Friday, February 29, 2008

Turkey Gets Out, Afghanistan Falls Apart, a Canadian Guy and Spanking

So many stories I wanted to talk about today. In no particular order:

>> When last we left Turkey they were giving the US and Baghdad the middle finger by launching a huge ground invasion into Northern Iraq. This, everyone predicted, would throw Iraq's only stable region into chaos.

Now it's over.

Wow. Does this make the US look stupid, or what? Not because we predicted all kinds of chaos that didn't happen (I'll admit it, I was worried), but because this is how the war on terror should have been fought in the first place.

Facing the same problem we were (terrorism), but with an added problem (the terrorists were next door), Turkey went Powell Doctrine on them.

(The Powell Doctrine was, in an incredibly ironic twist, totally ignored by the Bush administration when it invaded Iraq, even though Colin Powell was at least nominally in the administration. The war in Iraq violates every single tenet of the Powell Doctrine.)

The point is, Turkey went in, killed their enemies, and got out. Here's the key part of their statement:
“There was no question of completely liquidating” the PKK, the military said, “but Turkey has shown the organization that northern Iraq is not a safe haven for them.”
Now, if Turkey were the US, the Republicans would be saying that this was code for, "We couldn't beat them, we surrendered, we're France." But the truth is, it's extremely difficult to wipe out any guerrilla movement entirely. Instead, Turkey had one specific goal: wipe out their enemy's infrastructure in Northern Iraq. They achieved their strategic objective, they left. Doesn't that sound really nice right about now?

This, incidentally, is exactly the kind of mission Barack Obama wants to run against Pakistan, and the situation is extremely similar. Obama has advocated tactical strikes on al Qaeda and Taliban forces in southern Pakistan. Everyone has equated this with an attack on our nominal ally Pakistan, but it's not. To be sure, Pakistan isn't crazy about the idea, just like Baghdad begged Turkey not to attack. But just as Baghdad had no control over northern Iraq, Pakistan's been completely ineffectual at fighting terrorists in southern Pakistan, when it's bothered trying at all. In the end, Baghdad gritted its teeth through the attack because Turkey is bigger, stronger, and oh yes, next door. Iraq does not want to piss Turkey off.

And if Iraq doesn't want to piss Turkey off, you think Pakistan wants to piss us off?

The point here is that military campaigns are a lot easier when you have a strategic objective, an exit strategy and, most importantly, don't try to play extreme makeover with another country. Speaking of which...

>> In case you hadn't heard, we're losing the war in Afghanistan.

Cliff notes version: America's Intelligence Chief joins the chorus of realists (which doesn't include, for example, Robert Gates) in saying the situation in Afghanistan is "deteriorating." By this he means, that Harmid Karzai's government controls maybe 30% of the country, while the Taliban controls about 10%. The remaining 60% is under "tribal" rule.

Shock and horror right? Very bad right?

I'm not so sure. Our enduring problem in the developing world is believing in maps. Maps tell us Afghanistan is one country, so goddamit it needs one government. Never mind that it's really made up of dozens of feuding tribes. Those can just be parties or something.

My point is, maybe we shouldn't give a shit how much of the country Bush's buddy Karzai (who the Afghans mockingly call "the Mayor of Kabul") controls. In fact, backing Karzai's government too strongly resembles nothing so much as the Soviet's attempt to prop up Afghanistan's government during the cold war. While the Soviet-backed government was nominally "in power," the truth was that the majority of the people were part of tribes, and those tribes could all unite on exactly two philosophical points: "God is great" and "Fuck the Soviets."

Replace "Soviets" with "Americans" and that starts to look a lot like our situation, right?

It should not be our military goal to turn Afghanistan into a united country with a strong central government. Our goal should be to make sure it's a lousy place to be a terrorist, and that's it. By occupying the country, we're giving the terrorists a target and the "tribes" a common enemy. Let the Afghans run the country however they want. This is not Iraq where, if we leave there will be a genocide. These people are used to living in tribes. Let them. Just blow the crap out of the Taliban and get out of there. You can't get all of it, so don't try. Just hurt them strategically, and then scram.

>> Back on the homefront, did you know the coolest story ever is coming to light in Canada? It's about bribery and cancer and somehow it made my entire day anyway. Here's the story:

In 2005, Canada's parliament has a vote to oust the liberal prime minister. It's a tight race, and could hinge on one vote.

So two conservatives go and visit this independent MP* who has terminal cancer, and bribe him with a one million dollar life insurance plan.

He tells them to fuck off.

The resolution fails by one vote. His.

He dies a couple months later.

Sort of renews your faith in humanity, right? It's the kind of thing that's right out of the movies. A man about to die, the sleezy operatives, the moral stand... it's fantastic. I don't know anything else about Chuck Cadman, and last time I saluted a dead guy it didn't work out so well. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say the world could use more people like this guy.

>> And just to end on a weird outragey note, did you see this story about the evils of spanking?

In this case, I mean spanking in the sex-type sense AND the thing you do to snot-nosed little bastards sense. The upshot of the article is, well, just read this quote:
Straus, a longtime researcher in the field, analyzed four prior studies and found that teens or young adults whose parents used corporal punishment were more likely to coerce dating partners into having sex or to engage in risky or masochistic sex.
Wait, wait, wait. Surely one of these things is not like the other, right?

Nope. No sense of that. This is a study and article that lumps rape and fetish play into the same category of "things you sure don't want your kids to do someday."

I'm not saying I encourage or condone spanking. There's loads of evidence that it can all sorts of screw with you later in life, and also all sorts of people lining up to say, "It were done to me, and I turned out swell." Honestly, I tend to think it's a lousy thing to do to kids, because kids are people, and you wouldn't do it to a people right? I mean, unless they asked nicely.

But while it is interesting that the heavily spanked were almost twice as likely to find S&M arousing, it's also pretty significant that those totals were 75% to 40%. Forty percent! That's a pretty big number no? We could be talking about a substantial portion of the population here right?

I'm just saying that maybe we wouldn't be such a repressed country if we didn't toss rape, unsafe sex, and widespread sexual peccadilloes under the same big ol' "deviant" umbrella. Just a thought.

*That's Member of Parliament for those of you who don't read tons of foreign political news.

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