Sunday, July 06, 2008

US failures in Afghanistan and Iraq

In my wandering across the Internet, I often encounter certain malicious positions which express themselves very volubly (and happily) whenever the subject of US failures in Iraq and Afghanistan are discussed. There is enough material there for quite a few research projects exploring the nature and causes of this determined political adverserialism and pathological pessimism.

What strikes me most is the adamant refusal to begin to see, let alone admit, that the West's intervention in both of these benighted places have already created the kinds of institutions and ethos of modernity, freedom, learning and hope that can lead to the sort of liberal societies we hope to see consolidated and re-enforced. Fragile and under constant threat by the forces of darkness still jousting for power in these two countries, they symbolize the best hope for a decent future for their peoples.

Here are two examples:

The first, from Afghanistan:

On a dusty highway in open country outside Kabul, a class of young girls, heads covered with hijabs, are being put through their paces in a primary school. It is a scene replicated around the world. The difference is that in Afghanistan a few years ago it would have been unthinkable. The Taliban refused to allow it....

I...thought, too, of my own daughter, due to start school in September, and our perhaps casual assumption that ahead lies secondary school, perhaps university and, if all goes to plan, a well paid job. The education system that we take for granted in Britain is still a distant dream here, where the government struggles to find teachers and classrooms. But the girls at the Qala-e-Baig school in Shakar Darra are among 2m attending schools across the country. They are a visible sign of real progress.

When the Taliban fell in 2001 there were only 900,000 children in school, all of them boys. That figure is now 6m and rising.

...The minister for education told me that another teacher had been beheaded by the Taliban in the past week. Schools are burnt down and the populace terrorised. (Via: Normblog)

The second, from Iraq:

When I first saw the city of Sulaymaniya in 1991, it was still under occupation by Saddam Hussein's army, and the Kurdish region in general was a howling wilderness of wrecked towns and gassed, "cleansed" villages. The graves from that time are still being dug up, but on my last visit, in 2006, the main emphasis was on reconstruction and investment, with the city proudly opening its own airport with direct flights from outside the country.

.... In 2006, the McKinsey consulting group was hired... to produce a business plan for a university along the lines of the existing success stories of the American Universities in Cairo and Beirut.... Salih... a native of Sulaymaniya, hopes that as the situation on the ground improves, there will also be campuses in Baghdad and Basra.

...Among the projects already underway are an M.B.A. program in concert with Hochschule Furtwangen University in Germany and an English preparatory program run jointly with the American English Institute at the University of Oregon. An environmental-studies department is envisioned, with money from the government of Italy, to address the recuperation of Iraq's southern marshes, the largest wetlands in the region, which were subjected to deliberate destruction by the regime of Saddam Hussein. The University of Vermont is hosting videoconferencing sessions in political science on such topics as federalism and church-state separation.

This is why I'm always so surprised to read of how leading intellectuals who supported the war in the first place have "recanted". How is it possible for intellectuals deeply concerned about human rights to have discarded these people and their life and meagre hopes for a decent future, aside, like that?


At 1:33 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's really depressing. A long time ago, years ago, when asked by my lefty friends for my reasons for supporting the war in Iraq I posited the following.

Iraq was attacking U.S. airplanes on a regular basis, in clear violation of the UN Resolutions that established the no-fly zones. These attacks alone provided a justification for the U.S.—and our supposed allies—to attack.

The Bush administration essentially had three options:

1) Continue with the “containment strategy” and sanctions regime which was not containing much of anything. Oil-for-food, U.S. and U.K. planes getting shot at on the regular, etc. etc. etc. And if you believe the radical-left, the sanctions were killing 100,000 Iraqis per month.

2) Give up on the containment strategy and sanctions completely. This was the goal of the radical-left.

3) Remove Hussein from power and destroy the Baathist regime.

I asked if they knew of any other options, an option four, they had none.

Historian Arthur Herman covers much of this in the recent Commentary article you linked to a few days back. When I bring these points up I am called an "apologist for Bush's war" by more people than I care to mention, including close family members.

Some people--you know who you are--dislike Bush so much they are unable to see how and where things are improving in Iraq.

It's obvious to those of us who have been paying attention (and want the mission to succeed) that Media coverage of Iraq has dropped in proportion to the level of success of the surge. I guess that doesn't sell papers.

Sorry for the rant...


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