Thursday, December 30, 2010

NATO Civil and Military Co-ordination in Afghanistan Failing

Lillian Katarina Stene spent six months in war torn and war weary Aghanistan, serving as a major in the US military as a civil and military co-ordination (CIMIC) officer and now is submitting her research there as a PhD thesis. To connect local structures and military intentions, designated civil military coordination (CIMIC) units are set up within NATO. Their three core functions are to liaise, be a support to the civil environment and the military force. They contribute by assessment of villages and supporting basic infrastructure such as roads, water and bridges when needed.

Stene thinks President Hamid Karzai and NATO’s leadership are mistaken in relying on the withdrawal of foreign troops to bring peace. Though more “boots on the ground” are needed, she says:

We must differentiate better between military and civil tasks, and present ourselves more clearly. The military is the prolonged arm of politics, but soldiers are neither politicians nor aid workers. Nevertheless, the NATO strategy presupposes interference with civilian life. This gives rise to concern, and it is not an easy task to win the “hearts and minds” of local people

In short, a peaceful solution requires stability to be enforced with more troops, but the actions of the military and civilian aid in the war effort have to be better co-ordinated. One is inclined to think that none of us would be easily winnable by a foreign coalition whose soldiers kept shelling our villages and breaking into our homes boot first in the early hours of the morning making our lives intolerable, even if they claim to be protecting us form other gangsters. Indeed, the whole situation is reminiscent of the old gangsters’ protection rackets. You had to humor and cough up your hard earned dollars to both sides just to stay alive until one or the other won the territory war between them. Then you just paid your insurance premium, or taxation, to the winner.

That must be how Afghan people feel, not to mention the Iraqis, Vietnamese, and all the others who have gone before in the history of US imperialism. In history, people get rid of their own gangsters, even if they have to wait until the gangsters’ kids are fat and smug before they can do it. They can feel then that they have solved their own problems without any unasked for help from some other gang wanting to rob them instead.

Stene says that as long as war skirmishes are taking place within and among local inhabitants, a popular justification is TINA—there is no alternative. She admits that this is maybe the greatest challenge, a nuanced criticism of the NATO (ie US) strategy. Perhaps she has to humor her own employers, or former employers, from whom she hopes for a pension, but seems in no doubt when she says:

The war in Afghanistan cannot be won by military means. There are only political solutions to crises and conflicts. The Afghan people itself, through its leaders and representatives, must take the lead in finding a solution. Which is quite a challenge as the international community—meaning the UN, NATO’s coalition forces and numerous governmental and non governmental organisations—are all deeply involved in the development of the country.

Conflicting roles among military and civilian personnel is counterproductive to NATO’s strategy for peace in Afghanistan, for, as military forces continue to build infrastructure and cooperate closely with large civilian organizations, local people must find it increasingly hard to distinguish between the different agents’ roles and objectives. Isn’t it obvious that, when there are no military present to interfere with civilian assistance, then there is no problem of co-ordinating them, and the various agencies involved should be at least halved? In her opinion, too little effort is put into long term planning for reconstructing the country. Different national caveats and ingrained practices, attitudes, training and interpretations conducts different operational modes among the countries working under the NATO umbrella. Stene says:

Since there is no unified way of doing things in Afghanistan, NATO has a problem. While Americans like to act quickly, Germans and Scandinavians prefer to consider the long term effects of civil military coordination. The Americans are likely to dig a well on the spot, while Germans prefer to let the Afghans dig the well themselves.

It is the difference of attitude of the arrogant young imperialism with the long in the tooth old one. The young imperialists, the Americans think these inferior races ought to submit to their betters, and when they don’t, then a bullet will encourage them to do so, while the European powers, who have had the same attitude in the past, and have even fought crippling wars among themselves to share out portions of the world pudding, are now more circumspect, if not more humanitarian. While Afghan civilians are being killed in dawn raids and by drone or warplane attacks, it is hard for any rational being not to appreciate why their skepticism over US intentions continues to grow.

So, the military alliance’s “comprehensive approach” is counterproductive to both civilian and military parties operating in Afghanistan, since this strategy enables role conflicts among them. From her access to the inner workings of the NATO forces, Stene believes NATO is too top heavy. When grey zones between military and civilian participants appear, it is harder for locals to separate the two groups, and to establish who does what. Aid workers, whose safety depends on being trusted by the local communities, may be seen as representatives of the occupation force, and thus become more vulnerable.

A case in point is the dramatic increase in the killing of aid workers over the last years. When some of these organizations profess to be impartial, while simultaneously running development projects paid for by Afghan authorities and the international community, they are not considered neutral by local inhabitants. Such organizations suffer more frequent attacks, and their security situation is deteriorating. Stene says:

Building trust takes time. In order to succeed in Afghanistan, we have to spend time in the country and perform our tasks in accordance with the Afghans’ terms.

