03/19/2009 10:59 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Writing on the Wall in Kabul, Eric S. Margolis, 17 March 2009

Canada's Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was an ardent supporter of George W. Bush and his so-called `war on terror.' Canada contributed 2,500 troops to support the US war effort in southern Afghanistan.

But the hard-line Harper just did a remarkable volte face on CNN by admitting the war in Afghanistan cannot be won by military means. Harper's revelation on the road to Kabul echoes what the Secretary General of NATO has been saying since last April: there is no military solution to this eight-year conflict.

President Barack Obama, who is sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, ought to be asking himself why he is expanding a war in which military victory is unlikely and that threatens to drain America of more lives and billions at a time of national bankruptcy.

Americans should think about waging an increasingly bloody war against lightly-armed mountain tribesmen who face the 24/7 lethal fury of the US Air Force's heavy bombers, strike aircraft, helicopter and AC-130 Spectre gunships, killer drones and heavy artillery.

Do we really want a test of wills against such men who have the courage to endure cluster bombs, with thousands of sharp fragments, white phosphorus that burns through flesh to the bone, fuel air explosives that burst the lungs and tear apart bodies? Men who if arrested by the US-installed regime in Kabul are subjected to the foulest medieval tortures in government prisons run by members of the old Afghan Communist Party.

Our western propaganda brands these Pashtun tribesmen `Taliban terrorists.' Or, `insurgents.' They call themselves warriors fighting occupation by the Western powers and their local Communist, Tajik and Uzbek allies.

Al-Qaida's few hundred members long ago vanished.
Fatuous claims we occupy Afghanistan to protect women are belied by the continued plight of Afghan females under Western rule, and widespread hunger in that nation. A report in Britain's respected `Lancet' medical journal just concluded 100,000 Indian women are burned alive each year for their dowries. Will we now send troops to India?

Admitting the US and NATO cannot bludgeon the Afghan resistance into submission leads to the obvious question: why pursue a war that is turning increasing numbers of Afghans against their western occupiers and encouraging the anti-western violence we term, `terrorism?' Some of our NATO allies have ordered their troops to remain in base and cease aggressive patrolling.

The next step is to understand that wars are waged for political objectives, not simply to kill your enemies.

The US-led forces in Afghanistan have no coherent political objectives. The US-installed Karzai regime in Kabul has no political legitimacy, and commands no respect or loyalty. The US-engineered `democratic elections' that confirmed Karzai in power were rigged.

Today, Afghanistan is engulfed by corruption and massive drug dealing that involves many of the US-backed warlords and members of Karzai's entourage. The Obama administration is casting about for a new puppet, but so far can't find one who could do any better the hapless Karzai. You can't make a puppet into a real national leader.

Worse, as Kabul flounders and Taliban and its allies are on the offensive, events in neighboring Pakistan are going from awful to calamitous, as we witnessed in recent days.

The West cannot wage war in Afghanistan without the support of Pakistan's army, air bases intelligence service, and logistical infrastructure. That means keeping a government in power in Islamabad responsive to US demands and that will continue renting its army to Washington.

But Pakistan is in growing political confusion. After easing former discredited dictator Pervez Musharraf out of power, Washington eased into power People's Party leader, Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto. His popularity ratings are rock bottom.

Zardari recently got his stooges on the corrupt Supreme Court to ban Pakistan's most popular democratic opposition leader, Muslim League chief, Nawaz Sharif, from running for office. Nawaz's brother, Shabaz, was also judicially deposed as minister of Punjab, Pakistan's largest state.

Violent demonstrations against Zardari's dictatorial ploy and the refusal of some security forces to stop demonstrators forced Zardari to back down and agree to reappoint the deposed senior justices of Pakistan's Supreme Court.

The unpopular Zardari and the strongman behind him, Interior Mininster Rehman Malik, are dogged by grave corruption charges, and may be unable to cling to power. But Nawaz also has plenty of skeletons in his closets.

The army - Pakistan's other government - is watching the nation's descent into bankruptcy and political chaos with mounting concern.

The military fortunes of the US and NATO in South Asia thus rest on political quicksand in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Plans being developed by US South Asian proconsul Gen. David Petraeus to arm tribes on Pakistan's Northwest Frontier and turn them against pro-Taliban tribes are sure to bring even more violence and chaos.

Meanwhile, mounting air assassinations by CIA Predator aircraft in the tribal zone are enraging local Pashtuns and driving ever more people into the arms of the extremists. It is into this morass that President Obama plans to send more American troops.