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hobgoblin
What are we fighting for? To defeat Al-Qaeda? To defeat the Taliban? To set up a democracy? To secure mineral reserves? Do we even know anymore? Have we achieved our, generally unclear, objective?

Its looking likely that we will pull our troops out, declare some sort of victory, and try to put the whole affair behind us.

What was the point of it all? Al-Qaeda are not in Afghanistan, the Taliban has not been designated as a terrorist organisation, Afghans vote along tribal lines anyway so setting up a quasi-democratic government there (and a pretty corrupt one at that) seems pointless in the long run. What was the point of it all? Why didn't we work with the Taliban to broker some sort of deal when we had the opportunity, rather than banging them up in Guantanamo, and then going all out to defeat them as if they were a regular military force?

Its a right bloody mess, of our own making, and has cost a lot of unnecessary lives.
Donnie Darko
The original point of it was to retaliate for 9/11, given that Bin Laden definitely was there, and the Taliban were giving him sanctuary. Overthrowing the hodge-podge mess of a state apparatus the Taliban had instituted was easy, so Bush presented that as a military victory, which it was not but instead was just one battle objective accomplished, and then turned Afghanistan into a bastard step child of foreign policy so that we could instead focus on Iraq, a disastrously costly and idiotic blunder.

If the unequivocal objective had been the marginalization and destruction of the Taliban, it would have been a worthwhile war. Brokering a deal with the Taliban is no better than brokering a deal with Lucifer. They are a religious death cult that encourages child rape, torture and murder of women, and abject brutality in the name of a sometimes distorted interpretation of a religion. The only significant thing that separates them from the Nazis was that they lacked the functional state apparatus to carry out genocide on the scale the Nazis achieved, but nonetheless still managed to commit genocide on a stomach-churning scale. If there ever was a group on this earth worth fighting in a bloody war, it is that scum.

However, that was never the clear objective, and from the results it is apparent that the planning for the whole thing was embarrassingly inadequate. We half did the job, and at least the Taliban don't control the whole country now and their death squads are a fraction of what they used to be. Unfortunately we allowed them to be replaced by a corrupt and impotent half-government which is already turning Afghanistan into a dilapidated used-car version of Pakistan.

You're right that it is a mess. I'm quite happy that we invaded them, but am embarrassed that we fumbled the job and feel bad for the lives lost of soldiers and innocent Afghans due to the recklessness of our leaders who orchestrated the whole thing.
sixela
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Jun 24 2011, 09:22 PM) *
The only significant thing that separates them from the Nazis

…is also the fact they're hardly a well organised hierarchical structure, nor one in which all the participants have the same goals.
Donnie Darko
The Nazis were a death cult who sought the annihilation of all those who were not Aryan enough. The Taliban is a death cult who seeks the annihilation of all those who are not "Islamic" enough. The only significant difference as far as I can tell is that the Taliban doesn't seem to wish to extend their reach beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan, whereas the Nazis obviously sought to conquer the world.

Distinguishing between varieties of homicidal totalitarianism is like trying to decide whether a turd burger or a shit sandwich is worse.

We've been over this before a thousand times though. I do not think the invasion of Afghanistan was a mistake, but the way we did it and the neglect of the mission in favor of Iraq has ended up making it look as if it were a mistake.
sixela
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Jun 25 2011, 02:28 PM) *

The only significant difference as far as I can tell

The organisation is very, very different. A lot of 'Taliban' warlords haven't changed their world view one bit since they 'joined' them, they're just pissed off at anyone trying to enter their turf (be they English, Russian, or Afghani from two valleys away). Yes, it still stinks they're stuck in a feudal mindset, but so were we six centuries ago (not to mention that the nation-state concept we developed later wasn't also a Really Bad Idea). I agree that the Taliban ideology is completely nefarious, but that's not the same as "the Taliban".
hobgoblin
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Jun 24 2011, 09:22 PM) *
We half did the job, and at least the Taliban don't control the whole country now and their death squads are a fraction of what they used to be. Unfortunately we allowed them to be replaced by a corrupt and impotent half-government which is already turning Afghanistan into a dilapidated used-car version of Pakistan.


