Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Your tax dollars in action!

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Every year, the non-governmental organization Transparency International publishes a Corruption Perception Index.

2005 was the first year that the index ranked both Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2005's index of 158 countries, there were 17 countries more corrupt than Iraq and 34 countries more corrupt than Afghanistan.

In last year's index of 180 countries, Afghanistan was the 5th most corrupt country in the world and only Somalia was more corrupt than Iraq.

Even notoriously corrupt regimes like Equatorial Guinea, the DR Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon as well as the lands run by the much demonized Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe are better off than the US-occupied former countries.

This is just one illustration of the wonderful Progress that's being made in those occupied lands and proof that we were right to Stay the Course.

If I've forgotten any empty catch phrases, please leave them in the comments field.


PlanetAlbany said...

So ... you got any bright ideas about how to improve the situation in Afghanistan, or about what the U.S. should do there now or should have done after 9/11? It seems to me a situation for which there are not and never have been easy answers.

Brian said...

I will not discuss yet again what we should have done after 9/11 except to state this. Too often, societies discuss the question "is this war legitimate?" (itself usually in a twisted way) without ever touching on the equally germane follow up "is this war wise?" They are two related, but very different questions. After all, it's a lot harder to end a war than to start one.

I do not have any brilliant ideas about Afghanistan. If I did, I would apply to join the Obama administration today. To my knowledge, no good choice exists so we are stuck trying to figure out what is the least bad choice.

I think it's fair to say that things have overall gotten worse in Afghanistan since early in the occupation. I would not be surprised if there are some parts of the country where things have gotten better, but overall things seem to be worse.

I am not certain if the foreign military occupation is at the root of the instability. I do think there's every reason to suspect this, given Afghanistan's long history of stubborn refusal to be passively controlled by outside powers. I also think that occupying soldiers provide both a convenient recruiting tool for extremist elements and a target. Whether this is fair or not, it seems the reality.

There is also the question of the crutch. Conservatives often decry the 'welfare state' because they contend it creates a dependency culture. Why does this not apply to Afghanistan? As long as the Afghan central government (or as some refer to it, the government of Kabul) is dependent upon foreigners for a security situation that's degrading anyway, it will be truly be a sovereign country. We want them to sort out their own mess, but there's really no pressure for them to do so as long as they're so dependent on the foreign troops

I can not say for sure that foreign military occupation is causing the increasing instability, but I can so that it's not stopping it. I think for the amount of money and lives that the US and other countries are pouring in to the military operations, we have to ask is this good enough?

That's why I think we need a withdrawal of troops from the country. If we can't affirmatively answer the question "Are they doing any good?", then it's time to go. And by good, I don't mean individual cases of a school built here or a water pump there. I'm referring to the global security situation. Foreign development agencies can build stuff. Foreign troops are there to provide security. Period. If they can't do that, even though it's probably not their fault, they need to get out of the way.


Brian said...

It's not a good solution. It's only the least bad solution. Pouring more money and lives into a hopeless cause is just an easy way to avoid making tough decisions.

I do not believe that this will bring immediate stability to Afghanistan. Things may even get worse in the short term. But at some point, they need to be given the chance to sort things out themselves. Even adult children need to be given their autonomy to make their own mistakes and figure things out. A supposedly sovereign country should be treated like an adult.

I know you're not a fan of Jim Kunstler, but in his domain, he often refers to the psychosis of previous investment as a barrier to wise decision making going forward. The US alone has invested a gargantuan sum of money and lost over 600 soldiers in Afghanistan. No one wants to be the one to call time because it would be interpreted as an admission of failure. No one wants to tell the troops over they had to risk their lives for something that didn't work.

Yet, no one can come up with a plausible plan for success (without redefining 'success' into meaninglessness). So we're stuck in the trap that we can't get out of the mess without seeming to damn the past but we have no idea what to do instead.

It no longer matters whether it was right or sensible to go in there. What matters is whether it's whether it's sensible to stay. What matters is how are we going to make this work if we do stay. If we can't answer those questions, we need to leave. The onus is on those who want us to stay to come up with a viable plan.

We are the United States of America. We can do anything. If we just beat our head against the wall a little harder, it will fall. Or so we think. It's time we put our national ego aside and say it was beyond the mighty British empire, it was beyond the Red Army and yes, it's beyond the USA and its allies.

As they say, when you're in a hole, the first step is to stop digging.

PlanetAlbany said...

Hey, Jim Kunstler is on my blogroll.
I think you underestimate the harm that would be done by a U.S. withdrawal, and overestimate the willingness or ability of foreign development agencies or anyone else to do good things in the much worse security conditions or Taliban control that would likely result.

Brian said...

I don't underestimate the harm of a withdrawal. I simply believe that all solutions will cause significant harm, including ad infinitum occupation.

I believe that withdrawal is the only solution that has the prospect of eventually allowing things to work themselves out and for the harm to end. I've yet to heard a better alternative.