Thursday, April 19, 2012
Afghanistan At Home
Last week I was able to observe some of the top police brass doing what they do and it struck me how similar Community Policing is to Counterinsurgency. Both are methods used to control violence in fragmented multicultural areas by building trust and winning over tribal leaders in the hopes of lowering their group's participation in crime and terrorism while getting them to cooperate with the local forces and act as informants on the bad guys.
In Afghanistan it may be a matter of navigating the Pashtuns, Hazaras and Tajiks, and their various families, while in Brooklynbad, Al-Minneapolis or Londonistan it's Somalis, Turks and Lebanese, but it's still much the same game. The big brass, in coordination with local activists who claim to represent the community leadership, unveil a new strategy which involves lots of face time, aid and respect for the assorted cultures involved. The boys in blue or khaki fall in line, but know that it mostly comes down to having enough boots on the ground and hoping that the locals are afraid enough not to try anything big. We can of course withdraw from Afghanistan, send up the choppers in whirls of dust, ship the gear back home and trim down the military. And some of those ex-soldiers will go into local police forces and security companies where they will be doing the same thing they did back in Afghanistan, but with less firepower and more discretion, because while the people on the ground may be Pakistanis, Somalis or Iraqis, they have the right papers and are officially Americans or Europeans.
Withdrawing from Baghdad or Kabul is a snap compared to withdrawing from London or Los Angeles and even small towns are on the line. 3,000 Somalis showed up in Lewiston, Maine, pop. 36,000. Now Lewiston has nearly double the violent crime rate of the state average. In the Finnish town of Lieksa, it's the same story. Or in Shelbyville, Alabama. There are Little Mogadishus all over which share the problems of the big Mogadishu. The bigger they get, the bigger the problems get.
There was always a thin line between community policing and counterinsurgency, but the rise of domestic Muslim violence has nearly eliminated the line as the insurgency comes home. In Afghanistan soldiers look for IEDs, while back in London or New York their law enforcement colleagues search for bombs in cars and bus stations. Angry bearded mobs shake their fists and threaten death in London and Jalalabad. And uniformed men visit mosques, take off their shoes and discuss working together with the local leaders on stopping the violence.
The war has already come home and the only real tactic on tap is cultural sensitivity. Display enough of it and you'll win over the locals and if you win over the locals, they'll help you stop the violence. And along the way the eyes of the law have to be closed to some of their nastier habits, like beating their wives and killing their daughters. If they turn violent when a Koran is burned, then everything possible has to be done to prevent anyone from ever torching one or drawing an offensive cartoon or doing anything else to light the fuse.
The failure in Afghanistan is predictive of the failures in Europe and America, and vice versa, all the glowing visions of girls going to school and a participatory society giving way to tribal enclaves, violent explosions and blood feuds. The drug dealers pass by the mosque and the corner grocery, while the suicide bomber and the rapist have their atrocities sanctified by the black book of the Koran.
Despite all the best efforts and the fortunes plowed into the project, integration never seems to take off, though there are plenty of spokesmen for it. The violence never goes away, no matter how much outreach takes place or how many young men and community leaders are bribed with aid money. And the clock always seems to keep moving relentlessly to the midnight hour when the masks come off, the bombs go off and the cities burn.
In Afghanistan we discovered that three cups of tea don't work, but they also don't work in London or New York. There are plenty of cordial meetings and some tips do come in. A Taliban attack in Helmand province, a suicide bombing on the A train to Far Rockaway, are headed off. And the brass smile and exchange handshakes because it's working. But then next week three unreported attacks shake their faith. And the leaders they had three cups of tea with have a higher price this time because violence has become their asset, letting them take in money and support from both sides, while acting as intermediaries between the brass and the bombers.
How many deals did we cut with the Sunni insurgents who butchered Americans, how many briefcases full of money did we pass into the Sunni Triangle and to the moderate Taliban? How much money have we spent absorbing Somali, Iraqi and Pakistani immigrants? How much aid have they picked up? How much time have we spent servicing the ambitions of Iraqi and Afghan officials who were running terrorist networks aimed at us? How many CAIR officials have gotten entry into the White House and how many Muslim advisers do Europe's leaders really need?
