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Why Iraq will be won and Afghanistan lost

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on August 30, 2012

“…principalities of which one has record are found to be governed in two different ways; either by a prince, with a body of servants, who assist him to govern the kingdom as ministers by his favour and permission; or by a prince and barons, who hold that dignity by antiquity of blood and not by the grace of the prince. Such barons have states and their own subjects, who recognize them as lords and hold them in natural affection. Those states that are governed by a prince and his servants hold their prince in more consideration, because in all the country there is no one who is recognized as superior to him, and if they yield obedience to another they do it as to a minister and official, and they do not bear him any particular affection.

The examples of these two governments in our time are the Turk and the King of France. The entire monarchy of the Turk is governed by one lord, the others are his servants; and, dividing his kingdom into sanjaks, he sends there different administrators, and shifts and changes them as he chooses. But the King of France is placed in the midst of an ancient body of lords, acknowledged by their own subjects, and beloved by them; they have their own prerogatives, nor can the king take these away except at his peril. Therefore, he who considers both of these states will recognize great difficulties in seizing the state of the Turk, but, once it is conquered, great ease in holding it. The causes of the difficulties in seizing the kingdom of the Turk are that the usurper cannot be called in by the princes of the kingdom, nor can he hope to be assisted in his designs by the revolt of those whom the lord has around him. This arises from the reasons given above; for his ministers, being all slaves and bondmen, can only be corrupted with great difficulty, and one can expect little advantage from them when they have been corrupted, as they cannot carry the people with them, for the reasons assigned. Hence, he who attacks the Turk must bear in mind that he will find him united, and he will have to rely more on his own strength than on the revolt of others; but, if once the Turk has been conquered, and routed in the field in such a way that he cannot replace his armies, there is nothing to fear but the family of this prince, and, this being exterminated, there remains no one to fear, the others having no credit with the people; and as the conqueror did not rely on them before his victory, so he ought not to fear them after it.

The contrary happens in kingdoms governed like that of France, because one can easily enter there by gaining over some baron of the kingdom, for one always finds malcontents and such as desire a change. Such men, for the reasons given, can open the way into the state and render the victory easy; but if you wish to hold it afterwards, you meet with infinite difficulties, both from those who have assisted you and from those you have crushed. Nor is it enough for you to have exterminated the family of the prince, because the lords that remain make themselves the heads of fresh movements against you, and as you are unable either to satisfy or exterminate them, that state is lost whenever time brings the opportunity.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

In Iraq,  Saddam Hussein, along with his ministers ruled with a heavy hand and ruthless authority. Saddam’s reign over Iraq was total and complete. To topple him, the U.S relied solely on the might of its own alliance. It is evident, that people of Iraq, once they settle their own sectarian issues, will be more ready to accept American presence and dominance in their country. As Machiavelli suggested, Iraq is America’s for the keeping.

Image Courtesy Mikhail Evstafiev

Afghanistan, is equivalent to the “Kingdom of France” in the quotes above.The central Asian republic has always been an unnatural co-existence of several different tribes being ruled by their respective warlords. Every occupation of Afghanistan has been achieved by bribing these warlords towards oneself. The Soviets did it, and the U.S is doing the same. It is evident in the form of government which they have put together. It is a coalition of tribal leaders that helped the U.S fight the Taliban. Beyond this, the leaders have nothing in common. It is a state of affairs that is bound to collapse and Afghanistan, thanks to some medieval curse, is going to return to becoming what it always has been, the land of the dead.

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16 Responses to “Why Iraq will be won and Afghanistan lost”

  1. Eric said

    Had Iraq not been invaded, Afghanistan would probably have been a victory.

    • Raunak said

      I highly doubt it Eric. I think the victory would have been very temporary.it would be very difficult to hold on to a fragmented country, especially one where tribal loyalties are so strong. I think if we apply the same thought, Iran would be the toughest to win and easiest to hold on to.

  2. Now if we can only make “our leader(s) see”, we need not to be concerned with loosing another 2,000 human beings in Afghanistan. It’s a good thing McCain isn’t presidential nominee this time around; otherwise, I’m certain in 6 months we’d be in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Libya, Russia, China (let’s see did I leave any country out?). There might be Paul Ryan though…a minny McCain with more charming ruthlessness.

    • Raunak said

      thanks for your comments 🙂 and good to have you onboard! I think the following would be easy to retain once conquered: North Korea, Iran and China. The rest are a strict no! I was impressed by the last 3 minutes of Paul’s speech though…his call to people from all political parties..and the phrase “lets get this done”…a great example of a motivational speech…not too sure of its substance though.

      • Yes, I agree. That sentence is “a great example of a motivational speech”; however, my intent by saying that Ryan was “a minny (sp?) McCain with more charming ruthlessness” comes from the fact that he wants very much to sustain if not increase budgeting for military defense.

        For whatever reason, my mind thinks of Stephen King’s “A Dead Zone” when Johnny had the vision of Greg Stillson, who was running for president at the time, pushing the “red button” plunging the world into darkness by releasing the nuclear warheads after he became president.

        Take my meaning as you will, but for whatever reason, this is what my “gut” tells me about Ryan….not my logic of course.

      • Raunak said

        his looks surely fit your description 🙂 leaders should not forget that military might alone is not sufficient to dominate the world. The U.S first needs to regain its economic might and only then can it return to its position of dictating terms to rogue nations like Iran, NK and China. For reasons very obvious but conveniently overlooked, China, I believe is a rogue state.

  3. Is there anyone living today who doubts that Bin Laden “succeeded” in his 9-11-2001 attempt to bring down the U.S.—economically speaking, that is? Just a thought…

    • Raunak said

      i doubt it…the economic downturn is the result of a gradual loss of manufacturing jobs to China and service jobs to India…this coupled with investment banks pumping money into the housing market created an illusion that had to bust.

  4. @onestillbreathing: Love the Dead Zone analogy – spot on!
    @ Raunak: “Every occupation of Afghanistan has been achieved by bribing these warlords towards oneself. The Soviets did it, and the U.S is doing the same. It is evident in the form of government which they have put together. It is a coalition of tribal leaders that helped the U.S fight the Taliban. Beyond this, the leaders have nothing in common. It is a state of affairs that is bound to collapse…”
    Astute clarity! Thank you for stating this, as it needs to be said but is not being said by those empowered to inform – like, say, our media. Patriotic soundbites minus context = indoctrination by blind ignorance. Not a sound environment in which to foster an informed electorate. 😐

    • Raunak said

      thanks for sharing your thoughts Sylver. I have observed that I get a better perspective on what’s happening in India by watching foreign media channels. e.g. Al Jazeera recently aired a documentary on the grave issue of Naxalism/Maoism in India. They presented a view the national media would dare not explore.

  5. […] a month back I published a post presenting an argument for the outcomes of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In it I applied […]

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