Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Feb. 12, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5762

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Rebuilding what? -- PESHAWAR, Pakistan | "Why are you letting them in," screamed the Afghan refugee. Her burqa hid her age but not her anger: "The Americans are not good. They are hurting our people in Afghanistan."

Our small party quickly retreated. A crowd was gathering, and we'd already been warned that another camp was unsafe for foreigners. Obviously, not all Afghans were grateful for being liberated.

The Bush administration has overthrown the Taliban and smashed the al-Qaeda network, but it says U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan at least to mid-year.

Washington's allies are hoping to move peacekeeping forces into the Afghan countryside. Unfortunately, winning the war was easy compared to creating a liberal and stable government in Kabul. Washington should temper its objectives: Afghanistan's political development doesn't matter so long as Afghans aren't helping Arabs kill Americans.

The United States had a vital interest in ending Afghanistan's support for a murderous terrorist network. Washington has fulfilled that objective brilliantly.

There is no similar stake in attempting to construct a new regime in Kabul. Although the United States could not abide another government which sheltered terrorists, that quite unlikely. Washington has demonstrated that while it will not enforce the right to, say, fly a kite, it will depose a government that allies with groups hostile to the United States. Ruling elites, like the Taliban, then will find themselves to be former ruling elites. Even the most xenophobic Afghan warlord is not likely to host an al-Qaeda training camp in the future.

To try to create a nation-state in the West's image would be a fool's errand, however. David Malone, president of the International Peace Academy, acknowledges: "Ideal social engineering projects devised in the United Nations Security Council or in regional organizations cannot be imposed on populations."

That is certainly the case in Afghanistan, an artificial country. It is sharply divided among ethnic groups, which dress, talk and worship differently. They have stronger ties with ethnic brethren in surrounding states than with each other. There is little loyalty to the entity of Afghanistan.

Britain's Lord Curzon, who did much national map-redrawing in his career, called Afghanistan "a purely accidental geographic unit," an outgrowth of the so-called Great Game played by imperial Britain and czarist Russia.

The mind boggles at the thought of the United Nations trying to "nurture" democracy in Afghanistan. Local warlords have re-emerged out of the ashes of Taliban rule, controlling an estimated 80 percent of the population.

Foreign peacekeepers might deter them from battling for control of Kabul. Far more difficult will be dampening growing violence elsewhere: rival factions have, for instance, been fighting in the provincial capital of Gardez.

Simple banditry in outlying areas will be hard to suppress, even if Britain and other countries pour in more troops. And no occupation will generate allegiance to whatever set of political figures is recognized by the West as the national government. Still, Ivo Daadler of the Brookings Institution speaks of a peacekeeping operation "only for a limited time -- a matter of months." In fact, such a short-term, soft approach would likely leave little imprint.

Thus, any occupation inevitably would end up long-term. In 1995, President Bill Clinton promised that Americans would leave the Balkans after one year. They are still there.

But a longer, tougher presence would generate local opposition that could easily turn violent. It's one thing to stick around to eradicate the remnants of al-Qaeda. It's quite another to, as suggested by President Bush, try to bring stability to Afghanistan.

Of course, Washington's allies should be welcome to try to do so if they want.

America's comparative advantage is fighting wars. The Europeans are better at garrisoning defeated lands. Does the West have a responsibility to try to recreate Afghanistan? Olivier Roy, of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, opines: "America is fighting now because it left too soon 13 years ago."

But the United States was never there. Washington aided Afghan rebels struggling against rule by the Soviet Union and its Afghan surrogates. Once Moscow withdrew, the Afghans were no more disposed to accept direction from America.

And the West's recent efforts at nation-building give little reason for confidence.

Somalia and Haiti remain disasters. Bosnia is an artificial state that survives only through Western military occupation. In Kosovo, even NATO's military presence did not prevent the ethnic cleansing by Albanians of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and non-Albanian Muslims.

