By Uli Schmetzer
March 3, 2009
               For those who expected dramatic changes in America’s Middle East and Further East
strategy President Obama has offered no fresh ideas but the usual slide of hands of the politician.
              No one really expected miracles from a president who is as much a prisoner of Washingtonâ
€™s ingrained interests as a Pope is prisoner of the Vatican Curia.
              But one might have expected a change in spin.
              Not so.
The durable game of give with two fingers and take with the whole hand still
dominates Washington. How else could Obama announce a virtual U.S. withdrawal from Iraq
by 2010 and then follow it up by announcing a U.S. troop escalation in Afghanistan?
             More puzzling still: Did he offer any new solutions to the Afghan conflict?
             Did he offer any exit strategy or a plausible reason why tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO
soldiers should bleed in a country notorious not only for defying empires (the British, the Russian and
the American) but bringing them to their knees?
            Did he give any indication what is actually at stake or to be gained by spending two billion
dollars a month to fight in this impoverished and bellicose central Asian nation whose interest as a
commercial partner is basically zilch and whose main resources are well armed tribal clans with
medieval mindsets and anachronistic laws?
            Did the combined allied forces manage to track down and eliminate their main target, the
elusive Osama bin Laden, the Islamic icon for resistance to the West and the icon for those who may
believe that acts of terror bridge the abyss between the well-armed West and the not-so-well armed
Muslim world?
            Terror, once hosted by the Taliban, has moved elsewhere, closer to their targets. The
protagonists of 11/9/01 were not trained in the rugged mountains of Afghanistan but in Florida and
Germany. The London bombers lived in England, the Bali bombers in Indonesia.
               But the Bush-Cheney formula, long ago discredited, remains valid: We are fighting terrorism
in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has inherited that recipe which really, basically, honestly is an old
cliché applied for any battle against religious or ideological dissidents or those ‘misguided’
souls who fought and still fight against occupation of their country - like Palestinians, Iraqis and
             The Washington Curia is already active shoring up the terror peril syndrome with another old
Bush recipe: Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).
             Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Chief of Staffs, has been warning the world that Iran, a
tacit ally of Afghanistan, now has enough nuclear material to make ‘the bomb.’ Like the Bush
spin-mill Mullen has not produced any evidence expecting Americans and the world to swallow once
again the apparently palatable WMD dish.
            Meanwhile most military and diplomatic reports these days indicate the Taliban have not only
recovered from their original defeat but today hold parts of the country in their power and have found
fertile new converts among those who may not have been Islamic fundamentalists in the old days but
have become patriots nowadays.
           The new just like the old U.S. administration insists Afghanistan must become a democracy, a
democracy just like America and Europe, the kind of democracy that took centuries to evolve but is
expected to bring Afghanis into the democratic brotherhood within years not decades. The endeavor is
ludicrous: Military experts and academics have argued in recent weeks it would take the allies thirty
years and hundreds of thousands of troops to turn Afghanistan into America’s vision of a
             People with a less missionary zealotry have suggested waiving next year’s election
process and allowing the tribal elders to select a president, as tribal chiefs have done historically, so
turning that president into a kind of national godfather to which the chiefs would be obliged to be loyal
by their choice instead of allowing a manipulated election system to choose someone to whom neither
of the chiefs would feel obliged.
           The U.S. State Department - perhaps afraid this would defeat seven years of futile warfare by
returning the country to its old habits - has bluntly turned down the suggestion.
            And so the Obama administration will pour more money and more young men into one of the
world’s great cemeteries for invading armies - Afghanistan.