Re: Aid for Afghanistan

From: Geraint Rees (
Date: Wed Jan 02 2002 - 10:13:34 MST

On 1/2/02 2:06 PM, "J. R. Molloy" <> wrote:

> From: "Geraint Rees" <>
>> previous US involvement in Afghanistan has certainly contributed to the
>> current undesirable situation.
> I disagree, because previous US involvement in Afghanistan has helped to
> expose the terrorists, who would otherwise have remained hidden and secretly
> plotting their malignant and murderous crimes.

This is a funny use of the word 'expose'. US involvement in Afghanistan in
the 80s had three important effects (1) It provided military training to
individuals including bin Laden, who later engaged in unanticipated
terrorist actions against the US (2) It provided a very large quantity of
arms, initially to further the anti-Soviet fight, but later used locally by
the Taliban (and others) against the US (3) It deliberately fostered a local
culture of militant Islam, initially directed against the Soviet occupation.
To this extent, US foreign policy contributed to the current situation;
that's all I'm arguing here. I am not making any attributions of causality
or responsibility.

Maybe I have misunderstood you (in which case, my apologies) - in what sense
did US involvement in the 1980s lead to the terrorists being exposed?
>> This suggests that risk assessment was
>> faulty,
> On the contrary, the outcome of this war continues to show that it is better
> to destroy terrorism rather than try to appease it. The world is safer without
> organized religious fanaticism such as the Taliban and Al Quaida.

These two points are orthogonal. I agree with the current US actions in
Afghanistan. My point was that the original risk assessment in the 1980s was
faulty, in the sense that it fostered the conditions that led to the present
circumstances. Note that this doesn't in any way imply US responsibility for
terrorism, but does suggest that we should pay attention to the root causes.

> In this case, "short term gain" equates to trying to appease the terrorists.
> Long term gain means ridding the world of terrorists.

No, you are misrepresenting my position and may have misunderstood the point
I was making. I support the current short-term action in Afghanistan. My
point was that the *original* action by the US in the 80s appeared to have a
positive short term gain (fight the Soviet Union). But with hindsight it
turned out to have extremely negative long term implications (fostering
militant Islam). Thus actions can have unanticipated consequences; foreign
policy should therefore seek to learn from such experiences. That's all I'm
> <snipped stuff>
>In case it has escaped your notice, let me point out that the President is the
> top Marine.
> The marines do *not* act independently of the government ("politicians &
> diplomats").
> War is diplomacy carried on by other means.

Apologies for not knowing about US military hierarchy. I think we're in
agreement here. I'm using 'military' vs 'politics' as a shorthand here for
'killing people with marines' versus 'helping set up democratic
institutions' or similar.

>> Leaving 'why' to the next decade was dangerous in the 1980s as we can see
>> with the luxury of hindsight;
> Nonsense, the 80s had no equivalent act of terrorism to that of 9-11, and to
> conflate US policy in the 80s with the kind of murderous acts of the Taliban
> and Al Quaida is just plain ignorant.

(BTW, whatever happened to the 'no ad hominem attacks' policy that I was
told about when I recently joined the list?!).

This is a misrepresentation of my position. I'm making a very simple point;
that the foreign policy of the US in Afghanistan in the 1980s had
unanticipated consequences. This does not imply any form of US
responsibility for thhose consequences. Nor does it imply I don't support
the current US actions (I do). However, I do believe that all of us benefit
from considering the unanticipated consequences of our actions, in order to
consider modifying our behaviour in future to prevent such undesirable
consquences occurring. That's all.

> Today the world is a safer place due to US action against terrorists.

We'll see. I certainly hope so, but I am not optimistic. However I don't see
that anything else could have been done right now, given the circumstances.
> If the kind of passive denial that you advocate were to prevail, the
> terrorists would go on terrorizing the whole world, and by now they might even
> have carried out their vow to destroy Israel. But then, perhaps that's what
> you secretly want to happen.

I'll ignore this ad hominem attack if that's all right by you.

Best wishes,


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