The Taliban Won’t Negotiate With Terrorists

As Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin observes, “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [has] said … that Osama bin Laden’s death could advance the effort to reach a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan …” Declaring that the US “message to the Taliban” “has even greater resonance” now that bin Laden is dead, Clinton apparently thinks that the occasion will prompt a readiness to bargain.

But as the leader of Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Insaaf party said following the death, bin Laden’s martyrdom will be the ultimate inspiration for young Muslims who see themselves as freedom fighters. When Clinton says that the US is “going to look for ways to put this into the context,” she may be disappointed to discover that the Afghan Taliban has done so quite on their own.

Contrary to self-assured guarantees from the State Department, the Taliban will likely be about as willing to negotiate now as they were with Hekmatyar in the mid-90s. Whatever one thinks about them or their own totalitarian inclinations, no amount of death or imperial diplomacy will persuade the Taliban to “come into the political process” imposed by the US.

The decade-long (roughly) “Soviet Afghanistan” period ought to have demonstrated clearly enough that the people of Afghanistan will not acquiesce in the role of any empire’s dusty satellite. But, then, if American foreign policy were about learning the lessons of history and making decisions in the interests of the broad masses of ordinary people (assuming that were possible) — well, you catch my drift.

Among the familiar refrains within the constant cannonade of “War on Terror” news stories is that the US once armed the people who became the Taliban, in an attempt to force the Soviets to decamp to European Russia. Though it’s not clear what we’re supposed to take away from this piece of realpolitik (particularly when it’s delivered by the likes of, for example, Chris Matthews), it is apparently meant to make us think critically — just not too critically.

That US foreign policy is the product of a venal calculus centered on the interests of imperialists is never really the message; no, that would be just too indecorous, too honest, a way to discuss the decision-making of our sage overlords. Instead, the takeaway message is always that complex, strategic alliances, necessary for the preservation of those consecrated “national interests,” sometimes make odd bedfellows, but that we should never question their underlying wisdom.

Now that the Soviet Union has perished, the expediency of a US-Taliban alliance having lapsed with it, all of those canticles about self-determination, democracy and freedom can be discarded. It was, of course, never about hostility to “evil empire” in and of itself, just to one empire in particular, one to be replaced by something only superficially different.

All of Clinton’s talk about maintaining proper levels of funding for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development are so much Newspeak for, “Endless war is very profitable for the Inner Party.” The notion that the endless war of the US “War on Terror” is really calculated to reduce the level of terrorism is about as coherent as two plus two making five.

As Orwell understood, though, “Orthodoxy means not thinking.” That US imperialism is a prime motivator for terrorist attacks is thus conspicuously outside the Hillary Clinton approach to logic. As a philosophy of individual rights, market anarchism would confine each person to her own realm of discretion, not to isolate us from one another, but prevent subjugation of every kind.

Without the ability of some to subdue others through force — the alpha and omega of the state’s method — society based on voluntary exchange and association would flourish. Empire would not and could not form a part of such a society, whether carried out by the USSR, the US or, as Benjamin Tucker said, any other “band of individuals, assuming to act as representatives or masters of the entire people within a given area.”

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