Friday, January 23, 2009

Afghanistan, Oil, Pipelines, and American interventionism, Obama-style

We're fighting in Afghanistan and along the Pakistani border because it is the front-line of the war on terror, right?

That's what President Obama assured us during the campaign, promising renewed attention to the conflict there, and an Iraq-like surge, while his Defense Secretary-to-be Robert Gates was assuring the Afghanis we'd be there for as many years as necessary to end terrorism and complete nation-building.

Of course, the fact that we've known for a couple of years that Afghanistan has ten times larger reserves of oil and natural gas than previously reported, or that China is interested in developing them, should we pull out, or even that Coalition military deployments often seem to be more interested in defending a US-financed pipeline than rooting out Al Qaeda are not significant, right?

These connections couldn't possibly explain why the Obama administration enters office committed to doubling down in Afghanistan, even if the price is foregoing any Iraq dividend for getting the hell out of Baghdad (which we may not be doing that fast, anyway, as the 16-month program is replaced by responsible military draw-down].

Now comes news that the new administration has received opposition leaders to Karzai government in an apparent initiative to intervene in internal Afghani politics to unseat the man we originally placed in power.

What, one might speculate, is the moral basis for the United States taking an active role in influencing elections in a supposedly sovereign, allied nation?

Here's what the AsiaTimes has to say:

On Tuesday, Karzai utilized the opening of the Afghan parliament's winter session in Kabul to criticize the United States-led coalition for its conduct of the war, its manner of bypassing his government as if it was inconsequential as a source of Afghan authority, its patronage of "warlords", the corruption and waste in its aid programs and its condoning of drug trafficking.

Karzai has good reasons to suspect that the Pentagon is urging that the war cannot be effectively fought as long as he remains at the helm of affairs in Kabul. The Pakistani military also has viewed with suspicion Karzai's close ties with New Delhi as well as his blunt criticism of Pakistan for its covert support and sponsorship of the Taliban.

With Afghan presidential elections due later in the year, Washington might have concluded that Karzai must be stopped from gaining a fresh mandate for another five-year term. At the same time, it suits US interests to create a new power equation in Kabul at the present juncture that would ensure that the new war strategy taking shape by April would be carried out by a solidly united team involving the coalition and the Afghan government. ...

Meanwhile, Karzai is making it clear to Washington that he will be no easy walkover. In an extraordinary statement last Wednesday at a specially convened United Nations Security Council debate on the "Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts", Afghan ambassador Zahir Tanin expressed "grave concern" over the killings of civilians by the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan and called for drawing up a "workable framework" to address the issue in "a spirit of open dialogue and cooperation".

Zahir put forth three specific measures in terms of which the US should: one, avoid taking recourse to air strikes as part of its anti-Taliban operations; two, conduct operations only in consultation with the Afghan government; and, three, operate with "cultural sensitivity", that is, "in conducting searches and arrests, avoid heavy handed tactics and operate with respect and minimal force. And where civilian casualties do occur, there should be apologies and accountability".

In real terms, what Kabul has done is raise with the UN its differences with the coalition forces which ostensibly operate under a UN Security Council mandate. Washington and Brussels would have preferred that such sensitive issues were not even brought before the UN Security Council, which may now demand accountability if it chooses.

Like the Iraqi government actually talking to Iran, one of the things that Karzai is doing that drives both the past and current administrations to distraction is actually conducting his own foreign policy by seeking closer ties to India:

Significantly, amid the heightened political tensions, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee paid a hurried visit to Kabul for a few hours on Wednesday evening. Karzai, who has kept close ties with India, visited New Delhi less than 10 days ago.

The factors that prompted the urgent consultations in Kabul between Karzai and Mukherjee remain a matter of speculation. The Indian side has been reticent about Mukherjee's visit, although it cannot escape notice that the intense India-Afghan dialogue at the top political level is taking place against the backdrop of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. New Delhi, no doubt, will be firmly against any US thinking regarding a "regime change" in Kabul. But the question is what New Delhi can substantially do to prevent it if Washington is bent on one.

What the United States is insisting upon--even under the new administration--is an overtly neo-colonialist strategy in relation to Afghanistan, in which we could be legitimately accused of extending our military presence there not to win the war on terror, but to monopolize access to a new source of fossil fuels, win an economic contest with China, and provide a springboard for a more interventionist role on the entire Indian subcontinent.

It is important to understand that the direct manipulation of the internal politics of client nations is not a particularly Republican or Democratic, liberal or conservative tactic: it is a particularly non-partisan American foreign policy strategy that has repeatedly blown up in our faces in places like the Philippines, Guatemaula, Honduras, El Salvador, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iran, Angola, and so on down a long list of countries....

The strategy exists because it benefits the bottom line of those major corporate interests, from oil to arms to cigarettes to construction, who use their influence with our government to mold foreign policy to provide them with captive markets abroad. Moreso than social security, the financial roots of American imperialism and neo-colonialism are the third rail of politics, since it is these corporations which fund the candidates of both major parties and the media that covers them.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you saw a Demopublican candidate discuss the extent to which the arms trade fostered by US corporations underwrites dozens of conflicts across the world, from Gaza to Darfur?

This, unfortunately, is not change that you can believe in: it appears to be American imperialism as usual.

1 comment:

muebles en cuenca said...

Well, I do not actually imagine it is likely to have success.