Talking Peace Talk Blues

“To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war,” according to a famous Winston Churchill quotation, so perhaps we should welcome the news that the United States will soon be sitting down to peace talks with Afghanistan’s Taliban. With all due respect to Sir Winston, though, negotiating with this particular enemy looks like a mug’s game.
The much-ballyhooed “breakthrough” comes at a time when most Americans have plumb forgotten that there is a war going on in Afghanistan, and only a few months before the date that the United States has already announced it will declare victory and quietly pull its last few troops out of the country, so it is difficult to ascertain what the point of the negotiations might be. An America already on the way out of the country will be in a weak bargaining position, the Taliban will have no incentives to make any concessions, and our nominal partners in the Karzai government will have ample reason to agree to any number of crazy Islamist nutcase ideas that they’ve probably long for all along. There is little reason for hope that the peace talks will yield anything resembling peace and no hope at all that they will result in something that can be considered victory.
After so many years of indecisive battle, and especially after the national media decided to stop paying attention to the casualties because Barack Obama had become the Commander in Chief, it has been largely forgotten that the reason we went in to Afghanistan in the first place was to destroy the Taliban. The Taliban had not only imposed a medieval tyranny on its own people but had given aid and refuge to al-Qaeda in its war against the United States and the rest of the western world, and after the organization’s Afghanistan-based terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon killed more than 3,000 Americans the country was unusually unified in its support for a retaliatory war. Even the peacenik Sen. Barack Obama supported the war as necessary and justified, calling it the ball that the inept Bush administration had taken its eyes off of to fight an unnecessary and unjustified in war in Iraq, and as president he kept a campaign promise with a “surge” of troops that were promised to turn the tide.
President Obama then quickly began a draw-down, keeping an implicit campaign promise to be a peacenik president, and at this point it all seems to have accomplished little. The Reuters news service giddily announces in its headline that “Taliban is Ready to Talk Peace,” but paragraphs that follow offer little hope that the peace won’t be on the Taliban’s terms. They note that the Taliban has recently opened a new office in the Qatari capital of Doha, where they made their peace talk announcement in front of a flag for “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” and they can’t seem to muster any pacifistic quotes from Taliban officials. An understandably unnamed official of the United States government is quoted as hoping that the Taliban will at least slow its recent offensive, lest America cease the peace talks.
Winston Churchill was even more famous for saying “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,” and that seems the more appropriate advice regarding the likes of the Afghanistan Taliban. America and the rest of the western world don’t seem to have much stomach for that sort of rhetoric, however, so the likely outcome will be the same as it was for Sir Winston: A lot of jaw-jaw, followed by more and bloodier war-war.

— Bud Norman