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Bob's World
03-13-2011, 01:53 PM
As I read through this entire document yet again, I decided we really need to put this up on the virtual wall of the SWJ and use it to guide a discussion about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan.

In particular, look to the long list of charges at the bottom of the document. These are the specific allegations of the American people to the their King in England to support their charges of Despotism and Tyranny that in turn was triggering a god-given duty and right in the American people to rise up in insurgency.

As you look at this list, try to do so from the perspective of that segment of the Afghan populace not represented by the Northern Alliance. Additionally, as this document was prepared by the elite leadership of that segment of the populace, consider this most closely from the perspective of the Taliban leadership in exile in Pakistan.

Most Afghans feel represented by the Northern Alliance-based GIRoA; just as most American colonists felt represented by the King and his system of colonial governance. This is a Declaration made by a minority who perceived their situation to oppressive and to have no legal recourse to address those perceptions left to them.

So, again, focus on the list of complaints from that Afghan perspective, and lets pull out and discuss those that seem disturbingly as true (if not more so) in Afghanistan today under the Karzai government than was the case in the American colonies under King George.

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
hen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bob's World
03-13-2011, 02:03 PM
I will note right up front that while there was no confusion between the Hessians and the British as to who was the responsible party, that line is nowhere near as clear in Afghanistan.

The hand of the United State is heavy upon the formation of GIRoA, and in bringing the Northern Alliance to power as well as sustaining them in power. So many of these charges that are clearly levied against the British crown in 1776 must be analyzed more closely in the Afghan context where there is almost always at least some degree of shared culpability between GIRoA and the U.S., and to a lesser degree the rest of the Coalition. Perhaps the rest of the Coalition matches more closely with the Hessian forces described here.

Bob's World
03-14-2011, 02:16 PM
No one interested in looking at Afghanistan through a disturbingly fresh lens? Ok, I'll go first. Here as some charges that could reasonably apply to the Coalition:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

or also

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

or even

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

This is the problem when one adopts a colonial perspective on intervening in the lands and populaces of others, it leads one to become so focused on the pursuit of their own interests that they tend to lose sight of how the nature of the pursuit of those interests (IAW the Rule of Law) are reasonably perceived by the affected populace.

Certainly the government in England was outraged when this document arrived for their review. I suspect many Americans are equally outraged that one might imply that the Afghan people of today are in many ways similarly situated to the American people of 1776.

Many of these charges obviously could be levied against the Karzai regime as well, while for several the line blurs between the two parties as to which has the greatest hand.

120mm
03-14-2011, 03:39 PM
Yes. To all the above.

I believe that nearly everything we are doing in Afghanistan, we are doing it horribly and tragically wrong.

But I still believe we should be engaged with Afghanistan and doing what we need to do here to fix the problems we caused by our proxy war with the Soviet Union.

In addition, hopefully leaving Afghanistan a better place than we found it.

But...

From the most senior civilian and military levels, Afghan policy is evidently formulated and executed by particularly retarded, drunken, poo-flinging monkeys, to include Saint David, the General in a Hurry, and has been since the very beginning. Actually, from way before the beginning.

Just discussing it makes me angry.

Bob's World
03-14-2011, 04:15 PM
I don't post this to cast judgment, merely to lend perspective.

Sometimes when one gets so close to very difficult problem they begin to lose sight of the bigger picture, and lose the ability to empathize with those who their actions affect the most.

We have more than a bit of that going on. The Brits were largely reasonable and well intended in their approaches to the American Colonies as well. These things happen. It is important to draw the right lessons learned, set guards against falling into the same pitfalls, and focus on doing those things that produce the best effect in the manner that generates the least negative side-effect.

Infanteer
03-14-2011, 08:50 PM
The first part of the equation is "this is happening". The second, and likely telling, part of the equation is "how are these people interpreting/receiving this?"

I think the turn of events in the country since the 2006 fighting season kicked off is telling....

carl
03-14-2011, 11:23 PM
Robert C. Jones:

When the Taliban was running the place wasn't the shoe pretty much on the other foot and couldn't have the complaints enumerated been made by the Afghans who weren't Taliban? And if MO and the boys win, won't it be that way again?

