Shake and Shake The Catsup Bottle

OK, I give up, American media. Which is it? First you’re frustrated because we’re in a “quagmire” (oh, we know, you’d never say such a thing–it’s just that some unnamed “others” are starting to use the word). And besides, those horrible Northern Alliance types (who just a couple of days ago you sagely informed us were undisciplined, and still using actual (gasp!) horses for cavalry) were incapable of mounting a serious offensive against the battle-toughened, death-seeking, fanatical, unbeatable Taliban. And our bombing was having little effect.

But wait! Now, somehow, those incompetent NA types seem to have those supermen Taliban invincible warriors on the, well… run. And now you’re not happy about that, because as I type this, you’re complaining because we haven’t yet put together a “broad-based government” to replace them, and of course, it would be worse to let the NA take Kabul, when we could let those humanitarian souls, the Taliban, continue to hold it.

Let’s face a few facts here. First of all, no, the Northern Alliance are not a bunch of Sunday School teachers. When it comes to enlightened democracy and western values, they leave much to be desired, as they’ve demonstrated in their past behavior. But is anyone really going to argue that they’re worse than the Taliban? A general in (I think, WW II) once said crudely, but accurately, that “war is a set of shitty choices.” No, it’s not ideal to let the Northern Alliance take Kabul, but it’s preferable to allowing the Taliban to keep it, particularly if its falling maintains the momentum of deteriorating morale of their fighters, and that of those idiots who would go to Afghanistan to fight beside them. We have time, eternity even, to fix whatever problems are incurred by a takeover by the NA.

Second, wars are not smooth, predictable affairs. They are chaotic, and catastrophic, in the mathematical sense. One can pound a position for days, or even weeks, and think it impregnable, when it suddenly, inexplicably crumbles. So it is not surprising to anyone familiar with military history (which lets out most of the modern press corps) that a military campaign can seem bogged down–even in a “quagmire”–and suddenly see the tide turn. To bring it down to a level that even a journalist can understand, having experienced it in some soda shop or diner, there was an old and simple poem that I remember from childhood (perhaps by Ogden Nash?).

Shake and shake the catsup bottle

None will come, and then a lot’ll

Apparently, we’ve finally shaken the catsup bottle enough in Afghanistan.