The Worst Afghanistan Analysis I Have Ever Read

BY Herschel Smith
12 years, 1 month ago

Now comes the worst Afghanistan analysis I have ever read.  Quoth Michael Hughes:

General David Petraeus, in a rare public show of indecorum, last week suggested that corruption has been a part of Afghan culture since the country came into existence, which is a sentiment that is not only, from a historical and anthropological perspective, wholly ignorant, but one that exposes intentions on the General’s part that seem both dubious as well as misplaced.

Reason being is that Petraeus is a smart guy – one doubts he seriously subscribes to the notion that corruption is some inherently Afghan deformity, especially considering a cursory reading of history informs that prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979 jobbery was no worse in Afghanistan than it was in the United States (when, odds are, graft was worse in Chicago than Kabul). Most embarrassing for Petraeus to look at is the direct role the U.S. played in corrupting Afghan society. So, not only is it false that the country was always this way, the reality is the U.S. has helped transform Afghanistan into one of the most corrupt places on the planet.

Unfortunately, it seems Petraeus was simply trying to protect the good name of Afghanistan’s top criminal, President Hamid Karzai – subtly painting Mr. Karzai as a victim awash in a culture of venality when the truth is that the Karzai family has sunk Afghan society to unparalleled depths of libidinous fraud, nepotism and extortion.

The General apparently believes he needs Karzai intact so he can execute a more seamless exit strategy, which doesn’t make sense because Petraeus’s counterinsurgency doctrine depends on winning the support of the local populace, which is mission impossible with Karzai as head of state.

For surely Petraeus must realize, as outlined in a new white paper by the New World Strategies Coalition, that not only was Afghanistan less corrupt during the forty-year reign of King Zahir Shah, a run that began in the 1930s and ended in the early 1970s, but the Afghan people also enjoyed unprecedented peace, stability, prosperity and progressive social reform. That type of society seems like ancient folklore in light of today’s conditions.

The before and after snapshots are mind-blowing, illustrating a near incogitable contrast between an Afghanistan that was free from external interventions versus an Afghanistan that is occupied and manipulated by foreign powers that have marginalized, weakened and corrupted centuries-old indigenous tribal institutions and value systems. One is challenged to find another example of a society that has experienced such dramatic economic, political, technological and cultural regression in such a short time period.

The state had been erected upon lessons learned through centuries trying to maintain peace within an insular acephalous tribal society with a penchant for infighting and was most functional when it resembled a “loose” confederation in which legislative and judicial powers were pushed down to the local level – a concept analogous to America’s states’ rights.

Good Lord!  Good Lord!  So much to cover, so little time.  I cannot possibly address all of the misconceptions and concept and word twisting.  Let me briefly address only a few.

Here we see the blame game at work.  Evil has to have an origin, a nexus, and is so bad that it must have someone to blame.  Enter evil American imperialism.  We have discussed American imperialism before, and Robert Kaplan’s first chapter to “Imperial Grunts” (Injun Nation), which all educated analysts must read.  There are deeper issues concerning the ethics and morality of defending the homeland abroad that should be considered in order to be complete and responsible in our analysis, such as the notion of Good Wars.  There is so much to consider, and so little time. Alas.

But dumbing this down to finding a boogie man that makes everything else bad is silly and ludicrous.  Mankind – all mankind – has fallen short of the glory of God.  All mankind is fallen, all mankind is sinful.  There is no noble savage, no such thing as the pristine, unmolested man who is corrupted by outside influences, whether American or Afghani.

The heart of man is the wellspring of death.  It cannot be attributed to a state, a plan, a person, a persona, or a place.  No amount of money causes good or bad.  Money can be used to provide medical care, or largesse to corrupt.  Guns can be used to defend women and children, or kill them.  Military materiel can be used to eject evil Soviet aggression against a hapless state, or cut off the heads of women who refuse to cooperate in their own abuse and subjugation.  Things are what the theologians call adiaphourous.  They are neither good nor bad.  Man is what puts them to use.