DVC
03-15-2011, 12:32 AM
No one interested in looking at Afghanistan through a disturbingly fresh lens? Ok, I'll go first. Here as some charges that could reasonably apply to the Coalition:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

or also

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

or even

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

This is the problem when one adopts a colonial perspective on intervening in the lands and populaces of others, it leads one to become so focused on the pursuit of their own interests that they tend to lose sight of how the nature of the pursuit of those interests (IAW the Rule of Law) are reasonably perceived by the affected populace.

Certainly the government in England was outraged when this document arrived for their review. I suspect many Americans are equally outraged that one might imply that the Afghan people of today are in many ways similarly situated to the American people of 1776.

Many of these charges obviously could be levied against the Karzai regime as well, while for several the line blurs between the two parties as to which has the greatest hand.

I often tell my guys that the final exam for COIN/STAB ops instruction ought to be watching Red Dawn then devising a plan to get Jed and the Wolverines to like the Soviets and Cubans.

Bob's World
03-15-2011, 08:52 AM
Robert C. Jones:

When the Taliban was running the place wasn't the shoe pretty much on the other foot and couldn't have the complaints enumerated been made by the Afghans who weren't Taliban? And if MO and the boys win, won't it be that way again?

The Taliban also ran a government that was extremely exclusive, and thus the existence of the Northern Alliance. I am not posting this to be "pro-Taliban." The nature of the Afghan system of patronage has historically favored certain groups and excluded others. The Pashtuns in the macro; and then certain tribal and family groups regionally and locally. This will not change overnight, but can change if government structures are designed to specifically guard against the natural "win-lose" dynamic of Afghan patronage.

As I have posted often, the current constitution of Afghanistan codifies and reinforces this natural bias of patronage and has elevated and focused all patronage in a single man. This disrupts the natural systems of self-governance in Afghanistan far more than the Taliban did with their approach to governance. But a new constitution designed not to reinforce the negative aspects of patronage, but instead to modernize patronage in ways that reinforce local leader authority and influence, while ensuring that every Afghan has equal rights and opportunity under the law could derail the natural cycle of conflict and insurgency in this country.

Also worth noting is that the Taliban were able to sustain their control over governance with a very minimalist approach to support by Pakistan; whereas Karzai's government, we have decided, requires this insanely robust degree of support to survive. So either the current model of government is worse than the last, or our "experts" have grossly exaggerated the threat and the ways and means to counter the same.

For the US and the coalition, and the Afghan people, the only real "win" is if we get to a system that includes everybody. That demands reconciliation. Suppressing half to submit to the other half is not a sustainable option. If this were a colony and Karzai was our colonial puppet government here to manage our interests for us? Sure, but he isn't. Our COIN doctrine, however, is derived from that colonial model and it shows.

Bob's World
03-15-2011, 09:00 AM
I often tell my guys that the final exam for COIN/STAB ops instruction ought to be watching Red Dawn then devising a plan to get Jed and the Wolverines to like the Soviets and Cubans.

So, has anybody ever passed the final?

Dayuhan
03-15-2011, 10:23 AM
The nature of the Afghan system of patronage has historically favored certain groups and excluded others. The Pashtuns in the macro; and then certain tribal and family groups regionally and locally. This will not change overnight, but can change if government structures are designed to specifically guard against the natural "win-lose" dynamic of Afghan patronage.

I think this may be a bit backwards. Government structures naturally flow from and reflect the cultures and societies they spring from. If Afghans design a government it will very naturally reflect Afghan political culture... unless you're proposing that somebody else should do the designing.

Of course political cultures can and do evolve, and the systems they produce evolve with them. Whether a political culture can be "evolved" by imposition of structures not deriving from that culture is another question. Seems an unlikely prospect to me.

One of the odder illusions embraced in our Afghan enterprise is the notion that Afghans were going to stop governing like Afghans simply because we put them in power. Of course Afghans will govern like Afghans. They will do so no matter what we say or do.

DVC
03-15-2011, 03:40 PM
So, has anybody ever passed the final?

No one has taken up the "Wolverine Challenge"... most of the guys I teach are pretty smart:)

Bob's World
03-15-2011, 06:18 PM
I think this may be a bit backward. Government structures naturally flow from and reflect the cultures and societies they spring from. If Afghans design a government it will very naturally reflect Afghan political culture... unless you're proposing that somebody else should do the designing.

Of course political cultures can and do evolve, and the systems they produce evolve with them. Whether a political culture can be "evolved" by imposition of structures not deriving from that culture is another question. Seems an unlikely prospect to me.

