Tag Archives: afghanistan


In the Christian year 9, Publius Quintilius Varus led the XVII, XVIII and XIX Legions, accompanied by auxiliaries and women and children, through the Teutoburg Wald to winter quarters. Ambushed by German tribes led by Arminius, the Romans were annihilated. When he heard the news, Augustus cried, “Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!” The Romans never again ventured north of the Rhine or Danube. Are we looking at the same thing? Have we, like the Romans, reached the high water mark of empire? Will withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq be the end of nation building, the end of engagement in the Muslim world? Will our policy no longer be forward leaning but reactive? I sure hope so.



Afghanistan is not a State

And they don’t really care

The tribe, the clan, all else they hate

They do not want us there

We pour in cash, we get guys killed

For nothing I can see

It matters not the roads we build

A country it won’t be

We tried to change the Islam world

To bring them up to snuff

And for our pains got rockets hurled

I say enough’s enough

Just let them stew in their own juice

And keep our powder dry

And if they turn their rockets loose

Just blow them all sky high


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Count von Zeppelin flies again. The Department of Defense is sending drones to Afghanistan that can take pictures of an area half the size of Manhattan.  Airships that stay aloft for weeks, taking full color panoramic 3D pictures of vast expanses of trackless waste, all without human intervention.  Or maybe it’s more Jules Verne than Count von Zeppelin.  Or maybe James Thurber and his immortal Walter Mitty, captaining the giant airship in his daydreaming imagination.



In the Thirties we had Thurber

Not to mention Edna Thurber

Walter Mitty had his dreams but don’t we all

Mitty’s daydreams were fantastic

Always fanciful, elastic

Flying zeppelins to foreign ports of call

Now we don’t need Walter Mitty

We can photograph a city

Seeing cars collide and people come and go

Watching vendors on the corners

Tracking down illegal forners

Just downloading it would make a TV show

So no w thanks to old James Thurber

We can spy upon our nerber

And we don’t need goofy guys like Walter Mitty

We’ve got airships now we’re riding

Leaving us no place for hiding

When they turn on us they’re showing us no pity

Yes right now I know they’re after

If you please just hold the laughter

Guys in robes and turbans hiding in the bush

But with cameras this pervasive

The Feds will be more invasive

Is Obama testing in the Hindu Kush?

Is the TSA on order

To fly Gorgon on the border

Keeping track of where you are and where you’ve been?

Is a fence the next big issue

‘Round each city lest they miss you

Fences not to keep them out but keep you in


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The Past Will Always Be With Us

The New Republic has published an introspective of the Afghan war in the form or essays by nine intellectuals, and the Belmont Club has joined in the discussion. My own feeling is that the intellectuals miss the point, which is that the Afghans do not wish to be brought into the twenty-first century, nor any other century. They like things as they are, and will fight fiercely against those who try to change them. Alexander, the Moghuls, the British, the Russians, and now us, have all tried to conquer Afghanistan, all tried to pit one tribe against the other and thus gain control, all without success. We must remember that the past is here to stay, we cannot change it, we cannot erase it, we can only try to remember it.



We cannot wish the gun unfired

Reverse the call that got us mired

The past is past and by the way

The past is here and here to stay

You cannot win without the will

You cannot bid the earth be still

You cannot call the tribesmen mate

Unless you wish to share their fate

Afghanistan is of the past

An ancient world, one of the last

Where tribe and family is the law

And life is brutal, short and raw

They do not wish to be like us

Nor like the Brits nor like the Russ

Leave them be to live their lives

The Alexanders and the Clives

All failed and left without a clue

It’s time we bid them all adieu  



We’re With You All The Way

Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, in a recent visit to Kabul, has assured President Karzai and the government of Afghanistan that we would never abandon them. They seem strangely unreassured, particularly as President Obama in his speech Tuesday has stated emphatically that after eighteen months we would abandon them. So President Obama’s definition of never seems to be eighteen months.



Ah no, the President has said,

The word sellout’s verboten

So please don’t fret your pretty head

As soon you will be votin’

For Taliban who will of course

Be kind and gentle rulers

We know you’ll love the new strong horse

Except for your pre-schoolers

Who will not be allowed in class

If they’re of the wrong gender

Nor will your Christians find the glass

Half full but they must render

Obeisance to that Allah guy

Whose mercy has no ending

But in the meantime please don’t try

The rules of mercy bending

We are behind you all the way

We’re here for you forever

In passing I just want to say

That we will leave you never

Of course we know we’re pulling out

But that is not to worry

What’s that you say?  What’s that you shout?

Then go and what’s your hurry?




COIN Of The Realm

General McChrystal, President Obama’s hand picked successor to command the forces in Afghanistan, has submitted a recommendation to the president for more troops, troops that are needed to implement the successful counter-insurgency (COIN) program that worked so well in Iraq, and which General McChrystal wants to implement in Afghanistan. The administration is reluctant to send more troops, even though General McChrystal’s charge from the president when he assumed command was to win the good war in Afghanistan. It seems the administration had no clue as to what the price of victory would be, and so the president dithers, unable to make up his mind while American soldiers die. The president should either do it right and send in sufficient force to do the job and win, or get out. If he gets out he gives victory to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. If he continues on his present course he will give eventual victory to Al Qaeda and the Taliban because we do not have enough forces in Afghanistan to do the job. Giving General McChrystal the troops he needs will bring victory, but at a price the president is apparently unwilling to pay, though he seems perfectly willing to pay the very much higher price of defeat. Which way will he decide to go? Well, we must remember that President Obama has already famously said that victory is not an option.   



