Another Proxy for Imperial Preemption

As has been reported and discussed at length here at Antiwar.com, the national security establishment, in conjunction with the Obama administration and surely whatever succeeds it, is planning on an essentially permanent U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Secret negotiations leaked to the Guardian revealed U.S. plans to remain for decades under a broad security agreement. This was corroborated by Hamid Karzai who spoke publicly about a U.S. presence long after the 2014 date of “full withdrawal.” And now after Obama’s announcement of a minor, gradual, and incomplete draw-down, military leaders are complaining it was too drastic. These are relatively clear signs.

But one fundamental motivation behind the American strategy to maintain a military capacity in Afghanistan is to fight proxy wars with Pakistan. A podcast with New Yorker staff writers Steve Coll and Dexter Filkins provided some fresh analysis:

Steve Coll: I do think the endgame that they’re headed toward, the one they’re planning for anyway, their hope, for American deployments and strategy in Afghanistan after the troop withdrawal is completed in 2014 is rooted basically in retaining a counter-terrorism capacity in Afghanistan, one that would be rooted, the hope is, in adequate Afghan political institutions and security forces. But the American purpose, besides maintaining some good enough Afghan stability, the American purpose would be to maintain a strike capability to go into Pakistan, in particular, when necessary, so that if an opportunity like the one that presented itself in Abbottabad were to resurface, or if Pakistan were to fall further apart and present international threats out of the [sic] of its continuing civil conflicts, that the United States would be close enough to do something about it militarily.

Much of the realist analysis about how the Obama administration is pursuing a military campaign, engaging in a war, that does not present a clear and present danger to the American people or interests may be missing the point. The Obama administration is likely to have a full understanding of the fact that, in isolation, our war in Afghanistan is wasteful and unnecessary. But to be able to use Afghanistan as a proxy in any potential fight or singular operation in Pakistan, may just be worth impoverishing ourselves, letting die Americans in uniform, and continuing to wreak insufferable terror on the Afghan people.

Proxy wars are practically a pastime in American foreign policy. From our bases and troops in South Korea, to our NATO deployments throughout Europe, to our base in Honduras while we terrorized Nicaragua in the Contra war, to bases in Saudi Arabia, to fight the Gulf War and in Kuwait to fight Gulf War 2, to Uzbekistan in the early 2000’s, just north of Afghanistan when Afghanistan itself was a bigger priority. Proxies are an important part of imperial policy; they assist in controlling the world and dominating states from many strategic places, as opposed to simply from Washington.

This in part explains U.S. negotiations with the Taliban, which have been rather counter-intuitive for the American public. The U.S. doesn’t care if the brutal, extremist Taliban have control over various provinces in Afghanistan; we don’t mind the backwardness and harshness with which they rule (contrary to rhetoric). So long as any Afghan government is subservient to U.S. wishes to maintain permanent military capacity, the U.S. is happy.

The tribal areas of Pakistan, representing a threat to American hegemony, are what Americans need to keep in mind when considering Obama’s policy in Afghanistan. In isolation, Afghanistan is as meaningless as it seems.

  • Jay

    You're looking in the wrong direction. The occupation of Afghanistan is to close the circle around Iran in aid of Israel. It is possible that a military base in Afghanistan might be useful if Pakistan collapses, but the real reason for our occupation of Afghanistan is to provide an additional route into Iran along with that provided by bases in Iraq, not to mention bases to the north like Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, and bases to the south like Camp Justice at Diego Garcia. Containment redux.

  • The war in Afghanistan has never been meaningless. Administrations may lie about our purpose but there are reasons for the war. One reason is the close proximity of the Caspian Basin which is rich in oil. The Caspian Basin became important with the collapse of Communist Russia with many nations eager to reap its bounty. There are other reasons for our war there, legitimate or not, and while the war is meaningless to Americans who gain nothing from such wars the same thing cannot be said for the military-industrial-complex. But most of all Americans just like to kill things, especially brown people. In the end it is the violence and the chaos that matter most.

    • Jay

      "…most of all Americans just like to kill things, especially brown people."

      For students of this kind of hate speech, this is known as an element of the Anti-White Narrative. It is a puff of air that is undocumented without evidence, printed with the utmost malice, simply to silence the discussion. I suspect that Rob Payne is motivated to support the encirclement of Iran, so his natural impulse will be to use gutter language to try to end the discussion.

  • Oh dear me, poor widdle americans. Did I pick on you? It was just the other month when I was accused of being racist against blacks because I said really bad things about poor Obama. Still, if I was really conspiring to silence the discussion it certainly didn't stop you. Oh well. "Printed with the utmost malice." That's good, keep up the fine work, we are one with you and your cause!

  • Walter Cole

    And just who is happy about these new bases? The bankers, the military industry and the enemy. Isn´t this what Reagan supposedly did to the Soviet Union, spend them into their collapse? It seems our enemy, that evil band of cave duelers that has never officially exceeded 200, has learned well from one of our nations heroes. How proud Reagan would be to see his stategy being so successfully used against the only world power and by such a tiny enemy.

  • Wootie Berster

    Iran? Sure, Iran. But Iran is just another block in the encirclement of Russia. Israel and her friends may well be focused on subduing a threat to Israel, but the PTB are interested in something beyond that: they are interested in subduing the last great impediment to their dream of global dominance.