15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
David C. Isby
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles' CABLES FROM KABUL is an important book. Whatever the ultimate outcome in Afghanistan, decisions made during the author's involvement will have been vital in shaping policies. Anyone with a serious interest in the current situation in Afghanistan should read this book. Yet there are substantial limitations and shortfalls here that may not be apparent to those that have not spent a lot of time in Afghanistan.
In fairness, many of the limitations are not the fault of the author. The security review process, though it worked with startling speed for this book's publication, seems to have been a substantial limitation. While the author does not call attention to it, the cliché of "conspicuous by its absence" applies to many of the issues that must have pre-occupied him: Afghan corruption, Pakistan and its role in the insurgency, the Afghan opposition and leadership, and much more.
It also needs to be pointed out that while the author is a distinguished diplomat and had access to the resources of HMG, he gives little indication of actually having understood Afghanistan and the Afghans or even the different world on the other side of the Durand line that is today Pakistan and tomorrow may be Somalia with nukes. To be fair, that was not really his job. His job was to primarily to interface with the US, the UN and other members of the vast, improbably and often fiercely counterproductive international coalition that has shaped Afghanistan since 2001. At time, the author shakes his head that Britain's role in this must be as a junior partner in coalitions, as if looking past the reality of history back to 1956 and, further, to 1943 when this became painfully apparent. The Afghan political class with which he acted is, however admirable and great the rectitude of some of the individuals among it, remains an embarrassment and non-functional even by Afghan standards (and that is saying a great deal). It has largely forgotten that stealing is bad. The author shows some of how the coalition encouraged this thinking, but cannot provide anything like a full picture of the complicated and painful dynamic how the best of intentions and very good people have made a world-class failure. Perhaps not failure past redemption, but failure is the world that summarizes what the book describes.
This is a book about failure: the failure of people, of institutions, of the Afghan elites, and ultimately of the English-speaking democracies. It certainly includes the author's personal failures, despite his best efforts, in his two high-level diplomatic appointments. In the end, the Pakistani ISI may remain, the last man standing, when all others have failed. The question remains how much the failure of the democracies, who can no longer pay their bills and make political decisions, will come home from Afghanistan. America is betting that, will bin Laden gone, disengagement from Afghanistan will not have the negative impact it did in the 1990s and that failure in Afghanistan will have no greater impact that America's failures in Southeast Asia in the 1970s, Lebanon in the 1980s, or Somalia in the 1990s. All hard on the local population, but no one in America lost their job or felt bad about it.
"My name is George Nathaniel Curzon. I am a most superior person" was the satirical limerick of a century ago, but one of the more annoying elements of the book is that the author at times appears to be channeling the spirit of Curzon that was so memorably mocked. True, he never acts as a snob nor expresses amazement that the lower orders have such white skins, but he always points out that he rubs elbows with those who matter, politicians, historians and millionaire celebrity journalists alike, with a little reminder that he inhabits a world with social and professional contacts that he belongs in and others are admitted only as escorted visitors, with a pass to be returned as soon as they have finished their business. Even when his brother dies tragically of a heart attack while horseback riding, he finds it appropriate to allocate space to point out the rarified millieu of what was obviously a great personal loss, which was not made mote compelling by reminding us that it was one of the King's Troop RHA horses he was riding and that he belonged to the Honourable Artillery Company riding club. Even he death he manages to remind us where his family belongs. This is not like saying, for example, "my brother was a captain in the Grenadier Guards", which is an objective statement despite what it may convey.
The book is certainly several notches above the standard recent political memoir. These quickly appear as its author reluctantly steps out of the spotlight. These volumes' contents can all be abridged as "I was at the centre of things and no one else was any good". It rather reminded me in many ways of the Suez and pre-1939 volumes of Anthony Eden's memoirs, being perceptive and valuable essays in self-justification.
