Learning lessons of history from surprising sources

Monday, March 7, 2016

ISIS is doomed to failure, according to one expert, who should know.

None other than Osama Bin Laden warned his followers that creating an Islamic state too soon would be a disaster, according to letters captured in the raid on the compound in Pakistan where he was killed in 2011.

Bin Laden wasn't against forming a caliphate, but worried that western military strength would make such a country impossible to defend.

ISIS didn't exist back then, but the group moved to form such a state in 2014.

"We want Sanaa to establish an Islamic State, but first, we want to make sure that we have the capability to gain control of it," according to translations of declassified documents released last week.

'The enemy continues to possess the ability to topple any state we establish," he continued. "We have to remember that the enemy toppled the Taliban and Saddam's regime."

He also told his followers not to publish "pictures of prisoners after they were beheaded," practiced by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, one of the predecessors of ISIS.

ISIS, of course, is not the first to ignore hard-earned historical wisdom in the Middle East.

Before its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union might have taken pointers from the British, who lost 4,500 British and Indian soldiers, plus 12,000 camp followers, in a war between the British East India Co. and Afghanistan from 1839 to 1842.

The Soviets stepped in to support the pro-soviet Nur Mohammad Taraki government which took over in a coup in 1978. After that government arrested thousands and executed as many as 27,000 political prisoners, it lost control of the countryside, and the Soviets first advised and supported the Afghani government, then staged a coup to install a rival Afghan socialist.

The situation deteriorated into the U.S.S.R.'s "Vietnam," and Soviet troops were finally withdrawn in 1989,

The United States hasn't exactly let itself be drawn into another Vietnam, but if you're a fiscal conservative, our involvement there has been just as disastrous..

NBC News pointed out that the United States has now spent more money reconstructing Afghanistan than it did rebuilding Europe at the end of World War II, according to the government watchdog group Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

And, unlike Monroe Doctrine spending that kept Western Europe from the Soviet Union, much was the spending in Afghanistan has been a complete waste.


* $486 million for 20 Italian-made G222 transport planes that were scrapped and sold for $32,000 each. Sixteen of the planes, we call them C-27As, were sold to a local construction company for 6 cents a pound and the other four are unused at a U.S. base in Germany.

* $335 million on a power plant that exported less than 1 percent of its capacity, and because it was frequently started and stopped, was likely to wear out quickly.

* Almost half a million dollars on a police training building that fell apart when it rained.

* $34.4 million on a soybean program for a country that doesn't eat soybeans.

* $600,000 for a hospital where infants were washed in untreated river water, and which was built using diesel fuel purchased for $500 a gallon.

* A $36 million military facility command-and-control facility at Afghanistan's Camp Leatherneck that was built over the objections of several generals, who said previous facilities were more than sufficient.

Let's hope the next president, and congressional representatives we elect know and heed the lessons of history.

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