Monday, August 24, 2009

Empowering Local Chiefs

Robert Dreyfuss writes in The Nation about Afghanistan:

I don't usually find inspiration in the pages of the Washington Times,
or rarely if ever in the writings of Tony Blankley, the former spokesman for
Newt Gingrich, but his recent
column on the mess in Afghanistan
struck me as intelligent and provocative.

It's called "Empower the local tribal chiefs," and it makes sense to me.
Blankley says that the United States is fast making enemies in Afghanistan of
the very tribesmen who expelled the USSR, and he makes this essential point
about the faulty thinking behind US strategy there:
"It would appear that a policy that calls for substantially increased troop strength for both the American and Afghan forces implies a policy that aspires to build a strong
central government in Kabul capable of permanently suppressing the Taliban. But
the long history of Afghanistan suggests that, unlike Iraq (or Japan and Germany
after World War II), Afghanistan is not likely to accept a strong central

Blankley, whose right-wing credentials are impeccable, adds:
"We are not hated quite yet. But we need to leave soon, or we will be."

He suggests that we simply buy up the poppy crop (cost: $2 billion to
$3 billion), stop "trying to prop up an inevitably corrupt and feeble Kabul
central government," and "support the tribes that have cheerfully and
courageously driven out all foreign intruders for thousands of years, not try to
build a national government that they will equally cheerfully massacre." I'm not
sure what Blankley means by "support" them, since it appears to me that the most
effective thing we can do is leave them to their own devices. But he's on the
right track that if the choices are either to spend decades, and hundreds of
billions of dollars, creating a democratic Valhalla based in Kabul, or start
winding down our presence while allowing some sort of province-by-province,
warlord-based (and in the south, Taliban-leaning, Pashtun) local fiefdoms to
emerge, then I'd pick Option Two.

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