Talk Now With the Taliban (We're Going to End Up Having to Talk With Them Anyhow)

You had to love the headline the Philadelphia Inquirer put on the jump
page of columnist Trudy Rubin's Sunday commentary about word that the
Obama administration is hoping to talk with at least some mid-level
Taliban leaders about giving up the fight and "coming over" to the
"government" side.

"Relax--No deal with Taliban is Imminent," the headline
read. "I suggest everyone take a deep breath," Rubin wrote. "The US
position toward talks with the Taliban has shifted somewhat, but no
deal with top Taliban leaders is imminent, or even likely."

Phew! Thank god for that! Imagine Americans actually
sitting down and discussing peace just as we're getting a good war on!

Fortunately, say Rubin and other journalists with good
Washington connections (Rubin has for years been a big promoter of Gen.
David Petraeus), America is only interested in talking with "low and
mid-level Taliban" whom it hopes to "wean away" to our side with offers
of jobs and money.

But really, what is the problem with actually negotiating with the real leaders?

It's clear that this talk of limited talking with
lower-level Taliban grunts is an act of desperation by a US side that
recognizes that it is losing the war. The Taliban are not running from
the fight as American forces ramp up with Obama's escalation of troops
and mercenaries. They are taking the battle to the US, with coordinated
attacks right in Kabul, open firefights with US troops in the field,
and increasingly brazen attacks all over the country.

The idea that the US doesn't negotiate with its enemies is
one of those stupid "We're Number One!" mantras born of the World War
II experience. There, the US and its allies refused to negotiate with
the clearly defeated Axis powers. Germany was bombed into ruins and
simply overrun by the US and its allies, including the Soviet Union
marching from the east. Japan was not allowed to surrender. Its efforts
to negotiate a settlement were brushed off by Washington so the US
could vaporize two of Japan's cities with its new A-bombs, firebomb
Tokyo, and then accept a total surrender.

Since that time, total victory has been the model for
American war making, except that of course there have been some big
exceptions. The US ended up in a stalemate against North Korea and its
ally China, and had to negotiate a cease-fire in place, which continues
to this day. And of course in Vietnam, a war the US lost, it ended up
having to negotiate its way out before its own forces were overrun.

The Afghanistan situation would appear to be closer to
Vietnam than to Korea. There is no way the country can be divided up
into a Taliban sphere and a US puppet-run sphere. First of all, the
Taliban have the support of most of the Pashtun ethnic group, which is
the largest by far in the country. Second, there is no "government"
side--just a bunch of tribal groups and a US puppet regime--hugely
corrupt and actually more of a mob than a government, that controls the
capital of Kabul and a few other large towns.

The Taliban have already proven that they can defeat a
foreign army--the Russians--who had more troops in their fight than the
US will have even after Obama's escalation is complete. And they know
they are winning.

So it really isn't in our interest to say we won't talk
with what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls "the really bad
guys" in the Taliban.

Of course we'll talk with them--eventually. We'll have to,
so we can extract our troops in an orderly fashion and claim to the
American people that we have won "peace with honor." The alternative
would be to have to rush them out with the enemy hounding them as they
leave, tail between legs.

Look for it. At some point, after enough young Americans
have been killed or had their body parts blown off, after the country
has spent one or two or three hundred billion dollars on the effort,
after an increasingly frustrated military has cranked up the
terrorizing and slaughter of innocent Afghanis as much as it can get
away with, President Obama or whoever replaces him in the White House
in 2012, will have to call for peace talks. Then there will be the
inevitable debate for months about the shape of the table, with the US
insisting that one side be reserved for the puppet regime of Hamid
Karzi, or whatever leader the CIA installs after Karzai is finally
assassinated or maneuvered into exile in Switzerland--in order to
preserve the illusion that there is an Afghan government side. And
finally there will be the announcement of a power-sharing agreement, in
which the Taliban will be given half the ministries, and Taliban forces
will be merged into the national army.

The remaining US forces (our NATO "allies" will by this
point be long gone) will then climb aboard their C-5 and C-17
transports and fly home and, after a brief respite, the Taliban will
toss out the old puppet leadership and just take over control of the

What is so depressing about all this, is it could all be accomplished right now, with no more killing and being killed.

In fact, it makes so much more sense to do it now. If the
US were, at this point, to call for talks with "the bad guys" at the
top of the Taliban, it could negotiate a deal that would include
carrots in the form of aid and reconstruction that could indeed lure
the Taliban away from any global terrorist organizations that might
want to seek their allegiance and assistance. It might take a little
doing--after all the US has been aggressively trying to kill these very
leaders using its ubiquitous Predator drones, and many of them have
lost close family members to those drone attacks. But at least there
would be the chance of reaching some accommodation that would allow
Afghanistan to start to recover from its decades-long nightmare of war
and occupation. More war and more killing would merely mean that when
the Taliban finally do drive the US out, they will be further
embittered, further radicalized, and further filled with vengeance.

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