01 August 2009

Escalation Blues

What is happening in Afganistan? The past month has been, with seventy-five dead suffered by the occupation formations, the worst one for the Empire so far. But then, we know what is happening in Afganistan. And we knew it would. There is only one way an escalation can go. The guerrilla coolly matches the ante. And then some.

The new emperor promised to escalate the war on Afganistan and make it the central front in the never ending Struggle To Grow the Empire. To that purpose he would send additional troops on occupation duty to that part of the world. He did, sending 17,000 legionaries to reinforce the occupation. They arrived weeks ago and were sent on a sweep of Helmand River Valley. To a predictable result - the aforementioned record setting casualty count.

The Empire is in trouble because it is merely a state. A state with a seemingly infinitely inflatable budget, but just a state non the less. Any state is effectively powerless when its chosen subjects refuse to subject. The Empire only knows how to subdue other states. When the states fight they throw their war budgets at each other and the state with the larger war budget wins.

But in Afganistan the Empire is not fighting a state. It is fighting a people, the Pashtuns. A people does not work with a budget. It works with sacrifice. The more force is thrown against it, the more it is stomped on, the more sacrifice it is willing to bear in order to drive an iron spike through the stomping boot and bring the repression to an end. The more violence aligned against a people the more it makes sense for them to bear sacrifice in order to destroy that force which is descending on them. Provided the people resisting has a sufficient demographic base this dynamic can and will match any budget, any escalation.

The Pashtun fight because they do not want the Americans there. They have proven they consider it a fighting offense. If there is more Americans in country they will fight that much more, not less. Maxi-occupation is more objectionable than mini-occupation. For the state to hope to win by making what is objectionable even more objectionable is absurd. Imagine a king who having increased taxes faces a revolt so to avert the revolt increases the taxes still further. That is what the Empire is doing in Afganistan. The Pashtun tribesmen clearly demonstrated they do not want 80,000 imperial and auxiliary troops in their country, so the Empire raises the number to 105,000 to see if that proves more acceptable.

It is plain as day the Pashtuns are not going to resign themselves to the occupation at its current level of objectionability or they would have done so long ago. The Empire can not make them accept it. It could theoretically exterminate them or bribe them, but it can not force them to consent. 70,000 imperials can help here no more than 50,000 or 500,000 could.

The more foreign troops there are in the country the truer rings the cry of the guerrillas for the urgent need to expel them. The more sweeps they go on to, the more households they search, the more of their countrymen they snatch to be locked up at Bagram air base, the heavier weights the pressure to do something about it on the shoulders of every fighting age Pashtun. The more checkpoints they man, the more buildings they raze, the more unidentified but "suspicious" individuals they zap from drones the more the households that feel the need to shelter the fighters. The more bombs they drop on their the hamlets and the villages, the more weddings and funerals they wipe out from the air, the more opium crops they burn the more villages that feel duty bound to feed them.

To escalate the violence and beef up the occupation only drives more people to do more for the resistance. There is 13 million Pashtuns in Afganistan and twice as many in Pakistan. Sufficiently irritated they can commit a few million to the fight. Can the Empire in turn send a few million troops to subdue them? To ask is to answer. American insistence on escalation is playing chicken with a brick wall.

The most the occupiers can achieve in such wars is to not look utterly ridiculous when they finally retreat. But the way to do that is by deescalating not escalating. The best way being a deescalation on steroids. An abrupt and complete evacuation that leaves no doubt that the imperial legions retreated on their own terms rather than being driven out. Of course that would be the smart thing to do and smart things are not in the nature of empires. They do it the dumb way. Retreat after being made into a broken, dysfunctional army by the war. As the dysfunctional legions did from another central front in 1972. And in 1989. From just this place. So far they are on track for seconds.

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