One of the odder illusions embraced in our Afghan enterprise is the notion that Afghans were going to stop governing like Afghans simply because we put them in power. Of course Afghans will govern like Afghans. They will do so no matter what we say or do.

To put checks and balances on Patronage so that one clan cannot legally dominate another is not "changing how Afghans govern" any more than imposing speed limits is "changing how Americans drive." All it is doing is creating structures to ensure that one element of the populace does not exceed their rights to the detriment of others.

This is a natural evolution of their current system, allowing it, and their society to move on to a new level, less tied to a disruptive and destructive cycle of wide swings of who has power and who does not, and the associated legal disputes over land ownership and acts of fiscal and physical vengeance that accompany the same.

It is the current government, that we helped shape and create, that is a change of how Afghans govern, converting a historic system of patronage into a national Ponzi scheme.

Ken White
03-15-2011, 07:12 PM
This is a natural evolution of their current system, allowing it, and their society to move on to a new level, less tied to a disruptive and destructive cycle of wide swings of who has power and who does not, and the associated legal disputes over land ownership and acts of fiscal and physical vengeance that accompany the same.I'm afraid I don't share your confidence. You've been there since I have but I doubt the change has been significant enough to allow such an evolution. We'll see.

Dayuhan
03-15-2011, 09:20 PM
To put checks and balances on Patronage so that one clan cannot legally dominate another is not "changing how Afghans govern" any more than imposing speed limits is "changing how Americans drive." All it is doing is creating structures to ensure that one element of the populace does not exceed their rights to the detriment of others.

This is a natural evolution of their current system...

That would depend on who is doing the putting and the creating. If Afghans are doing if, on their own initiative and for their own purposes, that's a natural evolution. If we try to do it or we try to compel them to do it, on our initiative and for our purposes, that's imposition and it will not work.

If the only way we can achieve our goals in Afghanistan is to introduce US-style "good governance", then we're in deep scheisse and we need to reassess our goals, because that's something we can't do.

Bob's World
03-17-2011, 10:43 AM
That would depend on who is doing the putting and the creating. If Afghans are doing if, on their own initiative and for their own purposes, that's a natural evolution. If we try to do it or we try to compel them to do it, on our initiative and for our purposes, that's imposition and it will not work.

If the only way we can achieve our goals in Afghanistan is to introduce US-style "good governance", then we're in deep scheisse and we need to reassess our goals, because that's something we can't do.

For the UMPTEENTH time, I have never promoted "US style good governance" for anyone except the US. This is your paradigm, to argue continuously against something that I have never advocated for.

What I have argued, is that there are tremendous lessons to be distilled from the US experience.

What I have argued is that the US Constitution is in fact a masterpiece of COIN written by a uniquely qualified group of men who had in their adulthood been leaders of resistance under an oppressive government; been revolutionary insurgents, and at the time of the shaping of the Constitution found themselves increasingly in the role of the counterinsurgent.

One could argue that GIRoA shares that history, and true enough, except that France did not stay in the US and dedicate the lives of the their military, their national treasure and reputation to staying and protecting a fatally flawed US government under the articles of Confederation against the violent protest of the American populace. France wisely recognized that their interests had been served, and went home. By our staying and dedicating ourselves to GIRoA's survival we enable them to cling to a flawed model that is beneficial to the core founding members, and few else, in their society. We enable the insurgency by trying to defeat the insurgency.

This leaves us two options. Pull a France and just go home is one option. It's not "quitting" or "losing" any more than walking away from a gaming table in Vegas is "quitting" or "losing." It's hard to know when you are at peak winnings, usually one loses more than one gains before they walk away, and those that commit to staying until they are "up" almost always lose it all.

The second option is to focus on the primary source of causation in virtually all insurgency situations: The national government and the unwanted foreign presence. One must identify and address reasonable fixes in the first that are most egregious to the Afghan people; and one must minimize the second.

We have adopted a strategy that does the opposite on both counts. We create a functional sanctuary around GIRoA and protect them; while increasing our foreign presence to make that happen. The first fuels the Revolution; the second fuels the Resistance.

"Respect" is not a US concept. "Justice" is not a US concept. "Legitimacy" is not a US concept. The natural tendency to act out illegally and often violently against government when one has no trusted, certain and legal means to affect government is not a US concept. Happy to field any arguments from any who thinks they are.

