by definition to Manifest Destiny.
 

wfooshee

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"Wars against native peoples" implies an invasion (or colonization) that wipes out or subjugates the existing population, which has nothing to do with what's going on in Afghanistan.

The very thing that makes the so-called war on terror difficult is that it's not a war against a nation, like Germany vs Poland or Japan vs China to start WWII. It's not a war against the natives, per se, not in the sense of the wars against Native Americans, or the Australian handling of the aborigines, or the Spanish conquests in Latin America, but a war against terrorist leadership which happens to be native tribal leadership on most cases.
 

Johnnypenso

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Isnt the idea behind the "Manifest Destiny" that the US is justified in taking over the Americas? Last i knew, and correct if i am wrong, but, Afghanistan is really far from the American continent's, thus having nothing to do with Manifest Destiny.
Liquid would be exactly right to bring up Native Americans since they would be the ones who were directly effected. While OEF may be the longest modern conflict, its neither americas longest, which would be the Indian wars (1540-1924) nor pertinent by definition to Manifest Destiny.
Key word there is "wars" vs. war. The conflicts with the natives are generally referred to individually rather than as one long, continuous conflict. Northwest Indian War, Creek War, Seminole War etc. It isn't a single declaration of war by Congress in 1540, which didn't exist obviously, lasting for 400 years.

Regardless, that's a technicality that has derailed the thread from the topic at hand, which is the war in Afghanistan. Hopefully @Dotini creates another thread on that subject and leaves this one to have it's semantics argued over until fully hashed out and we can all agree on which war was the longest war, what the definition of war is etc.
 

Dotini

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"Wars against native peoples" implies an invasion (or colonization) that wipes out or subjugates the existing population, which has nothing to do with what's going on in Afghanistan.

The very thing that makes the so-called war on terror difficult is that it's not a war against a nation, like Germany vs Poland or Japan vs China to start WWII. It's not a war against the natives, per se, not in the sense of the wars against Native Americans, or the Australian handling of the aborigines, or the Spanish conquests in Latin America, but a war against terrorist leadership which happens to be native tribal leadership on most cases.
Perhaps I could further refine the thread title to say "Wars against native tribal leadership in general"?
 

Rallywagon

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We call it the "war on terrorism." But, i think it a title that encompasses many conflicts beginning with OIF. Hiwever, i dont think we have declared war proper since the Vietnam War. Certainly everything modern going on in the middle east has been considered military conflicts as opposed to war. I think it a study of semantics, but OIF, OEF and others arent actually considered war by our governement.
 

Dotini

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We call it the "war on terrorism." But, i think it a title that encompasses many conflicts beginning with OIF. Hiwever, i dont think we have declared war proper since the Vietnam War. Certainly everything modern going on in the middle east has been considered military conflicts as opposed to war. I think it a study of semantics, but OIF, OEF and others arent actually considered war by our governement.
When Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on Japan after the 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks, it signified the last time the U.S. officially declared war. Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq: technically, those were not wars. Those conflicts, and others in between, are considered “Extended Military Engagements.” :rolleyes:
 
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The very thing that makes the so-called war on terror difficult is that it's not a war against a nation, like Germany vs Poland or Japan vs China to start WWII.

I would suggest that the thing that makes the so-called war on terror difficult begins with;

1) calling it a "war".

2) calling it "terror".

It's like the "War on Drugs". It doesn't accurately describe what's going on & leads to unrealistic expectations & flawed policies.
 

wfooshee

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No, it's an actual military war against the terrorist leadership. The problem is that the terrorist leadership can be difficult to identify and is generally difficult to locate.

When those people claim no purpose in life other than to inflict indiscriminate lethal violence against us, then they're terrorists. I'm not sure how calling it a war on terror is inaccurate.

As for declared war, WWII was the last time we did that. Korea was a UN "police action" (that is still going on, technically,) and we were advisors and assistants to South Vietnam in that conflict.

And I see he's started an entirely new thread with the same first post, yet a much more appropriate title, since he apparently intended to discuss Afghanistan specifically.
 

Dotini

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And I see he's started an entirely new thread with the same first post, yet a much more appropriate title, since he apparently intended to discuss Afghanistan specifically.
Actually, he quite likes the potential that this thread is showing. He made the Afghan thread as a placeholder at this point, since the forum lacked a bespoke thread for that war.
 

Danoff

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Actually, he quite likes the potential that this thread is showing. He made the Afghan thread as a placeholder at this point, since the forum lacked a bespoke thread for that war.

So what is this thread about? You might want to re-work the first post, because I don't really see the tie-in between the US war in afghanistan and wars against tribal people. Wikipedia describes the Taliban as a political movement and a regime. I think the nebulous term military faction could also be applied. Maybe... gang, or even to some a government. Tribe doesn't seem to capture it. Native people also doesn't really describe the Taliban, it's a political movement rooted in religion, native doesn't appear to be either necessary or sufficient.
 
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No, it's an actual military war against the terrorist leadership.

When you talk about "terrorist leadership" are you referring to the Taliban "freedom fighters" who drove the Soviet forces out of Afghanistan with assistance from the US?

When those people claim no purpose in life other than to inflict indiscriminate lethal violence against us,

Members of the Taliban probably have a variety of purposes in life. Lethal violence directed against foreigners invading their country would be one of them.
 