Counterinsurgency’s COIN of the realm

It worked very well in Iraq

But now that we have a new guy at the helm

It seems definitions are slack

When they jawboned the problem way back in the Spring

They thought they could buy on the cheap

A bounce in the polls that a victory would bring

They’d no clue that the price would be steep

So they texted the generals, no need for a chat

And told them to write up a plan

To beat up al Qaeda and then after that

To take out the weak Taliban

So now they’re all sitting ‘round watching the clock

Obama more clueless than most

Complaining they’re stunned by the big sticker shock

According to Washington Post

On top of it all now the Pakis now say

They want all the drones that we have

And buckets more money before they will play

They’ve hurt feelings you see we must salve

The Obamistration is flailing the air

To leave or to stay in those lands

They haven’t a clue as to why they are there

The country’s in very best hands



The Great Game

The Obama administration is currently anguishing over whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan. The Generals want more troops, the left wing of the Democratic party wants out, and Obama himself seems entirely unclear on what he wants to do. The situation on the ground is not favorable to US interests: the Taliban enjoy the support of a large part of the population, and seem to have no difficulty in enlisting martyrs for suicide missions. We kill 100 Taliban and Taliban supporters for every American killed, but they can take the casualties and we cannot, and for one simple reason: no one has satisfactorily explained why we should be there taking casualties in the first place. Certainly not a single American life is worth trying to bring a stone age culture into the 21st century, particularly when that stone age culture is happy where they are. And so President Obama is in a dilemma. He spent years undermining the war in Iraq while saying we should be in Afghanistan, the good war, and now he’s there and finds it is not so good after all. But then he never did think it was a good war, it was just a stick with which to beat George Bush.



Obama claims that it was Bush

Who bogged us down in Hindu Kush

Not understanding that it’s just a game

Between the Paki ISI

And all the other little fry

Who cares when you’ve got Georgie Bush to blame

Obama says we should have been

Engaged in a war we could win

Instead of messing up in old Iraq

A war Obama says was wrong

And claims he was right all along

To go after bin Laden and his claque

So now he wants to put our guys

Into a place where most supplies

Must come by road and if its cut what then?

And yes we know the Taliban

Still rule the roads and so they can

Decide not just the where but also when

To close the road through Pakistan

To all our guys in far Afghan

And then we’ll say in closin’ au revoir

To Obie’s foolish thought that he

Could talk his way to victory

Just hope it’s not a Chosin reservoir



An Offer They Can’t Refuse

The United States has shifted its emphasis in Afghanistan from closing down the opium trade to controlling who runs it. Attacking the poppy fields led to too much local opposition. Killing the guys who control the drug trade and replacing them with more amenable drug dons not only does not annoy the poppy farmers, but puts us in charge of the operation. By declaring we have no problem with drug lords so long as they don’t belong to Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, we have enlisted on our side a group of people whose self interest it is to see us win. And that is all to the good.



So now we get to pick and choose

Just who’s to win and who’s to lose

I like it

The poppy fields will now be ours

Those gorgeous fields of bright red flowers

I like it

Of course with all that dough at stake

We know who’ll be in on the take

And though their thirst it will not slake

I like it

The Taliban without the cash

Will have to dig into their stash

I like it

And Afghan rulers on the sly

Will see their source of income dry

I like it

Our man Petraeus is a fox

He thinks of things outside the box

He’ll fake these guys out of their jocks

I like it


If this works, why can’t we decide that the United Auto Workers union is now in charge of the Mexican drug cartels. Based on what the UAW has done for General Motors, with the UAW in charge the drug problem in the US would disappear, since no one would want to buy their product.




Amateurs Talk Tactics, Professionals Talk Logistics

The United States currently has about 49,000 troops in Afghanistan, with a projected 68,000 troops in theater by the end of the year. Nato has about another 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly non-combat troops, or combat troops like the Germans whose government does not permit them to shoot unless first shot at. All these forces sit at the end of a vulnerable 1,200 mile long supply line from the port of Karachi, across Pakistan, through the Khyber Pass, and into Afghanistan, ending at Kabul or Kandahar. We have already lost a valuable air base in Kyrgyzstan, and we and Nato are examining other routes through Russia and elsewhere. But what happens if Pakistan implodes, what happens if the Taliban succeed in making the supply route untenable, what happens if these alternate routes do not become available? What happens if our army is cut off, relying on air re-supply like the Germans at Stalingrad?



I think we’ve seen this one before

Let me think now, just which war

Was ended when the guys on the high ground

Surrounded those encamped below

And pressed them till they hollered whoa

As guns up in the hills threw round ‘pon round

Of course it’s happened many times

In many years and many climes

That armies get cut off and then they die

But that won’t happen to our guys

Our civvie leaders are too wise

And we must never ask the reason why

We have secure lines of supply

Another reason I know why

Our guys are safe in far Pashtunistan

Our leaders simply would not dare

To leave our guys defenseless there

Adrift, surrounded in some foreign land

The Paki guys in ISI

Are operating on the sly

To see the Taliban and all that crew

Take Pakistan and all their nukes

They care not all for our rebukes

They’ll take the land and have Sharia too

And then they all will turn on us

Egged on by Chinese and the Russ

And then some big decisions will be made

Do we pull out and wash our hands

Or do we take out all the Stans

Whichever, there’s a price that must be paid

A price that’s paid in blood right now

Or later paid no matter how

Much spinning out the truth our leaders spin

To take Vienna we must be

Prepared to fight to victory

‘Cause once you start to fight you better win