The only reason the Taliban doesn't control the whole country is because we are there. When we pull out, Afghanistan will revert to Taliban control. So, unless we are prepared to stay there in perpetuity, what have we actually achieved? We cannot win this war and when we pull out, we will have lost (despite whatever pronouncements our politicians will make to the contrary).
Stroller
Not much more than a warning as how much they can get away with before the infidels take notice and get involved.
Jaded Prole
We have our own Taliban to fight right here. I say we pull out and take as many women with us as want to come here. Let the smelly bastids fight it out among themselves.
hobgoblin
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Jun 24 2011, 09:22 PM) *
They are a religious death cult that encourages child rape, torture and murder of women, and abject brutality in the name of a sometimes distorted interpretation of a religion.
And what has that got to do with our war against them? They were doing all that before 9/11 and we weren't at all bothered back then. They were doing that long before we turned up, and they'll be doing it after we've gone. How will our going to war with them change anything there? Apart from making us feel righteous while we wage war.
Kirk
"If your officer's dead and the sergeants look white,
Remember it's ruin to run from a fight:
So take open order, lie down, and sit tight,
And wait for supports like a soldier.
Wait, wait, wait like a soldier . . .

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
Go, go, go like a soldier,
So-oldier of the Queen!"
Donnie Darko
QUOTE(hobgoblin @ Jun 25 2011, 05:48 PM) *

How will our going to war with them change anything there?


Schools are being built there, women are learning to read, football stadiums are used for football rather than mass executions, men can wear their hair how they like without fear of being murdered for a grooming choice, the list goes on.

Are those gains not worth it in your opinion?

You are correct that humanitarian aims were not the point of our invasion, but it has nonetheless improved things there. I've said before that my concept of human rights does not end at borders on a map. Invasion of course should only be a means of last resort, but given that the Taliban was partly our fault to begin with, the least we could do is undo some of the horror we enabled (even though we never admitted our own responsibility in the matter).

It's a bumpy messy ride, but Taliban influence has been sequestered to a point where it is less deadly and destructive than it was prior to our invasion. Is Afghanistan a mess? Definitely. Is it the disgusting rampaging real life horror movie it was prior to our invasion? No.
hobgoblin
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Jun 26 2011, 06:14 AM) *

QUOTE(hobgoblin @ Jun 25 2011, 05:48 PM) *

How will our going to war with them change anything there?


Schools are being built there, women are learning to read, football stadiums are used for football rather than mass executions, men can wear their hair how they like without fear of being murdered for a grooming choice, the list goes on.

Are those gains not worth it in your opinion?

The changes that have resulted will only be worth it if they are sustainable in the long term, not just while we are there to protect the current (corrupt) regime. How long do you think things will stay like that after we leave? Do you think the Taliban will keep it like that as soon as they resume control? After we pull out things will be back to how they were within a few of months. What will we have achieved by our war? What will we have changed for the people of Afghanistan? Absolutely nothing.
G&C
There's plenty changed for them.

There are now many less to suffer the fate we'll leave them to.
Donnie Darko
That is up to them, not us. If the Taliban is so powerful that they'll take over the country again as soon as we withdraw, then the leadership of our military failed abysmally and our elected leaders blew it. I'm of the opinion that the corrupt Karzai regime is the lesser evil as compared to the grinding murder machine that was the Taliban.

I think in order to show that we should never have invaded, it would be necessary to demonstrate that a majority of Afghans think they were better off when the Taliban was in charge.
Tibro
As long as a broad swathe of the Afghan population is involved in and economical dependent on trade in illegal narcotics I wouldn't expect a whole lot of societal gains to take root. It seems you can't eliminate the poppy fields because of the economic necessities, not to mention political corruption, without engendering enmity from those who subsist on it as a cash crop (including politicians). Are there viable alternatives? Might be, but it's hard to flip illegal activities into the light. And the kind of fear and ignorance that the Taliban supported and bred is a fairly practical way for the bosses to run black market operations. Criminality has proven a useful and profitable way of life there. Military operations generally aren't very good at combatting criminality.
hobgoblin
QUOTE(Donnie Darko @ Jun 27 2011, 04:10 AM) *
I'm of the opinion that the corrupt Karzai regime is the lesser evil as compared to the grinding murder machine that was the Taliban.
i agree, but is it a sustainable government that is capable of defeating the Taliban on its own? If it isn't then its a waste of time as it will fall very shortly after we pull out and the Taliban will be back in control of all of Afghanistan again.
Kirk
All the opium was gone from Afghanistan when we got there, eliminated by the Taliban. On day one of the invasion farmers were plowing under potatoes and planting poppies.
Jaded Prole
Thanks for pointing that out Kirk. There seems to be a pattern of opium growing wherever the US has had heavy involvement. They're growing it again in Iraq now too.
Tibro
Yes, the Taliban instituted a ban. It was sudden, not phased in, and as geographically extensive as their control. It was successful as far as the eradication of poppies and opium, but it was socially devastating. As it turned out, the Taliban ban lasted for one year and they were expecting international aid (and recognition) in return for their efforts. That rug was pulled out from under them even before the US invasion. Would they have continued the ban? Was it really a precept of their fundamentalist Islamic interpretation or merely a bargaining chip that didn't work?