Those aren't pretty questions, but while there are and will be countless books dedicated to exactly how we screwed up Iraq and Afghanistan, every dubious deal, every questionable arrangement, everyone that we should not have trusted and empowered, it is unlikely that similar histories will be written on how we lost London or Minneapolis. By then there will doubtfully be any historians left to write those histories, except the ones writing the history of the great conquest.
Whether we let the Taliban take over or the Muslim Brotherhood take over, it's much the same thing. There or here, our leaders allowed themselves to be sold a bill of goods wrapped in Burka and then made expedient concession after concession until nothing was left but to let the victors have their spoils. Each step in the process seemed eminently reasonable, a compromise that did not go too far, and always aimed for the moderate point on the compass. Like Zeno's Dichotomy Paradox, they imagined that they could keep meeting the other side halfway without ever crossing the line. What they did not understand was that the imaginary line they would not cross kept moving with them.
The worse the situation became, the more justifications they dug up, and them more they lashed out at their critics. Each failure was really a success and to make that failure into a success, they had to compromise more of what they had set out to achieve, until the village and the city had been destroyed to save it. Until Baghdad became London, Gaza became Jerusalem, and Afghanistan was everywhere.
The left with its critiques of the progress of the war never understood that there was a similar war going on at home. And that they were the ones fighting it and losing. That integration was their occupation, that their constant progress reports and success stories were a house of lies and that they compromised integration to stabilize the situation until all that was left was disintegration. The "Mission Accomplished" banner that they ridiculed so much flies over every Little Baghdad in every major Western city boasting of how well the latest batch from Somalia, Iraq and Pakistan are coming along. Any day now we won't even need a small army of police and surveillance cameras on every corner to police them.
What is the difference between Afghanistan and London? Is it the buildings and the names? Hardly. Names change all the time, just look at Constantinople and Istanbul, and the world is full of ruins left over from ancient civilizations that built some pretty impressive things. It's the people and the laws. When you get displace both, it's only a matter of time until London becomes Afghanistan. Calculating the point of transition is only a matter of plugging in the demographics and making an educated guess. But the time doesn't really matter. Calculating the trajectory of a bullet is more important than figuring out how long it will take to hit your face.
Counterinsurgency and community policing are both statements of failure. Counterinsurgency focuses on fighting an ideological war for the hearts and minds of an alien population against their own religious and national goals. Such a conflict is doomed from the start unless those goals are also attacked. Community policing is a concession that there is a tremendous gap between those doing the policing and those being policed. The only way to bridge that gap is to turn the policed into the police and that turns the remnants of law enforcement into tribal and religious police until runaway girls are returned home to their parents for the ceremonial honor killing by police who wear the uniform but whose first allegiance is to Islamic law.
Laws and governments derive from people, rather than vice versa. Change the people and you change both. Every system believes that it is capable of imposing its mindset on outsiders through the sheer power of its overwhelming rightness, but this only succeeds when their existing beliefs have been shattered. Then they are vulnerable to being reprogrammed and even then the new beliefs fall into the groove of the old pattern so that they become a third thing entirely. A blend of the old and new.
It is not Afghanistan or Pakistan that are being integrated into Europe and America, rather Europe and America are being integrated into Afghanistan and Pakistan. Muslim norms of behavior and thought are being imposed on the vulnerable minds of the West. The Clash of Civilizations has made far more Westerners doubt their way of life, than it has made Muslims doubt theirs. Despite several invasions, Muslims have held on to their territory, while Westerners are swiftly losing theirs, not just a few outlying territories, but their core cities which are being settled, transformed into Little Mogadishus and Londonistans.
What's the thought of losing Afghanistan compared to losing London? A withdrawal from the East End won't be nearly as tidy as from Kandahar and there is in the long run nowhere to withdraw to. Afghanistan is everywhere, it is in every hodgepodge of angry ghettos, manufacturing towns ripe with Kebab joints and mosques where the faithful curse the infidels and university graduates with oily smirks rub their bellies while they dub themselves lords, mayors and councilmen. The time when we might have won Afghanistan is past, and the time when we might win in London and New York is swiftly passing.