October 09, 2004

Homage to Afghanistan

I recall a phrase uttered about a month after 9/11 -- I found it in Nexis, from a CBS Evening News Broadcast on October 9, 2001 -- well, let's hear it from the horses mouth:

CBS (Phillips) added, "Success and frustration reported by returning pilots today. Success in hitting some targets, including Taliban MiG jet fighters on the ground. The Taliban air force never posed much of a threat. It poses even less threat now. After just two nights of bombing, many planes of the USS Enterprise return to the carrier with full payloads. Some have had their missions extended to more than six hours, double the normal flight time; refueled again and again as they searched for targets. They're not easy to find when the adversary has little in the way of conventional infrastructure -- bases, fuel and ammunition dumps -- to hit. . The term used is asymmetrical warfare -- the Goliath of the US Navy trying to hit the David of Osama bin Laden's terrorists and his Taliban supporters. And in Afghanistan, this campaign may have already reached the point of making the rubble bounce."

(via Nexis -- sorry, no link). Leave aside the idiocy of the comparison of bin Laden to David (er ... was CBS woefully ignorant of Biblical symbolism? Implying a subtext?), and consider for a moment that the war on terror was already on the verge of failure a mere two days after it started. Make the rubble bounce. As if that were all there were in Afghanistan, and that were all we could accomplish. As if there weren't something of value there, something worth fighting for...

Had the U.S. Navy's planes been the sole weapon at our disposal, then CBS would have been right. But we had far more weapons than that, chief among them, the Afghan people. From a Washington Post editorial dated Nov. 18, 2001:

Never underestimate people's desire to live freely: This is a lesson we seem to have to relearn every time. When the United States began its intervention, some military experts warned of likely defeat, citing the Soviet misfortune. Other experts pointed to factors distinguishing the two wars: The United States was not seeking to occupy the nation; the Taliban, unlike the anti-Soviet, CIA-backed mujaheddin, would receive no support from surrounding nations.

Few, though, highlighted what may have been an essential difference: that the Soviet Union was seeking to impose an unwanted form of rule, while the United States was liberating Afghans from repression. It's always dangerous to attribute views to a large population, especially of a country without democracy, but initial reports from Kabul and elsewhere suggest many Afghans are delighted to be casting off their veils, shaving their beards, flying kites, listening to music and speaking freely. Many seem grateful for U.S. intervention, not angry over bombs dropped on their country.

That desire would not have been met -- first and foremost, it is true, by U.S. military power, strategy and tactics, but secondly, by Afghan fighters (particularly the Northern Alliance) who fought by our side, in some cases alone, to liberate their country from the barbaric Taliban. (American Digest offers us a graphic history lesson as to the difference between them. Also, note that I don't write much here about politics, but I will say this -- I find it a little disconcerting that one of the two major party candidates feels the need to denigrate Afghans as part of his talking points -- "Here's looking down at you!" it seems to scream out.)

So today, amidst petty squabbling and what not, the Afghans' took another momentous step toward freedom:

AFGHANISTAN has proven skeptics wrong yesterday. The people there have won the first round when the presidential election saw massive participation of voters.

I could not have put it better myself.

Posted by Ideofact at October 9, 2004 11:25 PM

I wonder if the CBS reporter was thinking of Saul hunting David, with the dual subtexts that David never hurt Saul and that David eventually replaced Saul. (Nah, he's probably not that literate. These're certainly popular themes in the MidEast though: "No Moslem would do such a thing as 911.")

Posted by: James at October 11, 2004 11:24 AM

Perhaps the true David and Goliath story is that of the Afghan people themselves.

Although it's not a perfect matchup--there were lots of airplanes and ground-pounders wearing the stars and stripes involved--they were the little people who pulled through to an unexpected victory.

Posted by: steve h at October 11, 2004 08:12 PM