QUOTE
One of the most dramatic consequences of the ban was the breakdown of the informal credit system based on opium. During the second half of 2000 and the first half of 2001, additional hundreds of thousands Afghan refugees were displaced internally or moved towards Pakistan and Iran, amongst them many indebted former poppy farmers unable to live through the winter and defaulting on their seasonal loans. Farmers were forced to reschedule their payments -one of the direct causes behind the full rebound of poppy cultivation the following year- and sell land, livestock, and even their young daughters (Bearak, 2001, IRIN, 2001).
G&C
They were playing poker and their bluff was called…
Jaded Prole
Maybe they should be able to sell their opium to pharmaceutical companies. There is no shortage of need and the added availability might bring the price down. By making them legitimate businesses and taxing them via our puppet government in Kabul, they could help rebuild their country and might find it more lucrative than the stringent and oppressive rule of the Mullahs (which most folks there aren't wild about anyway).
Tibro
Not so fast, flipping illegal production over to legal production is not so simple. For one thing opoid analgesics are not in demand as much as you might think. The reasons are complicated and range from fear of addiction to a dominant dependence on traditional medicine in large areas of the world.
QUOTE
According to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the body in charge of examining on a regular basis issues affecting the supply of and demand for opiates used for medical purposes, the supply of such opiates has, for years, been “at levels well in excess of global demand”


Then there's the root problem in Afghanistan related to why opium production thrives there: "lawlessness, instability and poverty". These need to be addressed before you can hope to curtail the illegal opium trade there.
QUOTE
Licensing opium production in Afghanistan would clearly not be more successful than eradication or alternative development at addressing the causes of the recourse to illegal opium production and would thus fail to fulfil the international community’s objective: the suppression of illegal opium production. If crop substitution proved to be a failure in the past, why would the substitution of an illegal opium production for a legal opium production work better by reducing farmers’ income and not addressing the structural factors causing illegal opium production?

It is crucial to understand that, contrary to what has often been denounced here and there, opium production is more a consequence of Afghanistan’s lawlessness, instability, and poverty than its cause. As this paper has tried to show, opium production clearly proceeds from poverty and food insecurity, from Afghanistan to Burma and Laos, where it is a coping mechanism and a livelihood strategy. Opium production is a vital element in livelihood strategies of part of the Afghan rural population, providing peasants not only with a source of income, but also with access to land and credit. More than opium production as such, it is therefore poverty and the shortcomings of the Afghan agrarian system that should be tackled if illicit opium production is eventually to be curtailed.
Provenance
QUOTE(Tibro @ Jun 28 2011, 04:24 AM) *
For one thing opoid analgesics are not in demand as much as you might think.

Um…actually there is a need to substantially increase the supply of opioids in many parts of the world. Any increase in opioid supply would need to be accompanied by the skilled medical professionals and other components of pain treatment protocols needed to manage an increase in opioid supply.

For example, the following are the conclusions from two studies published last year by yhe Journal of Pain and Symptom Management (Elsevier).

From: Advancing drug availability-experiences from Africa

QUOTE
International health and drug regulatory authorities acknowledge that analgesics (especially opioids) are insufficiently available for pain management in many countries. In Africa, reported morphine consumption is far below the global mean, with multiple factors hampering opioid supply.


