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Thursday, March 30, 2006

 
On The Future Of Afghanistan

by tristero

In the comments to my recent post on Afghanistan, I wrote,
I have no idea what the Taliban's future is, but I do know Afghanistan's.

Violence bordering on sheer anarchy. Religious extremism. The oppression of women. Heartbreakingly-deep poverty.
In response, commenter gilpead wrote:
To paraphrase:

They're a bunch of wogs who are, due to their backwardness, doomed to a future of misery. Afghanistan can never, ever join the community of nations because the country as a whole is a cesspool of violence and oppression and the poor savages are incapable of ever changing the way things are done"
I've decided to respond to this rather than ignore it and to respond in a serious fashion. *

Dear gilpead,

I'm afraid your paraphrase of my remarks is not accurate, both in the details about my remarks or in the intent behind them.

I have never used the term "wog" in my life. In fact, I don't even know what it means.

I do not believe Afghans are "backwards" and never said so. I have no idea what you mean by that.

I believe that the future for Afghanistan is miserable, the future being defined as "over the next five years." That is a realistic assessment based upon the instability of the present situation and the lack of a serious commitment by the US and the international community to assist the Afghans in overcoming very real, and very serious problems. No one can predict with any degree of accuracy where Afghanistan will be much beyond five years, but if you insist, I would side with those who feel that over the next ten years, the obstacles will make it excessively difficult for there to be much improvement over the present, and with tremendous potential for things to get a lot worse.

Afghanistan can never "join" the community of nations, because it already is a part of that community. The question is whether Afghanistan can join the community of nations which offers its citizens a life free of warlords, fundamentalism, chronic terrorism, and gut-wrenching poverty. Given the lack of interest on the part of other nations, including the US, to help in a truly serious way, the answer is "not very likely." To hope that Afghanistan can pull itself up by its own bootstraps is to hope for the impossible. They need help. And they are not getting anywhere near enough.

Yes, the country (except within the circle of safety created by Karzai's bodyguards) is rife with oppression and violence. I reject the phrase "as a whole" because it too vague, if not meaningless. I'm sure there are plenty of places that have not been scarred by violence. The same is true of Iraq. And Sierra Leone. The problem is that there is far more violence and oppression within Afghanistan's borders than is compatible, in many, many places, with a minimum sense of safety.

I don't know what you mean by the term "poor savages." I have no idea what you're talking about because I neither use such language or understand why anyone would.

Again, the Afghans require the determined, and sensible, longtime assistance of other nations to help rebuild their country. Without it, the situation will remain catastrophic and get worse. It is nothing in "the character of the Afghan people" that compels this. A United States in as bad a shape as Afghanistan would require an equal amount of help.

I have no idea what you mean by a phrase as vague and crude as "changing the way things are done." A country is not a machine. Nor, as the world once again has learned, can any country be compelled into democracy by invasion, conquest, or coercion EXCEPT under very specific circumstances which were not the circumstances in either Iran or Iraq pre-invasion. For details, go to ceip.org and search for articles on nation-building, democracy after invasion, and the like.

LIke any sane human being, the Taliban and their ideas disgust me. But I fail to see where overthrowing the Taliban to replace it with anarchy, violence, poverty and slaughter that can -and will -be blamed directly on the United States is any improvement. The victims of the horrors may be slightly different, but the intensity, even if slightly lessened, will be laid at your feet, and mine.

Afghanistan fascinates me - the people, the culture, the architecture and music, and the geology. I would love to visit someday but I'm afraid I'll never get there. That's merely a personal disappointment, but the tragedy is that the greatness of Afghanistan has been so beaten up and battered that without serious, competent, help - which the Bush administration has proved over and over it is simply incapable of providing - that greatness will be beyond serious recovery for several generations or longer.

One last comment. I assume you will take what I've written here, caricature it, and proceed to refute the caricature. Doing so is your prerogative. Until George W. Bush, however, people who lived their lives within a cartoon reality usually didn't hold places of serious influence within the US government. Sure, Cheney and Rumsfeld were paid with my tax dollars at an earlier time, but their boss knew better than to mistake their screwiest ideas as the products of rational deliberation on foreign policy.

To paraphrase, believe whatever you want. Just stay out of my government and take your hallucinating friends with you.

Love,

tristero



*A few words of explanation: I chose to respond not because I think gilpead had even an inkling of a good point, but because gilpead's arguments are standard neo-conservative idealism of the sort Wolfowitz used to intimidate anyone who dared who talked reason to him or his fellows**, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to take those kinds of remarks seriously. Perhaps, some useful ways to debunk them might come out of it or better yet, spark someone else's mind to come up with something far more effective.

Don't get me wrong. I have no interest in "engaging" trolls, but I do have a lot of interest in developing arguments and rhetoric that can be used to refute the influential people from whom the trolls steal - men like Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, Kristol, HItchens and even Packer (should he fall prey once again to the temptations of his narcissistic, naive idealism).

**Wolfowitz at Georgetown University October 31, 2003::
"We hate your policies. We are tired of being feared and hated by the world," Ruthie Coffman (SFS201906) said, also calling Wolfowitz's policies "deplorable."

The killing of innocents is not the solution but rather the problem," she said.

"I would infer that you would be happier if Saddam Hussein were still in power," Wolfowitz responded."War is ugly," he said, "but the alternative is far worse."


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