Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No Afghanistan Nation Building


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 Afghanistan

by Gary Dempsey

This article appeared on 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.

Read more....

Now in 2009, similar voices are being heard:

Afghanistan: Time to Stop Nation-Building

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.

Read more....

Here'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.

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...

Not this...

It's time to fish or cut bait... using a totally unrelated metaphor. Maybe it is time to "go fish."

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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- O. Henry
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)