U.S. illusions in Afghanistan

Larry T. writes:

Your post about Ralph Peters’ new position calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan reminded me of this, from Michael Scheuer’s book, Marching Toward Hell- America and Islam After Iraq.

Scheuer has a lot of strange ideas, but he was a CIA insider for two decades.

As readers may remember, I have strongly criticized Scheuer because of his anti-Americanism—meaning not criticism of American policies, but malice against America and delight in America’s failures and troubles. However, the passage Larry quotes seems free of Scheur’s trademark animus, and the analysis makes sense. Here it is:

Western leaders mistakenly interpreted the joy of Kabulis over the arrival of their occupiers (Kabul is the least representative Afghan city; it was a haven for Western hippies in the 1960s and was Communist-run in the 1970s and 1980s) and projected that belief over the rest of the country and settled in to reconstruct and democratize the country. Meanwhile the Taliban and al-Qaeda evacuated across open borders at all four points of the compass to fight another day, and the rural Afghan population—that is, the poorest and most religious of the country’s people—began to feel the deterioration of law and order that accompanied the temporary overthrow of the Taliban regime. The truth is that Afghans missed the Taliban almost before they were gone because of the postinvasion resurgence of banditry in rural Afghanistan.

Believing that the Afghan war was over, the U.S.-led coalition began holding elections, rebuilding damaged structures and roads, and fielding Provincial Reconstruction Teams to build schools, inoculate children, and refurbish irrigation systems. In addition, hundreds of Western NGOs raced to get to Kabul and then to the countryside, thereby reinforcing a growing perception among Afghans that their country was again in the hands of non-Muslim conquerors. At this point we again run into one of those quaint and always-wrong assumptions that the West operates on when it intervenes in a Muslim country. Whether in Washington, London, or The Hague, the most basic assumption of nation-building is that if poor, illiterate, unhealthy Muslims are given potable water, schooling, prenatal care, and voting booths, they will abandon their faith, love Israel, demand visits by Saiman Rushdie, and encourage their daughters to be feminist with a moral sense alien to most of the Islamic world—that is, they will try to become Europeans.

This, of course, has never occurred in the wake of a Western intervention in a Muslim country. Islam invariably becomes more, not less, important to the inhabitants of an invaded Muslim country, and while improvements in water, disease resistance, and schoolbooks are appreciated, they are not religiously transforming. We simply end up with Muslims who are better educated, healthier, and more militantly Islamic. This has happened in countries (Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and several of the Balkan states) and in prison camps; in Guantanamo Bay, for example, we are building a truly dedicated and virulently anti-U.S. mujahedin battalion, the members of which will have the best-cared-for teeth in the Islamic world. But through it all, U.S. and Western leaders, the UN, and untold numbers of NGO spokespersons continue to sell shopworn lies to Western electorates-that nation-building will yield secularists who will desire only to live in peace with their Western conquerors. This type of thinking will ultimately prove calamitous for the United States and Europe because it assumes Muslims can be bribed from their faith by imposed material improvements and because it continues to ignore the source of Muslim animosity toward the West: the impact of our foreign policies and our increasing military presence in the Islamic world. In essence, Muslims see the secular Western mores brought to the poor and illiterate of the Islamic world as the baggage of infidel invaders, and it is more likely to produce Islamist enemies than postmodern, European-like atheistic hedonists. Ask yourself, for example, how much the comprehensive system of social-welfare benefits in the European Union has stopped or even slowed the growth of Islamist militancy across Europe. [p. 108]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 26, 2009 01:36 PM | Send

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