From: Provision of pain- and symptom-relieving drugs for HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

QUOTE
CONCLUSION: This study shows that opioid expansion needs to balance supply and skills: Currently there are insufficient trained clinical personnel to prescribe, and supply is unreliable. Efforts to expand supply should ensure that they do not weaken current systems.


Similarly, from an article in the Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition:

QUOTE
The undertreatment of chronic pain is a global problem, especially for people in the final stages of cancer and, increasingly, AIDS. The pain of dying is often severe, but it can be controlled for most people by a simple and inexpensive intervention: oral analgesic drugs, including morphine and other opioids. Although it was long known that opioid drugs were essential for the relief of moderate to severe pain, even in the 1980s the amounts being used globally were so low that only a minority of those dying could have had adequate pain relief. Since then progress has been made, mainly in resource-rich countries, widening the gap between rich and poor.
Tibro
I don't argue with the evidence given at all. There is a need but circumstances being what they currently are, including an 80 percent reliance on traditional medicine throughout the most of Africa, well over half in China, lack of skilled physicians with pain management training in these and other parts of the world and in other cases prohibitive drug laws even for medical use the actual demand is not there in the world today for more opioids.

Opioids are an extremely effective drug class for pain management, and pain management has not gotten the attention it should. But that's a long slow process and won't effect the demand enough in the immediate term to make legal opium farming in Afghanistan a viable option now.
Provenance
It could be argued that continued reliance on traditional non-opioid pain control therapies (or substantive lack of pain control) is the result of a lack of affordable opioid supply rather than its cause/justification.

Reliance on traditional medicine could actually be used enhance a community's ability to safely dispense opioids since traditional medicine has the potential, at least in some instances, to provide the social structure and dosage control mechanisms necessary for medically-appropriate opiate use.
Donnie Darko
QUOTE(Tibro @ Jun 27 2011, 03:37 AM) *

As long as a broad swathe of the Afghan population is involved in and economical dependent on trade in illegal narcotics I wouldn't expect a whole lot of societal gains to take root. It seems you can't eliminate the poppy fields because of the economic necessities,


The poppy fields could be Afghanistan's ticket out of economic squalor, legally. They could easily provide pharmaceutical grade opium for morphine and other opiate-derived medications.

Edit: oh duh, didn't read the second page of this thread. Everybody already said what has to be said.
Tibro
QUOTE(Provenance @ Jun 28 2011, 05:55 PM) *

Reliance on traditional medicine could actually be used …

Yes, but if opiates aren't already part of the local medical traditions their introduction is not a simple process, and frought with dangers. Traditional medicine as we're talking about it here is not (modern) science based. These are not "trained professionals" in the western sense. Opioid analgesics might be a boon to their practices and patients, theoretically, but the practical implementation is far from straight forward. And the Afghan farmers in the meantime have to subsist without a legal market for their produce.
Provenance
The potential benefit of traditional medicine is not that its practitioners know how to dispense opioids, but rather that can provide a social structure for their use that can provide some measure of use restrictions/dose control even if it's in the crudest form of adults get x pills a day rather than a more sophisiticated approach. The greatest danger of opioids is when they're used recreationally, hence the benefit of a social control mechanism, and/or without dosage restrictions.

There is no question that there are dangers associated with expanding medical supply/use of opioids. On the other hand, dying in searing, unmedicated agony is not necessarily a lot of laughs.
Tibro
Absolutely no argument from me. More (legal) opioids for a better world is what I always say. I've been doing informal studies on pain relief and management using ethanol for some time. I'm ready to move to the next step. When it's legal. Or the pain becomes unbearable. Whichever comes first.
Donnie Darko
We currently pay Turkey for a large portion of our own national Opium needs, so there certainly is demand for opium regardless of traditional medicine practices in 3rd world countries. Why not divert the money from our Turkish Opium contract to Afghanistan for purposes of nation building? Removing Opium control from Taliban hands and placing it in the hands of farmers, along with having our soldiers that aren't being drawn down to help guard the crops and facilitate security for harvesting and export out of the country would probably have more bang for the buck and probably save more lives than rooting out Jihadists.