Spending more time seems to be her justification for more boots on the ground for longer, but the rest of her case might be better served by a withdrawal and an emphasis on civilian aid, as long as it is not allowed to be skimmed off by the US crooks set up as the country’s “proper” representatives to milk the country dry. That perhaps is why she sees the need for a continued NATO military presence:

Civil military coordination is about working behind the scenes, and handing over tasks to the Afghans:
  • It is vital to separate between strictly humanitarian organizations, whose task it is to supply basic utilities such as water, food and medicines to everyone in need—regardless of who they are—and international or independent organizations which are building schools and infrastructure and cultivate land in compliance with the international community’s or the Afghan government’s development plans.
  • It is vital to gain insight into people’s real needs, and to involve local projects and contractors. Building schools may not always be the answer to everything.
If local structures are not sufficiently developed, I’m afraid we are building a house of cards which will fall down after we have left.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Who are the “Mindless” Ones?

UK Students Protest Vigorously Over Political Liars

Yesterday the Liberal Democrats in the UK’s Con-Dem coalition government voted to increase university tuition fees by 100 to 200 percent. Some did vote against and a few abstained, and even a few Tories voted against the outrageous measure, but sufficient members voted for it to ensure a government majority of 21 in the House of Commons. The Tory House of Lords, newly packed by Tory leader, David Cameron, with a load of Tory time servers, will back the motion.

Students are so outraged at this that they have started a campaign to register their utter disapproval by confronting the state, and particularly, that section of the coalition, the Liberals who solemnly pledged before the election that they would not support the Tory proposals for higher university fees under any circumstances. Liberal leader, Nick Clegg, says the pledge was a mistake because the Treasury is worse off than he and his party had reckoned. It therefore cannot be honored.

Indeed, there can be no honor among thieves and Clegg had his own excellent education because he is from a long line of them. His family are among the country’s rich, he had a private education at Westminster school, and went to one of the UK’s best universities, Cambridge, because his father was a banker, and his varied family background includes Ukrainian nobility. He is, in short, not without a few quid to his name.

Now, having joined the coalition government led by another rich Tory, David Cameron, he has decided that the country can no longer afford free, or even cheap, university education because the Treasury is deep in debt, and the country has to fill it and meanwhile service its borrowing requirements—we have to borrow from the banks to pay the interest on our debts, and so we cannot afford public services like free education any more!

The Banks—Robbers!

The students, however, unlike many trades unionists and Labour Party supporters are intelligent enough to realize the public purse is empty because we have given all our money and more to the banks to bail them out of insolvency when they were on the verge of collapse two years ago through speculative investments meant to further enrich already super rich financiers, and line the pockets of their agents the bankers simultaneously, through the enormous bonuses they paid themselves for robbing the rest of us.

All of this done under the innocent and admiring gaze of the pathetic supporters of the criminal New Labour Party of one T Blair, otherwise known as T Bliar, who is now coining it for his neoconservative takeover of the British traditional trades union and socialist party on behalf of the big criminals who bribed him to support the US Bush administration in its greedy adventures, and are now faithfully rewarding him with their spare change.

Students know it, and are young enough and angry enough to want to do something about it, unlike most of the British working class who are gulled into a zombic stupor by a media controlled by the same class of megarich criminals feeding them mindless reality TV, soap operas and a “get rich quick” celebrity culture that blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality for many. The students, after sleeping for almost fifty years, are now waking up to the state of the nation. We are not broke, but we have been robbed in a blatant scam, and the students of the future are among the ones who will have to pay for the heist.

Note thet these mindless students are not protesting for themselves. Most of them will have graduated before the measures are brought in, but the university under-graduates have been supported by many school pupils and students of pre-university sixth form colleges, who know they will be affected by the government class-laden legislation. Class-laden? Young people from poor families will hesitate getting into massive debt before they even start on their adult careers, and the assurances of grants and special measures for the poorest does not impress them. They are sops to get the measures passed, and need be worth nothing more than the Liberal “pledge” to oppose such acts. That was plainly worthless!

Mindless MPs

Yesterday’s demonstrations ended up chaotic, and the culprits are being called names by the media—“mindless” and “thugs”. It is the media pundits who are mindless, and the idiotic MPs who think they can gull the people forever. The students are showing that is not the case. Unjust societies fall apart because people will not put up with it, and the British are beginning to realize how they have been tricked. It is simply that they have lost the will or the courage to publicly demonstrate their diaproval, but students are leading the way.

