Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Crossed Fingers for Afghanistan

For the crisis du jour, the mode is ultra-cautious optimism as we tiptoe deeper into the Afghan-Pakistan quagmire with an infusion of 4,000 more military trainers along with civilian advisers.

The President's announcement today will put the bravest face on it, but the shadow of Iraq will be in the picture. An expert once described the war there as playing three-dimensional chess in the dark but that looks more like checkers compared to this. (See the gung-ho Long War Journal for a sampling of the daily reality.)

David Brooks comes back from his guided tour today "skeptical but also infected by the optimism of the truly impressive people who are working here," a non-sequitur after his gloomy assessment of the situation:

"Afghanistan is one of the poorest, least-educated and most-corrupt nations on earth...It has powerful enemies in Pakistan, Iran and the drug networks working hard to foment chaos. The ground is littered with the ruins of great powers that tried to change this place.

"Moreover, we simply do not know how to modernize nations. Western aid workers seem to spend most of their time drawing up flow charts for each other. They’re so worried about their inspectors general that they can’t really immerse themselves in the messy world of local reality. They insist on making most of the spending decisions themselves so the 'recipients' of their largess end up passive, dependent and resentful."

Add to this an intractable culture of corruption that has made the US-backed Karzai government shaky and the uncertainty of Pakistani support in the tribal regions despite our billions of aid to their government, and the questions of what we're doing there, for how long and with what prospects of success add up to another possible Iraq with more at stake and even less hope of disentanglement.

The Neo-Cons were criminally naïve about the Middle East, but it's hard to see much improvement in the "new" approach.

1 comment:

Stimpson said...

No, the neocons weren't "criminally naive about the Middle East." They were just plain cirminal. There's a difference.