Also Afghanistan has not always been an impoverished shit heap, so it's not like a return to agriculture for them is unrealistic. They used to be a huge exporter of raisins, and they're trying to return to being a prominent raisin source for the globe through the assistance of some fair trade organizations. Adding legal Opium production to that would lay further ground work for regrowth.
Tibro
India is currently the only country that exports opium. It's labor intensive. Any other country involved in producing and exporting opioids does so in the form of concentrated poppy straw. The farmers use combines and modern agricultural methods to harvest whole fields of the plants by machine. Guess which method produces legal opioids at the cheapest market price. Without substantial investment the black market is going remain more lucrative for the Afghans. You can't just flip a switch from illegal to legal opioid production.
Donnie Darko
Well, we've already "invested" several hundred billion with mixed results. Seems like the sort of investment necessary to upgrade them to usable opium export would be cheaper than paying for daily airstrikes.
Tibro
Munitions production probably employs Amerikans.
R3al Caravano
We currently have no shortage of heroin addicts, so I will make the assumption that there is no shortage in the supply of opium for illegal purposes. If there was a greater supply illegal opium would there be a greater supply of heroin addicts? I'm going to jump out on a limb here: if the worlds production of opium for illegal purposes went to an infinite level; mountains of it. In a supply and demand standpoint it is worthless. Would the price of it to a junkie change and would there be more junkies? The answer to both is no, because it is an illegal substance and therefor the price and demand of it does not work on a normal supply and demand heuristic. The supply and demand at the user is separate from the actual production. The price and availability at the user level is driven by effectiveness of smuggling.

Increasing production would only make it cheaper to beneficial (legal) purposes. So lets say that the current production there is by highly labor intensive means vs higher technology. What is the current price of putting food in your family's mouth from a third world country's perspective? When you are working for to simple goal of putting food in you and your family's bellies (not dying); I would bet bet you would work pretty cheap, so much so that you might even beat a technology based method: it lacks much capital and puts some food in more mouths in the immediate sense. In that loose organization, there is more potential for employment (you need more hands to do the same job), there is less ownership of the means to do so (capital for equipment), and a greater spread of the potential to prosper. [Say we lease, loan equipment ect., how do want it paid back? (Yep, not many free lunches in this world)] Technology seems to natural progression thus far; the tools will come in time, but people are hungry in the present. (Last I checked China wasn't doing so bad.)

I am of the simple opinion that I'm not going to slap the food out of your mouth with a hand I call "moral imperative" while eating steak with the other.
Donnie Darko
QUOTE(Tibro @ Jun 28 2011, 05:01 PM) *

Munitions production probably employs Amerikans.


True. Lockheed Martin really does need more money.
Artemis
They share the wealth. I used to work for them. Not building weapons, but enriching uranium for use as fuel.

I think the original aim in Afghanistan was to militarily eliminate a hidey hole for the terrorists and thereby make other methods (diplomacy, etc.) more effective against surrounding nation states. But the military wasn't designed to be the agriculture extension service and all the other stuff which with they've been tasked over there. Even if it was, I say let them grow what they want to grow. Freeing up cannabis agriculture in the U.S. would solve a lot of problems, as well.
Tibro
QUOTE(Artemis @ Jun 29 2011, 11:47 PM) *

They share the wealth.

Is that a euphemistic way of describing their "distribution system"?
Jaded Prole
To digress and carry this further; now that we have succeeded (beyond our wildest projection) in getting absinthe back in legal production, we might focus on getting paregoric back on drug store shelves which would certainly increase the availability of a popular (and certainly safer than tylenol) analgesic and up the demand for opium on the market.
Artemis
QUOTE
Is that a euphemistic way of describing their "distribution system"?


It's one of those liberal expressions. In reality, it was simply a paycheck for services rendered.
Tibro
Better a paycheck than a payload. Though both are best rendered off-shore.
Absinthesizer
QUOTE(Jaded Prole @ Jun 30 2011, 06:42 AM) *

To digress and carry this further; now that we have succeeded (beyond our wildest projection) in getting absinthe back in legal production, we might focus on getting paregoric back on drug store shelves which would certainly increase the availability of a popular (and certainly safer than tylenol) analgesic and up the demand for opium on the market.


Why stop there? According to Wikipedia, Laudanum has 25 times the opium concentration of Paregoric!
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