SEARCH BLOG: AFGHANISTAN
While President Obama debates about the future course of U.S. actions in Afghanistan, it might be worthwhile to look back to 2001 at an essay about this subject:
The Folly of Nation-Building in AfghanistanNow in 2009, similar voices are being heard:
by Gary Dempsey
Gary Dempsey, a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute, is a co-author of Fool's Errands: America's Recent Encounters with Nation Building.
Added to cato.org on October 17, 2001
This article appeared on cato.org on October 17, 2001.
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), recently claimed that an American-led nation-building effort in Central and South Asia is the long-term solution to the terrorism problem. For Biden, this nation-building effort should focus on changing the economic and social climate of Afghanistan and its neighbors, and include something akin to the Marshall Plan's reconstruction of Europe after World War II. Besides setting an awkward precedent -- that harboring terrorists will eventually bring new roads and heaps of foreign aid -- Biden's nation-building recommendation overlooks the obvious: Postwar Afghanistan will look nothing like postwar Germany, or for that matter, postwar Japan.
For starters, the high level of education and industrial know-how in postwar Germany and Japan helped launch an economic recovery in both countries that is inconceivable almost anywhere else. Germany also had a strong tradition of the rule of law, property rights, and free trade before the Nazi era. Japan's elite embraced an honorific culture that respected and obeyed the wishes of the victor in battle. Afghanistan and its neighbors, in contrast, have little in the way of either liberal traditions or cultural attitudes that are agreeable to massive foreign interference.
September 1, 2009Here's the rub: Iraq represented a real opportunity for so-called nation building in that it has a fairly well educated population and had been held together by Saddam Hussein for decades as a coherent, albeit repressive, political entity. There was a case for Iraq. And just as realization of this effort was within reach, our politically novice President pulled the rug out and that may ultimately cause a severe backsliding away from that goal.
Afghanistan: Time to Stop Nation-Building
By George Will
WASHINGTON -- "Yesterday," reads the e-mail from Allen, a Marine in Afghanistan, "I gave blood because a Marine, while out on patrol, stepped on a (mine's) pressure plate and lost both legs." Then "another Marine with a bullet wound to the head was brought in. Both Marines died this morning."
"I'm sorry about the drama," writes Allen, an enthusiastic infantryman willing to die "so that each of you may grow old." He says: "I put everything in God's hands." And: "Semper Fi!"
Allen and others of America's finest are also in Washington's hands. This city should keep faith with them by rapidly reversing the trajectory of America's involvement in Afghanistan, where, says the Dutch commander of coalition forces in a southern province, walking through the region is "like walking through the Old Testament."
U.S. strategy -- protecting the population -- is increasingly troop-intensive while Americans are increasingly impatient about "deteriorating" (says Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) conditions. The war already is nearly 50 percent longer than the combined U.S. involvements in two world wars, and NATO assistance is reluctant and often risible.
Nearly all agree that Afghanistan is not such a situation, yet our politically novice President wanders aimlessly in a strategy built on quicksand to try to replicate this nation building effort in Afghanistan... while placing our soldiers in greater danger by figuratively tying both hands behind their backs and blindfolding them before sending them into battle.
If the U.S. is to be in Afghanistan, then a more conventional war strategy such as that used in Germany should be be employed... physical destruction of enemy strongholds and emotional destruction of the will to fight. War is over when the enemy's will to fight is lost. In Afghanistan, this will not be achieved by pouring ground troops into mountainous territory. This will be achieved by destruction from the air without notice and without ceasing until surrender is the only option. And yes, this means civilian casualties... especially when the distinction between civilians and combatants is nearly impossible.
If the U.S. has no stomach for this, then it is time to leave, let the current government fall, let the Taliban take over... and then bomb the hell out the Taliban. Let them create their own target for us... if they are our enemy... or harbor our enemies.
War is this...
It's time to fish or cut bait... using a totally unrelated metaphor. Maybe it is time to "go fish."