Dotini

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So what is this thread about? You might want to re-work the first post, because I don't really see the tie-in between the US war in afghanistan and wars against tribal people. Wikipedia describes the Taliban as a political movement and a regime. I think the nebulous term military faction could also be applied. Maybe... gang, or even to some a government. Tribe doesn't seem to capture it. Native people also doesn't really describe the Taliban, it's a political movement rooted in religion, native doesn't appear to be either necessary or sufficient.
This thread is obviously about what the members want it to be. It's not my job to challenge everything I don't agree with. I've changed the thread title 3 times! @Liquid wanted to discuss the longest war, which he determined was against the native or indigenous peoples. I'm not so sure it was a war, technically, or even an "extended military engagement" in today's terms, but hey, if that's what he wants, then I'm not going to say no. If I changed the first post, then Liquid's post becomes less understandable, etc. But I may revise it, and the thread title too, if and as required.

But, parenthetically, I do think the US is clearly in a war against tribal elements, even tribalism itself. I think the US would like to impose scientific materialism, secular humanism and capitalism (at the point of gun) to replace more old-fashioned notions of how people should live.
"We, uniquely, know best about how other people should live." :rolleyes:
 

Danoff

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But, parenthetically, I do think the US is clearly in a war against tribal elements, even tribalism itself. I think the US would like to impose scientific materialism, secular humanism and capitalism (at the point of gun) to replace more old-fashioned notions of how people should live.
"We, uniquely, know best about how other people should live." :rolleyes:

Some of the things you listed have elements that extend to human rights. And anyone can enforce human rights at the point of a gun against anyone who would violate that. For example, you might think that using guns to enable women to violate Sharia law is the "west" enforcing secular humanism. I say it's humans enforcing fundamental human rights that apply to all people anywhere, and that if that gets in the way of someone's backward religious notions of how people "should live", so be it. Their traditions do not entitle them to violate the rights of others.

Now, whether it's a bright idea to go do that is another story. But yes we can enforce human rights at gunpoint against those who would violate them.
 

TenEightyOne

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But, parenthetically, I do think the US is clearly in a war against tribal elements, even tribalism itself. I think the US would like to impose scientific materialism, secular humanism and capitalism (at the point of gun) to replace more old-fashioned notions of how people should live.

And yet we've just seeing America pass through one of the most polarised, tribal phases in its history.
 

Rallywagon

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I think anyone who says America and "scientific materialism, secular humanism" needs to step back and pay attention to whats actually going on in America. Conservatives hold a great deal of political clout here at the moment, and nothing they are doing holds to the standards of scientific or humanism. In fact, i will go so far as to say that secular humanists and the scientifically minded are both a minority and perhaps was even on the decline through the 90s and into the 2000's as the new breed of religious conservative took hold. I agree a great deal with teneightone's opinion, except i very much doubt that we are through this tribalistic mess. We are still very much in an "us verse them" mentality.
 

Dotini

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And yet we've just seeing America pass through one of the most polarised, tribal phases in its history.
Taking momentary advantage of your peculiar connotation of tribalism, I can only note that it's going to take one helluva lot more guns and bullets to stamp it out. :(
 

wfooshee

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Members of the Taliban probably have a variety of purposes in life. Lethal violence directed against foreigners invading their country would be one of them.

I'm not sure how the towers constitute violence against foreigners invading their country. We were not in Afghanistan at the time. Even now, our conflict is not with Afghanistan. That's what makes it a difficult fight for us. We're not out to destroy the Afghan nation or its culture, but we would very much like to eliminate those ultra-fundamentalist religious zealots who use a distorted view of their faith to justify the slaughter of innocents. It appears that it's them or us, as they are in no way willing to be reasoned with or adjust their limited worldview, and that is not a difficult choice.

They have the very tribal view that anyone "not them" is evil and must be destroyed. This is not freedom fighting, and they are not, by any conceivable definition of the word, freedom fighters. They have nothing to do with the legitimate government of Afghanistan. They overthrow the government and install themselves, but were ousted a a few years later. They do not represent the interests of the general Afghan population. They are TERRORISTS.
 

Rallywagon

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I'm not sure how the towers constitute violence against foreigners invading their country. We were not in Afghanistan at the time. Even now, our conflict is not with Afghanistan. That's what makes it a difficult fight for us. We're not out to destroy the Afghan nation or its culture, but we would very much like to eliminate those ultra-fundamentalist religious zealots who use a distorted view of their faith to justify the slaughter of innocents. It appears that it's them or us, as they are in no way willing to be reasoned with or adjust their limited worldview, and that is not a difficult choice.

They have the very tribal view that anyone "not them" is evil and must be destroyed. This is not freedom fighting, and they are not, by any conceivable definition of the word, freedom fighters. They have nothing to do with the legitimate government of Afghanistan. They overthrow the government and install themselves, but were ousted a a few years later. They do not represent the interests of the general Afghan population. They are TERRORISTS.
This I think would be wrong. Al Qaeda was based out of Afghanistan and led by Bin Laden. He and other Sunni radicals were quite a bit upset both at the us backing Israel and the military presence in Saudi Arabia, considering the US military as occupying Mecca, Jerusalem and Medina. It's these that i believe are cited as being the reason for the 9/11 attacks. Remember we weren't at war with Afghanistan, we were there to "free" it from "terrorists."
 

Dotini

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This I think would be wrong. Al Qaeda was based out of Afghanistan and led by Bin Laden. He and other Sunni radicals were quite a bit upset both at the us backing Israel and the military presence in Saudi Arabia, considering the US military as occupying Mecca, Jerusalem and Medina. It's these that i believe are cited as being the reason for the 9/11 attacks. Remember we weren't at war with Afghanistan, we were there to "free" it from "terrorists."
True. But the Taliban did provide haven for Al Qaeda terrorists.