Genesis 8:21, Jeremiah 17:9, Ecclesiastes 9:3, Romans 3:11 and many other passages show that it is man who is the nexus and conduit of evil in the world.  Michael Hughes doth imagine a devil around every corner, or at least, the corner of America.  Michael needs only to look at the hearts of the people who perpetrate evil against others.  They’re everywhere, Michael, not just in America.


  1. On December 15, 2010 at 12:22 pm, Jim Spiri said:

    This is a strong statement Herschell, one that I do feel you are on the right track on. I am very concerned that all that is being done is about an exit strategy which bothers me to core of my being. Win now, or leave now is my current thinking at the moment.

  2. On December 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm, TS Alfabet said:

    And let’s not forget perhaps the most important aspect of evil in the world: the free will of Man to choose between good and evil.

    Without plunging into the riptide of Calvinism, I would hazard that free will is the nexus where God’s sovereignty and Human responsibility meet.

    Like spoiled teenagers, we want all of the benefits of making our own choices but whine loudly when we make choices that carry negative consequences. God expects us to exercise free will responsibly and face up to the consequences, both good and bad.

    I wonder whether there has ever been a nation in world history like the U.S. that has sought to not simply act in its own blatant self-interest, but actually do positive good whenever and wherever it can. In Afghanistan, for example, the U.S. could have obliterated the Taliban in 2001 and left the country in a smoldering ruin. That would have served U.S. interests quite well in many respects. Instead, the U.S. has poured tens of billions of dollars into A-stan on humanitarian projects. Sure, the U.S. hopes that these projects endear the population to U.S. goals, but there is no denying that Americans are absolutely motivated by altruistic ideals and genuinely seek the good of the population. Read virtually any, unbiased account of U.S. forces in A-stan or Iraq and one, inescapable impression is of the sheer goodness of the American soldier and Marine toward even hostile populations. Americans are rightfully proud when we save a country from despotism and tyranny (WWI, WWII, Korea, Kuwait, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan) and we are ashamed when we fail to act (Uganda, Sudan).

    The America-haters, of which there are many, would do well to consider what type of world would exist without the basic goodness of America, i.e., if America only and always acted strictly in its national interest, or withdrew into a shell (as some now, fashionably advocate). A world dominated by Russia or China or a Neo Caliphate would be a far worse place for everyone.

  3. On December 15, 2010 at 9:16 pm, Michael Hughes said:

    So, there is no truth to the fact that before Soviet/U.S./Pakistan/Saudi interference in Afghan affairs Afghan society was in a much better state than it is today? Since the 1950s the CIA infiltrated Afghanistan via the Asia Foundation to help flame pan-Islamic fundamentalism. Read Invisible History by Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald. America’s hands are dirtier than anyone wants to believe.

  4. On December 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm, Michael Hughes said:

    When the Soviet Union crossed their southern border and invaded Afghanistan at Christmas of 1979, few outside the national security establishment of the major western capitals understood the game of deception at play. Dramatized as the greatest threat to peace since World War II by President Jimmy Carter, Afghanistan rolled the clock back thirty years on U.S./Soviet relations, justified the largest buildup of American force since World War II and paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s “conservative revolution” that changed the face of the American economy and its politics.

    Absent from the news media coverage of Afghanistan throughout the 1980’s and after was any hint that Afghanistan had for years been at the center of a multinational intrigue that saw the United States and its allies (known by insiders as the Chinese-Iranian-Pakistani-Arabian peninsula Axis) plotting to undermine Afghanistan’s sovereignty while using it as a stepping stone for control of Central Asia.

    Following the events of September 11, 2001 Afghanistan would again drastically shift the foundation of American politics, while advancing a foreign policy devoted to endless war and military budgets even larger and more ruinous than those of the 1980’s.