Such experiences should lead to humble expectations in Afghanistan, a land at war for two decades and riven with murder, hatred and treachery. The Taliban's ouster does not mean the onset of peace and democracy.

Washington can live with an Afghanistan in which a weak central regime governs Kabul while tribal warlords control the rest of the country. What the United States cannot accept is an Afghanistan that hosts terrorists who strike at America.

JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


02/05/02: Succumbing to the terrorist temptation
01/29/02: Democrats for what?
01/22/02: The Iraqi question
01/14/02: Profiling frequent flyers
01/08/02: Trade, not aid
01/02/02: Treason by any other name
12/26/01: Preserving freedom in an unfree world
12/17/01: Dealing with terrorism's aftermath
12/10/01: Emerging friendships?
12/04/01: Uncle Sam: Insurer of last resort
11/28/01: Expanding the circle of trade
11/20/01: Free to be stupid
11/13/01: The meaning of compassion
11/07/01: Patriotic scoundrels
10/30/01: The coming postal raid
10/16/01: First, do no harm
10/12/01: Good news from a suffering land
10/04/01: Defending whom?
09/25/01: The wrong solution to the wrong problem
09/21/01: The price of terrorism
08/28/01: Uncle Sam's retirement scam
08/21/01: Canberra's quaint naivete
08/14/01: Uncle Sam's false fuel economy
08/08/01: The Clinton administration in drag
07/31/01: The high cost of government
07/24/01: Kill the campaign reform illusion
07/17/01: Do as I say, not as I do
07/11/01: Lawyers at play
07/05/01: Western blundering, Macedonian disaster
06/26/01: How best to honor Bill Clinton?
06/19/01: A maturing Europe?
06/15/01: Tell Beijing to mind its own business
06/06/01: Ukraine's boiling cauldron
05/31/01: Protecting privacy from Uncle Sam
05/22/01: America's Balkan quagmire
05/09/01: The Taiwanese flash point
05/01/01: Globalization serves the world's poor
04/24/01: Who's cheating whom?
04/10/01: The NCAA scam
04/03/01: Balkan stupidities
03/27/01: McCain doesn't want a 'risk for our country'
03/20/01: Dubious Korean alliances
03/06/01: Coercive patriotism
02/27/01: Bombing without end
02/20/01: A dose of misplaced outrage
02/13/01: Psst: Tax cuts for taxpayers. Pass-it-on
02/06/01: Bridging the unbridgeable gap
01/23/01: Left-wing demagoguery
01/16/01: The drug war problem
01/10/01: Politics and trade
01/03/01: Hope for liberty?
12/27/00: The debris of war
12/19/00: What's the rule of law for?
12/15/00: Ending silicone breast implant saga
12/05/00: Election may yield victor, but there are no winners
11/21/00: A Bush presidential mandate?
11/07/00: Exprienced Gore? Yeah, right
11/01/00: Interventionist follies
10/17/00: America's brightening prospects in Ukraine
10/11/00: GOP budget scandals
10/03/00: How a pharmaceutical 'crisis' was created
09/27/00: Clinton's empathy has helped nobody
09/13/00: AlGore's risky budget policies
09/05/00: Military readiness and Korean commitments
08/29/00: Let sleeping hypocrites lie
08/21/00: Targeting a journalistic pariah
08/15/00: European garrison for Kosovo?
08/08/00: Journalistic cleansing at the Boston Globe
08/04/00: Junk science on trial
06/22/00: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
06/15/00: The end of U.N. peacekeeping
06/07/00: The Clinton regulatory miasma
06/01/00: Administration stupidity, congressional cowardice
05/25/00: The silence of the international community
05/18/00: Protecting the next generation

05/11/00: Freer trade with China will advance human rights

05/04/00: How not to save the Constitution

04/28/00: American tripwire in Korea long ago disappeared: Why are we still involved?

04/18/00: Clinton administration believes the IRS is too gentle, wants more auditors

© 2002, Copley News Service