Saturday, January 8, 2011

General Petreaus' Potemkin Strategy

According to the myth, Russian minister Grigory Potemkin directed the erection of fake settlements to fool Russian Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. According to this story, Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress' eyes.

Flash forward to the 21st Century. Now we have the Pentagon's project in Afghanistan: a transplant of Western parliamentary democracy into medieval Afghanistan. This project is starting its 11th year.

The newest wrinkle in this Panglosian adventure is an effort to graph on to Afghanistan an international corporate presence.

According to a fantastic (my carefully chosen adjective) article in Business Week magazine, General David H. Petraeus is inviting international corporations such as, General Electric, Daimler, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Honeywell International and Boeing for more than a Pentagon-funded look-see. He's trying to sell corporate bosses on Afghanistan as a virginal investors' land of opportunity.

Never mind the protracted violence, embedded corruption, absent infrastructure and 90% illiteracy that afflicts Afghanistan.

I'm not sayin' - just askin' - if we ought not to take a huge chunk out of the Pentagon's elective budget and apply those extra investment dollars stateside?


  1. They want to outsource the occupation now? Where's Halliburton and Blackwater fit in?
    Everyone knows the privaste sector will do a better job of getting our Troops and Afghanis killed than the government.

    Great lead in Vigilante.

  2. Taken from the article linked above:

    Paul A. Brinkley isn't the general public. As U.S. Deputy Under Secretary for Defense, he moves freely behind the barricades, ushering a handful of American visitors ....

    Brinkley needs to replicate and expand on the process in Afghanistan, using the military's own spending power to promote local companies and convincing multinationals that Afghanistan is not just a safe place but also a land of real opportunity.

    Security concerns mandate meticulous planning. Over the course of a two-week period, Wall Street bankers, Silicon Valley executives, and Los Angeles-based investors were ferried around Kabul and other parts of the country in armored vehicles for meetings with local business owners, artisans, government officials, and students. To deal with the unpredictability of airline schedules and traffic, team members and visitors often leave their quarters before dawn. Most meals are taken inside the compound ....

    Why didn't we think of this before? This is 21st century Manifest Destiny!

  3. But now -- why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation. ~ Mark Twain Returning Home, New York World (London, 10/6/1900)

  4. This is a wonderfully written post Vig. Your knowledge of history and how you wove it into the present really impresses this ole broad.

    The western corporatocracy is alive and well in Iraq, but was before we invaded. They have a product, a legal one, to sell..its called oil. Such is not the case in Afghanistan. For me,In many aspects, Afghanistan is the North Korea of the Middle East.

  5. Vigil, why didn't the M.I.C. think of this before? Our Manifest Destiny for the 21st Century?

  6. Yeah, Coop! But I think this is less a policy thrust and more of a domestic P.R. gambit to mobilize corporate America behind a rationalized (as opposed to a rational) policy.

  7. I'm sure you are exactly right, Vigilante. It's strange that we've come to a place where the war machine tries to build support by spinning these sorts of tales. You'd think it would be antiwar types who would accuse corporate interests of planning to engage in war profiteering.

  8. Acilius, there are no corporate profits to be made in Afghanistan, but many (untold) corporate profits to be made in the Pentagon.

  9. There is some profiteering going on, you can be sure of that. Tens of billions of dollars in aid have poured into the country since the Taliban were overthrown, yet there is little to show for it with infrastructure and basic services still minimal.

  10. "Acilius, there are no corporate profits to be made in Afghanistan, but many (untold) corporate profits to be made in the Pentagon."

    That's it exactly, I'm sure. Under the old imperialism, capitalists tried to build their fortunes by looting poor countries. Under the new imperialism, capitalists use wars in poor countries as excuses for looting the treasuries of rich countries. Americans may think they are the colonizers, but as taxpayers it is they who are the colonized. The people who are so unfortunate to live in the kill zones of empire are neither colonizers nor colonized, and the new imperialism destroys their lives and wrecks their societies mindlessly, as a means of distracting Americans from what is being done to them.

  11. This is Corporate Earth.
    The goal? Scorched Earth?
    That's exactly where we are headed. Megaego's that grip the planet's fiscal resources so tightly are thinking that there is a need to accrue all the monies across the globe... for what exactly? They run the military industrial complex and the demonstration of the President is that he is just another hack on their payroll.
    Why is there is such a need for MORE? MOre? more?
    I liked the 'history lesson'... apt reflection!