THIRTY-TWO Australians have died needlessly in Afghanistan. All of them were young, in their 20s and 30s, and have left young families behind. If there was some point to their dying, if they had sacrificed their lives for a worthy cause, then at least their loved ones would have some means of consoling themselves.
But that isn’t the case. They have died for nothing. They have died because one man’s vanity led to him thinking that he could do better than the old Soviet Union, the British Empire and even the much reviled Genghis Khan.
That one man is George Dubya Bush.
When the US sent troops into Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 2001 in order to wreak havoc on Osama bin Laden and his followers, it was a justified reaction. Had the US smashed the al-Qaeda network and exited the country in six months, all would have been well.
But that wasn’t the case. The US and its allies decided that they would stay and try to indulge in nation-building. The long-term motive was to obtain mining concessions in Afghanistan and to try and build a pipeline through Central Asia for an alternative supply of gas. (That, incidentally, hasn’t worked. All the concessions, bar one, went to China and India; Canda was granted one.)
There has been some curious muddle-headed thinking by many in the Western camp; people like David Kilcullen have concluded that if the Afghans were given all the Western accoutrements of development, they would suddenly fall in love with their Western invaders. Kilcullen has a ridiculous hypothesis that the Taliban, who were ruling Afghanistan when the West invaded, has to draw on ordinary citizens for support and that these citizens can be weaned away by improvements in local conditions. Exactly how he came to this conclusion is unknown.
Things haven’t worked out that way. Had Bush asked someone to read the history books and find out what had happened to nations that tried to subjugate the Afghans, he might have found out that it was a mission that would end in failure. (Bush himself cannot read.)
But nobody among all the Western nations, Australia included, bothered to read up on the history of Afgnanistan and note that no invader has ever managed to get the better of the Afghans.
Now Australia has moved up its date of departure. Late next year, the Australian Labor Party will have to face an election which it will find very difficult to win; the Afghan involvement should not be present as an election issue.
For the US, something similar exists; Barack Obama goes to an election later in 2012 and if Afghanistan is an issue, it will not be helpful to him. So the American pullout will continue apace.
In the end, the Taliban will come back to power within six months of the West pulling out. The same Taliban which was ruling when the US invaded.
In the interim, the US, other NATO countries and Australia will tell their citizens any number of lies to quell the queries from the media. But in the end, it all amounts to nothing.
Once the troops have left Afghanistan it will all be back to square one.