Winners Lose

The situation in Afghanistan is serious. We're getting "out-governed" by an enemy so ruthless it's bringing services to a desperate people ignored by the legitimate government we installed.

But our
eight-year quagmire . . . excuse me, war . . . can still be won, says
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in that
country, who recently completed a review of the situation: "Success,"
he commented, "is achievable and demands a revised implementation
strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort."

Before I
salute crisply and shout "yes, sir!" I'd like to quote from an essay by
Robert E. Draper called "Keys to Real Success - Going Beyond 'Winning'
and 'Losing' in Business With a Positive Attitude." I'm stuck, see, on
the concept of "winning" this war, because human intelligence has
mostly moved beyond this concept in every area of life except
international relations, which remains a multi-trillion-dollar global
bastion of Bronze Age thinking.

"It is
important," writes Draper, "to first realize that success, as most
businesspeople know it, is always trailed by the shadow of the fear of
failure and, therefore, is not real success at all. That's because real
success cannot be found in a 'winning' that includes a potential for
loss. . . .

"To succeed
at work requires adopting the mindset . . . of good card players," he
goes on. "Like them, you play not for occasional fits of excitement,
but to survive. This requires that you give long-range thinking
priority in your mind, and that you never perceive a current gain that
will be trailed by a long-term loss to be acceptable or even

let's jump now to a refugee camp in Kabul, where journalist Norman
Solomon introduces us to a 7-year-old girl named Guljumma Khan, who
lost her arm in a U.S. bombing raid, and whose father has gotten
nowhere trying to get redress or the least support from the United
States, the United Nations or the Afghan government to obtain medical
assistance for her or take care of his family.

Solomon writes, "Basics like food arrive at the camp only
sporadically." The girl's father "pointed to a plastic bag containing a
few pounds of rice. It was his responsibility to divide the rice for
the 100 families" in the refugee camp.

the U.S. government willing to really help Guljumma, who now lives each
day and night in the squalor of a refugee camp?" asks Solomon. "Is the
government willing to spend the equivalent of the cost of a single
warhead to assist her?"

speaking, what to do is remarkably obvious, graspable by virtually
every human being on the planet, even, I believe, U.S. Defense
Secretary Robert Gates. When pressed by reporters following news of the
McChrystal report's completion, Gates said, according to Reuters, that
"any recommendation for more forces would have to address his concerns
that the foreign military presence in Afghanistan could become too
large and be seen by Afghans as a hostile occupying force."

There are
103,000 U.S./NATO troops in Afghanistan now; the country has been
bombed (15,000 tons and counting) and occupied for eight years, with
maybe 8,000 civilians killed in the process (God knows how many wedding
parties bombed and strafed), many more injured and displaced - and the
U.S. secretary of defense feels we're pushing the limits of Afghan
tolerance. Up the troop ante and they'll think we're a hostile presence.

Well, Team
Bush never equivocated in its Bronze Age ferocity. Maybe, I initially
thought, Gates' flicker of intelligent uncertainty - his feint in the
direction of sanity - can be counted as progress, not by the desperate
and starving Afghans, perhaps, but by the Obama voting base. So far,
this is the extent of the "change" and "hope" we've gotten from his
administration in the ongoing, disastrous wars of choice he inherited.

Because the
Taliban, with a counter-agenda to advance, is incorporating a
hearts-and-minds approach into its strategy for victory, the U.S. and
NATO are grasping that they have to do likewise. So, on second thought,
it's probably not moral progress at all, just further evidence that
anonymous geocorporate interests control international relations.

When our
leaders, even those who promise peace, sit in the driver's seat of war,
they surrender their ordinary humanity - their consciences - and assume
the mindset and agenda of those anonymous interests. In Afghanistan,
this agenda includes regional dominance, the flow of oil (the pipeline)
and, as with every war, the stoking of the military economy. This is
what "winning" in Afghanistan really means - armless 7-year-olds be
damned - and McChrystal is right. It's still possible. Even probable.

commands debate on its own terms. Read or listen to the mainstream
coverage: It conveys the details of war in a context devoid of moral
intelligence. Yet for ordinary humanity, wars can never be "won." They
can only be ended and, ultimately, transcended.

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