    As told by the first Americans to pierce the media blackout surrounding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1981, our book reveals the shocking story of how American policy transformed Afghanistan from a Cold War buffer state into a secure multi-billion dollar technological training base for Islamic terrorism while setting the stage for a privatized heroin industry of historic proportions. The true story of how America’s policy makers undermined American security from within, Invisible History, Afghanistan’s Untold Story provides the sobering facts and details that every American should have known about America’s secret war, but were never told

  5. On December 16, 2010 at 5:14 am, Khalil Nouri said:

    I have a fundamental difference with the author to this article.
    It is sad that many Afghan analysts may not have the grasp of exact history prior invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets.

    This article linked below should clear every disagreement in this forum.

  6. On December 16, 2010 at 5:17 am, Khalil Nouri said:

    Sorry wrong link above.
    Here is the right one:

  7. On December 16, 2010 at 9:33 am, Dave said:

    Hughes is a classic leftist conspiracy theorist. I knew many like him in college. All fingers point toward the U.S. military or the ‘military industrial complex’, which is a dead giveaway.

    Hughes’s first mistake is to fail to unravel Petraeus’s comment about Afghan corruption as a difference in perspective from the U.S. ‘lily white’ view of corruption as any improper influence of meritocratic free markets (outside Chicago, as he correctly notes), versus the more liberal view of payments and gifts in other cultures. Petraeus directs his comments to an American audience, who would rightly consider Afghan to have ‘always been subject to corruption’ by their own defintion of corruption. Would the Afghans agree that baksheesh has always been a part of the culture, to a greater or lesser extent? They might disagree with labeling it as corruption, but only because cultural differences shaded the limits of the definition from place to place.

    Understanding this, then, which I note is only common sense and does not come from high-minded academic analysis, Hughes’s knee-jerk cry of racism and hypersensitivity seem mysterious. Hughes is not stupid, so this more reasonable and more plausible explanation could not have been lost on him. However, without the hysterics about Petraeus’s remark, his next logical blunder would have been catastrophically obvious.

    Hughes’s second mistake is his black and white contrast between the kite-flying Afghan people prior to American involvement (which is described elsewhere as ‘imperialist AmeriKKKan aggression’) and the depraved remnants of a once-proud culture left in the wake of American contact with foreign soil. Hughes knows he is, at best, stretching the truth to contrast shades of grey so strongly, and therefore he offers up a ‘white paper’ by ‘New Strategies World Coalition’ as evidence in support of his ludicrous statement. NSWC is likely composed of the same people involved in a dozen other organizations of roughly the same temperament that promote each other and make a half-dozen comrades appear larger and more influential than they are.

    Finally, Hughes cannot simultaneously claim a coherent ‘Afghan society’ has regressed in ‘such a short time period’ as though Afghanistan has such a thing as a unitary society, at the same time he notes its ‘acephalous tribal society’ as a centuries-old identity, which then points to great variety and diversity among various tribes and locales in Afghanistan.

    I could keep digging but Mr. Hughes saved me the trouble by posting a comment that validates everything I have said and further exposes his nuttiness for what it is. He is not an analyst – he is a hyperbolist whose script was written before Petraeus spoke.

  8. On December 16, 2010 at 10:52 pm, Michael Hughes said:

    King David- And you are not extreme at all, are you? I am sorry I posted anything actually – I just realized this site is run by right-wing conservative Christian fundamentalists. I wouldn’t expect any rationale thought whatsoever. Mr. David- your “analysis” is nothing but personal insults with absolutely no substance. Whatever you think of my opinionated piece – and it was an op ed – at least I have facts to validate. The white paper that you dismiss without even reading is a shining example Of YOUR knee-jerk judgmental mindset. Your rationale in defense of Petraeus’s comment is one of the most mind-boggling things I’ve heard – you must have hurt yourself straining to come up with that garbage (ok – insult I know but your statements speak for themselves). And, you don’t SEEM like a total dolt – so I wonder if you truly believe this bunk or are simply toeing the partyline yourself.

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You are currently reading "The Worst Afghanistan Analysis I Have Ever Read", entry #5883 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Religion,Religion and Insurgency and was published December 15th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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