The inexcusable folly of America’s attempt to modernize Afghanistan

James P. writes:

An Air Force colonel muses on the futility of trying to create a functioning country when the local population consists of people who cannot even successfully inflate a basketball:

Afghanistan and the Afghans provide such a limited foundation to build from that “by, with, and through” simply may not be feasible. In many ways, we are multiplying by zero. The Afghans have limited infrastructure; limited agricultural capability; limited to no indigenous industrial capacity; an immature consumer economy; an impotent and incoherent security apparatus; and a fledgling Western-style government overseeing a decentralized, tribally based population. No foundation exists to to build on. The lack of an existing infrastructure prevents the creation of second- and third-order economic effects, construction of a security force, and the development of functioning public transportation and communication services. The United States is investing in a country in which there is literally nothing to invest. Virtually everything the U.S. uses has to be imported because Afghanistan is fundamentally underdeveloped.

What I witnessed in Afghanistan is best summed up in Robert Kaplan’s The Ends of the Earth. Kaplan notes that when the United States began the Peace Corps in the 1960s, both Sierra Leone and India required basic agricultural know-how. Thirty years later, India had become a net food exporter and a producer of high technology with no further need of farm assistance. Sierra Leone, on the other hand, remained exactly where it was in the 1960s when the Peace Corps first arrived. The message of Sierra Leone was brutal: The end was nigh in the failed battle, fought valiantly by the liberal West, to equalize cultures around the world. The differences between some cultures and others (regarding the ability to produce exportable material wealth) appeared to be growing rather than diminishing. I could substitute Afghanistan for Sierra Leone. It was difficult to make my interpreter understand this, but he knew it when I asked where the ISAF would get its water, its rental cars, and its Internet service. He knew that whatever we needed would come from somewhere other than Afghanistan.

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Dean Ericson writes:

This article is excellent. Colonel Venari has figured out that, after eight years trying, our Afghanistan venture is a complete folly:

“We seem unaware that our resource-intensive efforts may not work and Afghanistan might not make strategic sense in the end.”

So, not only are our means insufficient to our ends, but the ends themselves make no sense. Great. So whose fault is it?:

“Our inability to empower the Afghans to our standards of effectiveness is by no means entirely the fault of the Afghans. A lot of the blame rests with us. We are trying to raise them to a standard they cannot reach, and we are fully aware that they will not get there.”

Our fault. After 8 years we finally figure out that the Afghans can’t even inflate a basketball without our help. So who is truly stupid here?—the Afghans, or us? So what is our colonel’s conclusion?:

“Much like our overall endeavor in Afghanistan, I wonder if the effort to inflate the ball is worth it.”

He wonders if it’s worth it. Now, give the man a break, it is necessary for an officer to be diplomatic instead of just roaring out, “Our Afghan strategy is insane and suicidal, arghhhhhh!” He does explain why it has failed and why it can never work, but the biggest aspect of the folly goes mostly unsaid in this article: that Afghanistan is strategically worthless. After destroying bin Laden and his crew and the Afghan government that harbored them we could have pulled out in 2002 with the promise that, if any further attacks originated from them, we’d be back with worse in store. That would have been victory. Rather than embarking on the costly folly of trying to make Afghans into Americans we could have simply closed the borders of the USA to Muslims. That’s how the 19 Muslim jihad warriors got into our country—we let them in. But such sensible measures are against ruling liberal principle. So rather than do things that actually make us safe at little cost we engage in suicidal follies that make us less safe, more demoralized, and more broke. And we see this clearly but it makes no difference; the mad parade goes on regardless. The Stupid Party got us into it and the Evil Party is happy to drag it out. What a wreck. =

Clark Coleman writes:

I passed along the entry about the Air Force colonel’s Afghanistan article to George W. Bush and Condoleeza Rice, encouraging them to read your entry and the colonel’s article in full. They have jointly issued the following reply:

“Anyone who believes that the Afghans suffer any cultural incapability to be self-governing, self-defending, and independent of Western aid is a racist.”

I thought you would want to know.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 17, 2011 07:40 AM | Send

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