What is a US concept in many ways is for government to put checks and balances upon itself to guard against abuses in all of these key areas; and to design and protect the populace's legal options to affect government in reasonable ways. That is the COIN genius of the US Constitution. The specific measures adopted? Those are what was right us then, and the interpretation has modified over time to stay current with the US society. Afghans will need to sit down and apply their own culture to their own situation to guard against these same critical human dynamics.

But they won't do it if we guard the status quo; and it won't work if just the Northern Alliance participates to the exclusion of the Taliban either. Someone needs to force the issue to bring everyone to the table and sort this out. Or we can go with option one and just go home. But to stay and protect GIRoA and enable a dysfunctional insurgency-causing form of government, while suppressing their rebellious populace and building their own capacity to go out and do the same is frankly both grossly American, and grossly un-American at the same time. The first because it is what we always do when in someone else's country. The second because it is something we would never do at home.

Dayuhan
03-29-2011, 04:27 AM
For the UMPTEENTH time, I have never promoted "US style good governance" for anyone except the US. This is your paradigm, to argue continuously against something that I have never advocated for.

Yes, umpteen times at least, but the substance of your posts on the nature of "good governance" invariably reveal an overwhelmingly American perception of what good governance is and what changes other people need to make to achieve it.


What I have argued, is that there are tremendous lessons to be distilled from the US experience.

Possibly so, but holding ourselves up as an example of how governance ought to be done is likely to be perceived as chest-thumping arrogance, not edification. If we have to choose an example, we mighty want to choose one that the populace in question identifies more closely with


The second option is to focus on the primary source of causation in virtually all insurgency situations: The national government and the unwanted foreign presence. One must identify and address reasonable fixes in the first that are most egregious to the Afghan people; and one must minimize the second.

Are you proposing that the US "fix" Afghan governance? Why would we think we have the capacity to do that?

As I've said umpteen times myself, the way governments govern is not a consequence of institutions or documents, it's a consequence of the national political culture: the way people perceive power and the way power is wielded, the way they perceive relations among the various subsets of the populace and between those subsets and the national government. We can't change the political culture by changing the documents or the institutions. If the new structures are incompatible with the political culture they will simply be ignored. A Constitution in itself has no power at all: whatever influence it has lies in the will of the people and their various leaders to follow it..

This is why "nation-building" and "state-building" are such inherently flawed constructs. Nations and states aren't built, they grow. They reflect the political culture of the societies they govern. We can't build or shape those cultures. Those cultures can evolve and grow, and the nations and states can evolve and grow with them, but they won't evolve at our bidding or in a direction of our choice. The process through which they evolve is often going to be messy, whether or not that suits our interests and preferences.


"Respect" is not a US concept. "Justice" is not a US concept. "Legitimacy" is not a US concept. The natural tendency to act out illegally and often violently against government when one has no trusted, certain and legal means to affect government is not a US concept. Happy to field any arguments from any who thinks they are.

The idea that "good governance" is by definition governance by Us and not by Them, and that the best governance is the one that is dominated by your sub-populace and excludes your rivals, is also not a "US concept". It still prevails in much of the world.

"Respecty", "legitimacy", etc may not be "US concepts", but different people may define those in very different ways.


Afghans will need to sit down and apply their own culture to their own situation to guard against these same critical human dynamics.

What if their own culture, and their own recent history, tell them that the way to sort it out is not to sit down and talk, but to fight and win and impose your will on the other guy, because he will do the same to you if he can and there is no way you can ever possibly trust him to follow any agreement you could possibly sit down and make?

A zero-trust, winner-take-all culture is not going to become something else because we want it to become something else.


But they won't do it if we guard the status quo; and it won't work if just the Northern Alliance participates to the exclusion of the Taliban either. Someone needs to force the issue to bring everyone to the table and sort this out. Or we can go with option one and just go home.

If those are the options, we'd better just go home, because we can't force other people to come to a table and work things out. Even if we could, how long do you think an agreement reached under duress and effectively imposed by an outside power is going to last?

I know you'll say you're not proposing to impose an agreement, but in effect you are. If we FORCE them to come to a table (which they would never do of their own accord) and we FORCE them to reach an agreement (which they would never do of their own accord) the content of the agreement is irrelevant: it's forced, it's unnatural, and it will not last.