A few of the more interesting points are:
p. 18 Author is shocked to find Britain is a junior coalition partner.
p. 19 Author creates a straw man in US eradication policy, though flawed for many reasons, is simplistically portrayed here.
p. 21 Author's lack of background and understanding of Pakistan is introduced; to hang over all following action.
p. 33 Makes point that "real war" is that being waged by SOF (plus UAVs).
p. 33 Does not say way the British destroyed minarets in Herat, makes it sound like vandalism.
p. 36 One of his few encounters with the ethnolinguistic divisions of Afghanistan and the fact that there is a transborder Pushtun Civil War in progress, which he does not seem to be aware of.
p. 41 points out lack of reality as crisis develops and HMG refuses to consider they've screwed up.
p. 46-47 description of past events, though brief, show a lack of understanding.
p. 49 Soviet-built 130mms are guns, not howitzers. If you're going to provide details, get them right or use a more general term.
p. 50 Puts in claim for view that failure comes from Washington, not home-grown in Kabul.
p. 54 Reminder that US self-delusion did not end with the G.W. Bush administration.
p. 59 Another simplistic explanation, this of insurgency and Pushtuns in the south.
p. 60. Again, two things he explains but does not understand, Afghan attitudes towards conflict and external and internal violence and what a neo-con is, which he uses like "rootless cosmopolitan" throughout.
p. 62 makes some good point on insurgency but does not understand what an arbaki was or its function.
p. 68 Does not consider WHY Karzai so believes.
p. 69 One of few mentions of critical economic dimension of the conflicts.
p. 76 He calls attention to the problems of "war in peacetime" in which internal bureaucratic agendas are more important than operational concerns or elusive "victory". We see this repeated with the UK policy on unit and command rotation.
p. 84 Use of dialect as a cheap shot at the source in support of his campaign against a misguided policy that the author has dressed as a foolish straw man.
p. 103 How Rory Stewart became one of the People That Matter and hence a name to be dropped by this author remains a mystery to me. May he have much joy of his celebrity on the government back benches.
p. 104 And which Afghan aircraft existed that you so assumed? Shows an inability to understand even a most transparent part of the Afghan government.
p. 110. Here the author brings in his second, bigger, straw man, that he stands for a holistic approach to Afghanistan rather than a militarized alternative that has failed to produce results. Again, there are enough real failings that he did not have to do this, and it suggests he really did not understand what was going on and the institutional and leadership actors involved.
p. 128. I note that the only individual (unnamed) cited as an "Afghan Patriot" had fought on behalf on Moscow and the Taliban and Pakistan. Shows where the author believes loyalties should lie.
p. 131 By the time he gets to Benazir here, the name dropping is out of hand and showing that he belongs among the good and great of this world as a matter of right and not just being HMG's representative.
p. 136 Here he raises but dies not discuss the important issue of the perceptions and worldviews of Afghan and Pakistani elites, a vital issue. They really believe this stuff. I wish he had told us what he meant for him in his job.
p. 138 Again, he identifies the policy change, that Karzai was going to consolidate power on the model of Durrani overlordship, but does not (most likely was unable) to say why and what this has entailed.
p. 150 Does not seem to be aware of what Wardak's role as MinDef really is or is too diplomatic to mention it.
p. 157 Perceptive view of the limitations of the Bush-Karzai relationship BUT no consideration of how the Bush-Musharref relationship did even more harm.
p. 181 The first sentence of this chapter summarizes the author's lack on understanding. He lived in Afghanistan without Afghans. He was also the centre of his universe. He's missing something here. Shall we tell him what it is, boys and girls? (Chorus of kiddies at Punch and Judy show: BEHIND YOU! BEHIND YOU! IT'S AFGHANISTAN!).
p. 203, Again, a lack of understanding on many things, ranging from Afghan history to what a Wapiti was.
p. 236 Perceptive summary on tactics of Karzai relationship.
p. 250 Does not tell us why the age of the SRAP was so brief or how Holbrooke got to be marginalized before he died.
p. 257 Presenting a "military approach" as the alternative to Holbrooke puts us back in straw man territory again.
p. 267 I've seen and admired this particular rifle, it's a Snider.
p. 275 Shows lack of awareness of problems of US DoS as an unreformed bureaucratic institution.
p. 283 And the author will show us how things are much better in the UK which lacks these constitutional limitations on state power?
p. 290, "this could all have been avoided" shows continued lack of understanding and convenient amnesia about the impossibility of engaging with the Taliban (the Bamiyan Buddhas).
p. 291 Stresses importance of Afghan approaches.
p. 293 In the final analysis, Petraeus succeeded in doing his job, which is somewhere between 20 and 49 percent of what needed to be done. The author failed to provide part of the overall solution.