Pubdate: Wed, 7 Oct 2009
Source: Post-Standard, The (Syracuse, NY)
Copyright: 2009 Advance Publications
Author: Gene Tinelli


The Opinion section article, 'The Perilous Way' (Oct. 6), outlining
the three risky options for us in Afghanistan, was excellent.

Going all in by increasing troop strength and nation building will
result in more casualties and be hobbled by a corrupt and incompetent
Afghan government. We tried that at the beginning of our war in
Vietnam. It failed

Prolonging the status quo without a troop strength increase keeps us
in a prolonged, slow-bleed situation, increases the number of
'accidental guerillas,' makes our forces targets of opportunity and
has no successful end game. We tried that in the middle of our war in
Vietnam. It failed.

Finally, scaling back to engage simply in counterterrorism operations
and giving the Afghan army/police a much larger role will give control
of the countryside to the Taliban and reduce us to occupying cities.
We tried that at the end of our war in Vietnam. It failed.

It appears that our thinking is locked into only lose-lose options and
that the game is out of our control.

In the 1983 movie 'War Games,' we are locked into a super
computer-directed doomsday scenario game that can't be stopped, the
end result of which will destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust. The
lead character, David (Matthew Broderick), who accidentally started
this mess, realizes the only way is to create a paradigm shift and
give the supercomputer a new game to play (tic-tac-toe), which
ultimately teaches it the concept of futility, which shuts down the
original deadly game. Better to play a nice game of chess.

How can we change the game in Afghanistan?

People like to make money, and the supply and demand cycle of the
free-enterprise system is the most efficient and least dangerous way
to do this.

To quote Fredric Bastiat, 'When goods don't cross borders, soldiers

Let's make the Afghans an offer they can't refuse. Buy their farmers'
opium and sell it to international pharmaceutical companies who need
opium base to make analgesic medications.

Opioid-based analgesics (e.g., Oxycodone) have been in short supply
because pharmaceutical companies have difficulties getting enough
legal raw opium to make these prescription medications. This results
in more human suffering.

Afghan farmers are one of the world's largest illegal suppliers of

Our present policy is to poison their poppies, increase opium's price
and leave the profits to those who would create terror and fanatical

We could change the game by setting up a free market system to buy raw
opium and sell it to pharmaceutical companies. The reasonable and
stable prices Afghan farmers would get should entice them to be our
allies in a saner social and economic system and, since money usually
trumps ideology, many insurgents would follow the money. Everybody
from tribal leaders to the American government could get a cut of the
profits. Rather than our military personnel going into the mountains
to set up remote bases, those Taliban and Al-Qaida who would abhor
this would have to come out of the mountains to try to destroy this
system, an ideal situation made for our Syracuse-based Predator
pilotless aircraft and United States military snipers.

Buying Afghan opium is a capitalistic paradigm shift that even
filmmaker Michael Moore would endorse. The only losers would be those
who still support our anachronistic war on drugs policies.

We are currently lost in an Afghan game of futility and we must step
out of the self-made box in which we've put ourselves. As Walt Kelly's
character Pogo said: 'We have met the enemy -- and he is us.'

Gene Tinelli
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