Monday, August 2nd, 2010...8:14 am

It’s Complicated

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One of the more annoying currently popular phrases is “I’m in a relationship . . . but it’s complicated.” This particular banality, popularized perhaps by a movie, seems to be roughly translated as: “I’m desperate for a relationship, so I’m involved with someone who is either already married or mentally ill, or both.”

The phrase comes to mind on the global scale in light of the “Afghanistan papers” released by WikiLeaks.

My generation had the “Pentagon Papers,” which exposed two decades of American duplicity in Vietnam. For Frank Rich’s “Kiss This War Goobye” in the Sunday New York Times, the WikiLeaks release does not tell us anything new, except that it reinforces what a majority of Americans feel: Time to wind this thing down. Rich also notes that when the Pentagon Papers were first released by the Times Americans were distracted by more important things, like the wedding of President Nixon’s daughter. People only started to pay attention when Nixon tried to censor the publication of subsequent documents. Now my generation is running the show in Afghanistan.

There is no question in the mind of any sane person that the George W. Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress utterly “misaccomplished” the mission in Afghanistan, which David E. Sanger analyzes in “Rethinking a War’s What-Ifs” : “As recently as two years ago there was still debate in Washington over whether George Bush had fumbled the strategy in Afghanistan and vastly underestimated the resources needed there. Today there is virtually no debate: Liberals and conservatives, generals and even many Bush administration policymakers agree that American approach was seriously flawed for the first six or seven years.”

But it’s complicated, as Thomas L. Friedman observes on the same pages of the Times. In “The Great (Double) Game” Friedman notes:

China supports Pakistan, seeks out mining contracts in Afghanistan and lets America make Afghanistan safe for Chinese companies, all while smiling at the bloody nose America is getting in Kabul because anything that ties down the U.S. military makes China’s military happy. America, meanwhile, sends its soldiers to fight in Afghanistan at the same time that it rejects an energy policy that would begin to reduce our oil consumption, which indirectly helps to fund the very Taliban schools and warriors our soldiers are fighting against.

But wait. It’s more complicated still:

This double game goes back to 9/11. That terrorist attack was basically planned, executed and funded by radical Pakistanis and Saudis. And we responded by invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Why? The short answer is because Pakistan has nukes that we fear and Saudi Arabia has oil that we crave.

These two deeply flawed boyfriends manage their own internal psycho-political landscapes with their own “complicated” relationships:

The Pakistani Army is obsessed with what it says is the threat from India — and keeping that threat alive is what keeps the Pakistani Army in control of the country and its key resources. . . . Saudi Arabia is built around a ruling bargain between the moderate al-Saud family and the Wahhabi fundamentalist establishment: The al-Sauds get to rule and the Wahhabis get to impose on their society the most puritanical Islam — and export it to mosques and schools across the Muslim world, including to Pakistan, with money earned by selling oil to the West.

But our own neediness gets in the way of healthy geo-political alliances:

So we pay Pakistan to help us in Afghanistan, even though we know some of that money is killing our own soldiers, because we fear that just leaving could lead to Pakistan’s Islamists controlling its bomb. And we send Saudi Arabia money for oil, even though we know that some of it ends up financing the very people we are fighting, because confronting the Saudis over their ideological exports seems too destabilizing. (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.)

Oil junkies. We’re in a relationship . . . but it’s complicated.

1 Comment

  • How much longer until we’re out of oil and they have to find something new to posture over?

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