Sunday, June 12, 2011

"If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride"

"In Marja, as elsewhere across much of the south, the reduced presence of the Taliban has allowed people to return to work and an Afghan government to emerge, however tentatively. Yet the greatest shortcoming — one the military buildup was not intended to address by itself — is a lack of strong Afghan institutions to fill the void left by the Taliban retreat.

"Even as the local government expands and begins to earn the support of the population, there remains an intense distrust of President Hamid Karzai’s government. Afghans continue to have doubts about whether it can deliver on its own once Mr. Karzai’s foreign backers begin to withdraw, and they express a deep unhappiness over the corruption, cronyism and ineffectiveness that undermines any progress made on the ground."

This is from the NY Times, Sunday, June 12, 2011 and is an analysis of the situation in Afghanistan which claims that the Taliban there has been, almost, defeated. But it reads exactly as articles read years ago analyzing the then "situation" in Vietnam, to the point, always, that "there was light at the end of the tunnel." Of course, there was not and what marred the analyses were myths, delusions that we bring to these situations and which blind us to what I like to call "real reality." One such myth is that the establishment in Afghanistan, represented here by the Karzai government, wants "strong Afghan institutions." This implies that the Karzai government wants strong, national institutions so it can undertake reform and "build a genuine nation." But the Karzai government, like any government anywhere, does what it does to keep itself in power. What is here labelled "the corruption, cronyism, and ineffectiveness that undermines any progress" are policies that the Karzai government uses to maintain itself and its allies in power. Other policies are not endorsed because to do so would undermine the Karzai government.

Underlying this delusion is another one, viz., that government, especially a national government, is inherently, consistently a tool for reform and that when such a government fails, it fails because of obstacles placed in its way by other "forces" or those who want to maintain their perks at the expense of reform. Think about it: Whenever reform is mentioned in the U.S., isn't it almost always in the context of nationalizing a particular phenomenon? Want education reform? Well, we get No Child Left Behind or a Race to the Top. And, of course, as we are told, these programs have nothing to do with politics, that is, with maintaining the power of those who are in power, dislodging others from power, or keeping others out of power who might be threatening to take it.

But what if this is not the case? That is, what if a national government and those who control it are more interested in preserving their power and their privileges than in genuine reform? What if our thought that a national government and those in control of it are genuine reformers is not a thought at all but is a "wish?" As the old saying has it, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

So, to assume, as the analysis in the Times does, that Afghanis want genuine reform is to engage in wishful thinking. And we send our soldiers there to fight for a reform, for an end, that the Afghans don't share. I am not sorry to say that this policy, this war cannot succeed - just as it did not succeed in Vietnam and could not succeed there because the Vietnamese, all of them and not just the Communists, did not want it to succeed. We are not only opposed by the Taliban in Afghanistan but also by the Afghans in Kabul. Good luck with that. "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

1 comment:

  1. You and I both know that Obama is smarter than that. The Right didn't think a community organizer would continue the war against terror. The Left feel the man who campaigned against the Iraq War and McCain has abandoned them as well. Well, give credit when credit is due. The difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan is Afghanistan is costing the US about $100 Billion a year. Our security interests won't need as many boots on the ground. We can't afford to build democracy in Afghanistan. The US war credit card is way past it's limit.

    I just read an interesting article by Leslie H. Gelb on The Daily Beast regarding Obama's secret exit strategy from Afghanistan. My guess is that the 30,000 troop reduction will commence in July. 2012 is also an election year. Time will tell on who will succeed. But you and I both know Obama is smarter than that.........