Mark Steyn Hates Afghan Babies

by Joshua Foust on 9/2/2009 · 4 comments

Much as I disagree with them, I will give the anti-war folks some credit: they stick to their guns, as it were, regardless of who is in the White House. The growing opposition to the war in Afghanistan is coming from the Left, with a growing number of conservatives realizing that now that a Democrat is in charge it’s high time they start being skeptical of American power again.

Sometimes, however, it goes just a touch too far. Mark Steyn has made a career out of assailing the West’s complacency in the face of the Great Muslim Menace, and used that menace as a basis for all kinds of expeditionary activity. Well, until a Democrat got into the White House. Now, Steyn says things like Britain’s policies toward Afghanistan in the 19th century were admirable and worth emulating:

The much misunderstood British strategy in Afghanistan was, by contrast, admirably clear-sighted, and worked (for them) for over a century. They took a conscious decision not to incorporate the country formally within the Indian Empire because they didn’t want a direct British land border with Russia. So instead they were content with a highly decentralized semi-client state and a useful buffer between the British Empire and the Tsars, a set-up that worked well (from London’s point of view) for over a century until it all fell apart in the Sixties when Moscow started outbidding the Brits for the loyalty of various factions — or what passes for loyalty in that part of the world.

The British strategy was cold and calculated and, if you care about Afghan child mortality rates and women’s rights, very unprogressive. But it was less deluded than asking Western troops to die in pursuit of the chimera of ending a “culture of poverty” while in reality providing multilateral window-dressing for the country’s slippage back to warlordism and sharia.

Yes, those pussies who care about Afghan child mortality and women. Steyn could have mentioned that Britain’s multiple forays into Afghanistan were unprogressive and bad for child mortality because they murdered thousands of children. The British attitude Afghanistan also brought its two most humiliating defeats it had ever seen, saw several of its embassies razed by angry mobs, and helped to inflame the Pashtuns of the Northwest.

He could also be honest and admit Britain had NO control over Afghanistan as a buffer state after 1919 (the third time the Brits fought a war with Afghanistan), and that in the 1960s it was America outbidding the Soviets in Afghanistan, not the other way around.

It’s crazy. He is so wrong about the history of Afghanistan, but so close to being right, it’s really hard to escape the conclusion that he is deliberately misrepresenting it… to argue against those damned progressives. Yes, how dare they have, you know, principles. He could try some.

Mark Steyn hates on those Democrats who felt the Iraq War in 2007 was going badly.

The networks could save themselves a lot of money by adopting the same approach: Run a continuous loop of a smoking building in Baghdad all night while thousands of congressmen and pundits and think-tankers and retired generals run around Washington shrieking that all is lost. America is way out of its league! A dimwitted tourist in a fearful land of strange people who don’t watch “American Idol.” Iraq is so culturally alien that not a single Sunni, Shia or Kurd has come forward claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole’s baby!

My, how times have changed.

See Also:
Ralph Peters (pdf) waits until a Democrat takes over to complain about an Afghan quagmire… after complaining about all the war virgins refusing to kill enough. Yuck.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Alex Visotzky September 2, 2009 at 7:08 am

Wow. Don’t most Brits look at their 19th century relationship with Afghanistan as a disaster? Regardless of the disaster for the Afghans, if I recall my history correctly, the entire British force in Afghanistan was massacred down to the last man as they withdrew in January 1842; hardly a model to emulate.

AJK September 2, 2009 at 4:57 pm

now now. To be fair to the British, the last man survived:

M Shannon September 2, 2009 at 7:34 am

The US can’t sort out it’s Mexican border, education system, inner cities, barrios and trailer parks. Why would anyone believe that US government officials could go to a country for a year where they can’t speak the language, no nothing of the culture and will spend most of their time hiding in a FOB and “fix” a country renowned for not wanting to be “fixed”.

The more you know about Afghanistan and importantly the nature of the western organizations tasked to sort it out is more pessimistic you should be.

Who has been here for awhile doesn’t have a trunk full of stories of DOS folks who have never left the base. Units without a clue what’s happening 2 miles down the road. Government organizations and contractors working on the same problem in the same place who don’t know about each other for years on end. Rifle companies besieged in FOBs protecting gravel. Full op orders and brigade vetting to go 400m down the road to another FOB. Officers who cannot explain their commander’s intent or the mission. Death by power point by people who have never talked to an Afghan….

Our governments have assigned their armies and diplomatic corps a tremendously difficult task and they aren’t up to it. No one is. It is hubris and folly to think this can end well.

Ex 18A September 2, 2009 at 9:23 am

If I recall correctly from history, one individual made it out of the 1842 Afghanistan Kyber Pass debacle without capture: Dr. William Brydon, who straggled into Jalalabad on a horse, which later died. Additionally, a few men of the 44th Foot survived the slaughter at Gandamack, and were taken prisoner. And of course, the hostages previously taken by Akbar Khan, such as Lady Florentia Sale, the wife of General Robert Sale, who was ensconced in Jalalabad at the time, also survived.

I hardly think one has to be of the far left to have principled and practical opposition to the war in Afghanistan–think of Andrew Bacevich. Any old soldier with a knowledge of history as well as the kinds of problems at home that M Shannon has recounted could tell you that the entire enterprise has been madness, mostly economic, but also political and social. If imperial neoconservatives now want to hide under the cover of true conservatism, that’s their business.

Ralph Peters is truly a pompass. I may have mentioned in an earlier post that I did an intelligence course with him in the mid-80s at Fort Huachuca when we both were Captains. He was just as much a pompass then as he is now. It’s just that now he has a bigger audience for his bile.

There is no rational, practical, or moral justification for Afghanistan, no less true for Afghanistan than for the idiocy of Iraq.

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