Thursday, February 13, 2014

Geo-Politics in The Graveyard of Empires

The synopsis of this report is that President Karzai of Afghanistan has issued the release of 65 accused inmates from a prison formerly under the command of the US military. This has irritated Washington, and the usual justifications come forth. The imprisoned were radicalized militia who had attacked and killed American soldiers, Afghan soldiers, women, and children. To release them would only bring about more death and destruction.

I first heard this story from Fox News, and as I expected, it was a completely one sided account with no issuances from Kabul or anything. It was just sheer madness and irrationality. Karzai seemed to be just releasing murderers to destabilize his own government and country. Actually I should destabilize more. Afghanistan is country founded on fictitious boundaries and dependent on the cooperation of dozens of smaller tribes. This may sound rather weak, but do not be fooled. There is a reason this harsh terrain has been called the "Graveyard of Empires", both England and Russia sending thousands to their death in trying to rule this crucial Central Asian geography.

However, the implicit understanding in the televised news was one very familiar to the Imperial framework we live. Karzai is the half-civilized vassal who still acts on barbaric instinct. There is no report as to why he would see fit to release these prisoners. The Al Jazeera report at least addresses these, but does not go into depth. Of course this is a news report and not commentary, so I wouldn't expect as much.

However the report highlights one important aspect: Karzai's belief that this prison was not preventing militants but creating them. That is the iron-fisted American presence was jailing those with suspect ties. This would only push them over the fence to think the attempt to create a unified Afghanistan was a sham, Karzai a puppet, and that their only recourse was to take to the gun. The prison and the American legions' actions only created enemies to the very creation that America had sought to wrought: a democratic and constitutional Central Asian republic.

I believe America in many ways is similar to ancient Athens and its Delian League Empire. It was never a formal conquest, but a fear of reprisal, economic boycott, and military intervention, that kept the smaller Greek states in line. Very similar to the US' domination of a psuedo-Delian League like NATO. However the greatest parallel, in my eyes, is that odd and seemingly contradictory efforts at Imperial victory that surge in American policy. There's no unified directive to make consistent decisions. America's hegemonic oligarchy is comprised of international corporate interests, hyper-patriotic neo-colonialists, and New American Century unilateralists. Thus the Religious Right Neo-Cons of the Bush era act in very similar patterns to the Clintonian progressive imperialism of Obama.

Yet they are different, and these surging currents end up creating buffoonery and foolish maneuvers. It ends up backfiring due to misconceived strategies, competitiveness, arrogant ignorance, and emotional power-politicing. In someways Afghanistan is the American version of Athens' adventure in Sicily. It costs an extraordinary amount of blood and treasure, and it never ends because of the fear of wasted sacrifice and wounded pride. Yet America is no exception, its Imperial expedition will die in the wastelands of Asia.

I don't know enough to say whether Karzai was a puppet who is waking up, or is an idealist who can find a common unity in a single Afghanistan. However what he does want is for Afghanistan to function as an independent state. This is not helped, despite American news sources, with the addition and continuous presence of soldiers. It will only make the backlash worse.

Yet this has everything to do with what is called the Great Game. Central Asia is rich in resources. Afghanistan has always been viewed as the Gateway, if one can control this area it can tap into the rest. This battle was originally fought between Britain and Russia, but has the presence of new players, most notably an independent India, China, and the US. The Legions will by no means leave Afghanistan because it will admit that America is an Empire just like the rest, one that dies in The Graveyard.

I don't have high hopes for any semblance of serenity being brought to Afghanistan. If history is any guide, Karzai won't be able to keep his patchwork together, tribal unity, as it always has, will take the day. Even though he is stepping on the toes of Washington in trying to salvage his nation and, I'd dare say, maintain justice through law, it doesn't look like it'll work. 

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