The students are not “mindless”, it is liberal MPs like the local empty-headed idiot, Don Foster, who represents the rather posh city of Bath. Someone threw a rock through his window, and Mr Foster responded that he did not enter politics to win a popularity contest but to change things. He seemed quite oblivious to the fact that he actually stood as an MP in a popularity contest—it is called democracy! MPs are elected when they gain the popularity of the electorate, and that popularity is based on what they promise to do.

The half witted Foster, reneged on his promise and merely had a brick through his window. Next time, if the electorate are learning anything, he will be evicted. The local MP for this constituency of Somerton and Frome, David heath, a Liberal Democrat, who has had a narrow majority for several elections can hardly expect to remain in his seat in parliament now that he too has voted against the students’ and the country’s best interests. These two and their fellow opportunists will doubtless by then have abandoned all pretence of being Liberals and will have joined the Tories.

Mindless Media

Media pundist are never “mindless”. They write their columns and usually have sufficient ego not to want to humble themselves even when proved to be wrong. One of them, on Murdoch’s TV tried to bombast an NUS spokesman into condemning the NUS organized demonstrations, but the young man admirably stood his ground despite the anchor man speaking over him, and attempting to harass him into slipping up. The demonstrations had been taken over by “anarchists”! It is a general assertion made by media pundits trying to make out that demonstrations are fundamentally vehicles for what they also like to call “rent a crowd”, professional rioters. Quite where these professionals hide or make aliving when there are no riots to lead, is hard to figure, but they always emerge mysteriously when a demonstration gets out of hand. No one ever seems to figure that it is frustration and anger at being duped by professional careerists called policemen and politicians.

No one ever considers either that, it being in the interest of the state apparatus to discredit demonstrations by introducing petty but violent acts, they have undercover agents provocateurs actually causing and inciting trouble. Any self respecting professional rioter, having broken into Millbank or the Treasury building would have set them both on fire, but these professional anarchists only set fire to a few placards and wooden staves in the streets. These professionals could hardly expect to get employed again, could they?

Mindless Police

Certainly the police professionally anger crowds by their so-called “crowd control” techniques. They “kettle” crowds or sections of a large crowd—confine them by force—into a narrow space and refuse to allow them to pass. This naturally causes immense frustration when people want to relieve themselves or to go for food or drink. Yesterday, a section of the crowd were induced to cross Westminster Bridge to escape the kettle, but then were stopped half way across and confined for hours in the narrow space of the bridge. The police are meant to be the guardians of the right of lawful citizens to move along the Queen’s highways, but they wilfully break the law themselves, with the result that violence is the only way to escape. Innocent people have died in these kettles, and a young man needed a three hour brain operation yesterday after a baton attack. It goes without saying that any rogue policeman will be innocent.

The police too are “mindless” because the media are forever highlighting violent protests but ignore peaceful ones. A peaceful “candle lit” vigil across the bridge in the South Bank was hardly mentioned by press or TV. So the provocation of the police and their plain clothes agents might actually be giving the publicity that will arouse the sleeping giant of the British public and their generally compliant trades unions from their slumbers.

The Effective Tactic—Destabilization

If Parliament relies on demonstrations being forever peaceful, and therefore of no consequence so it can simply ignore them, it is making a big error, one it has often made before. The present situation is plain to anyone who thinks just a little. The rich get richer even when the country is, they tell us, broke. Only last week, Ireland had to go cap in hand for a large multibillion Euro loan to bail out its own banks. This week the Irish banks are handing out tens of millions in bonuses, just as British and US banks have done. The banks and their employers, the super rich financiers, gleefully put up two fingers to the world, while the people have to scratch about to pay their mortgages and rents, aye and taxes, if they can. That is why the students are angry, and why we all should be angry too. It is why we should support them and ignore the whingeing special pleading of the press and the broadcast media.

Listen! The richest 1 percent of the world’s population owns over $200 trillion. No need to guess where most of the 1 percent live. Maybe as little as 5 percent of this largess would solve the world’s economic problems, but Obama has just caved in to the rich man’s lobby in the US called the Republican Party, and most of the world’s leading developed countries have bailed out their banks while putting the burden of their empty treasuries on the people, not where it should be, on the minority who own as much as the rest put together. Governments ought to be joining together to ensure the rich are taxed and pay it.

Curiously many, the most intelligent among the rich, do not mind it as a temporary burden! Those rich people not among the “mindless” realize that their riches are most secure in a stable world, and corporate and financial greed is now destabilizing the world. That they do not like. It follows in all logic that the best way to get the rich to pay their fair share towards economic stability is to threaten instability. That is what “mindless” students are doing.