There are, in the popular mind, two main drives for war, one defensive and one offensive.
Every group or government likes to frame its motives as defensive. The other side is threatening our security, our values, they have some defect that we cannot tolerate.
In Afghanistan, the biggest (of many) issues is the lack of civil rights for women and the primitive justice system. Never mind that women were not allowed to vote in the United States 100 years ago and to this day some places in the United States will send a 14 year old to adult prison for life with no chance of parole.
When Hitler invaded Poland and other countries his rationale was understood by his people. There was a clear threat to the homeland and war, terrible as it was, seemed necessary. Today, countries that do not have food for their people will spend vast amounts of money trying to "conquer" or "punish" a neighbor, and the reasons for fighting seem perfectly logical to those involved.
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At this point, early 2013, here are some guesses.
1) Israel is long overdue to hit Hezbollah in Lebanon. Once that happens a lot of the local infighting among Muslim groups in the region will start to look outward and Jordan will probably start the final process in its decay.
2) Pakistan is just waiting for some version of an "Muslim Spring" event. When it happens NATO troops will no longer be able to remain in Afghanistan.
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Neocons have been defined, and their ideology explained, a number of ways.
Most of the definitions and explanations given on the internet are utter nonsense, from Wikipedia to The Power of Nightmares. These are clever attempts to tie the current group of policy activists, called Neocons, with past groups that, in some cases, might be considered splinters of conservatism.
Here is a very straightforward definition.
Today's Neocons are a very academic group of conservative Zionists whose policy interest is largely limited to Israel.
Did Neocons direct America into Iraq and Afghanistan?
Of course. Only an idiot would look at America's entry into those wars and deny that it was orchestrated by that specific group.
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What is "Israel"?
The word "Israel" means a few different things.
Historically the word has been used to mean "the collective body of Jewish people".
It also refers to a Jewish nation that existed long ago.
Today the name is used by a country in the Middle East. That country was founded by Zionists who chose to use the name "Israel" to give the appearance of continuity to their state.
Most importantly, "Israel" refers to the Land of Israel. This is simply... the Land of Israel. It comes without any political baggage. Just land. The Land of Israel is always the Land of Israel, regardless of who has political control at a given moment.
Jews vs. Muslims?
One of the biggest myths surrounding the Middle East is that there is some inherent conflict between Judaism and Islam.
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It is becoming more and more common to read main stream articles promoting a one state solution with Israelis and Palestinians.
For diehard Zionists this represents a huge compromise and reflects the realistic fear that Israel may not be defensible for much longer. The balance of power is rapidly shifting toward a combination of a pan Arab or pan Muslim bloc combined with superpower benefactors like China and others.
The main impediment to realizing this stabilizing change is not ideology, though.
Israeli leaders will talk at length about the historic persecution of the Jews, the need for a "Jewish" (i.e., Zionist) state, etc, but the driving motivation to keep Israel Zionist is economic and social. The simple truth is that Israel has a number of wealthy movers and shakers who would lose status and influence in a mixed state.
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In every society, people are more familiar with their own society's strengths than with those of other societies.
Put another way, every people has things that they know, and which they are certain other groups do not know. If you say "How do you know that those (foreign) people lack this skill", the answer is some form of "I can tell just by looking at them".
If you learn the local bushman language in some remote place, they will try to explain their gift and how it is that others don't have it. In a developed country, the same. The difference being only that the "gift" that we have is far removed from nature and of subjective value (whether it is academics, economics, whatever).
When people from wealthy countries deal with people from poor countries in the business world it is very clear where the advantage is. We (wealthy countries) practically invented business. We make the rules and we know what we're doing.
Imagine if the major oil countries were run by Americans. We would come up with head spinning tricks to stay on top. The perception being that because those countries are not run by Americans they don't quite have the gift to out think us.
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An increase in attacks on NATO forces by Afghan soldiers has been in the news.
There are some interesting aspects to the coverage, some obvious elements ignored deliberately by Americans.
Afghans consider themselves warriors. There is no pretense. They don't fight for medals or money. There are no doubts about their collective bravery.When there is a real fight, they fight. When there isn't, they don't.
Americans are not a warrior people. We specialize in loyalty to authority. We fight not because there is a real fight, but because we are told to fight. Those who question the fight are weeded out as liberals or even cowards.
Afghanis fight with whatever weapons they have and seldom will have more than a few hundred dollars worth of equipment on them. Most Americans cringe at going into "combat" with less than several thousand dollars worth of armored clothing, the latest high tech weapons and a radio to call in helicopters or airplanes if anyone starts shooting at them.
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The Arab Spring has started as a monumental historical event.
Both allies and enemies have been impressed by the courage of a lot of individuals in Arab countries.
A big question for observers now is whether the Arab Spring has just begun, or whether it has just ended. Some countries / blocs have a strong interest in an end to the rebellions, a return to stability, while others have an interest in seeing the rebellion grow.
Others, like Saudi Arabia, are in an ambiguous position. On the one hand the rebellions if ultimately successful, will lead to a much wider influence of ideologues influenced by the Saudis. Also, the rebellions are strongly helpful to pan Arabs who want to see a unified Arab and Muslim bloc, economic and political and military. On the other hand, the Arab Spring seems, superficially, to pose a potential threat to the Royal family. Whether the threat is real, and whether the Saudis may be playing up the threat to distract from their motives, is a separate line of study.
A unified Arab bloc is also in China's interest. It would speed the power shift away from the United States and give more economic clout to China.
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