Monday, August 31, 2009

A Difficult Decision

Public support for the Afghan war is apparently slipping. The previous months have seen the highest fatalities of the entire occupation (44 killed in July), and according to the Washington Post, 51 percent of people polled said the war was not worth fighting.

Now, I am about to defend the continuation of a war?

I never (never) thought I'd say this, but-- yes.

I cannot imagine a more selfish and morally bankrupt response to a resurgent Taliban than to pull out from the country completely and leave a shattered nation to be re-controlled by a radical and repressive "regime". Maybe a quick timeline will put it into perspective:

1980's: Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. US funnels money and guns to Mujaheddin through the Pakistanis to fight a proxy war. Soviets eventually withdraw.
1990's: Warlords run the country. No central government of note.
1994: Taliban movement born from a disgust of warlords and lawlessness. Quickly gains popularity.
2001: 9/11.
2000's: US invades Afghanistan because Taliban shelter Osama bin Laden. US topples Taliban regime quickly and effectively with the help and support of local warlords (also known as "the Northern Alliance"). Taliban flee to Pakistan and mountainous border area (with the help of Pakistani intelligence-- but that's a whole other story). US also supports Hamid Karzai, Pashtun leader, and new government. Government never able to provide needed security due to debt and little income and corruption (and a US distracted with Iraq war).
2008-9: Taliban reemerging, again, in a lawless time. Who knows what will happen...

If we left Afghanistan on its own, the Taliban will take over the country-again- foster militant Islam- again- institute repressive measures against women- again- and harbor and protect Al Qaeda- again (if they are willing to leave cushy Pakistan).

You've heard it before, and I totally believe it: If you break it, you buy it. Or here, if you invade and destroy an already destroyed nation, it is your duty as a civilized nation to help the shattered nation rebuild. We cannot just leave. We need to stay. We need to help the Afghans create a viable nation with the ability to sustain a vibrant and multi-ethnic population. It is important to remember: these are real people trying to support their families. This is not just a region on a map. There are people there. And they don't have a choice to get up and move or get up and "get a job". They need help. They need help that is beyond the capabilities of the current government. They need our help. And since we went there and bombed their villages (not on purpose, of course, but there were so many civilians killed in pursuit of the Taliban and Al Qaeda that it is worth noting), it is our duty to stay-- and to help.

So perhaps more soldiers isn't the solution. The solution, in my opinion, is more engineers. Stop the Taliban not by killing individual members. Stop them by building a happy populace. Stop them by building schools and roads. Because, the moment that a Taliban cell destroys a newly built school for girls, they will be vilified by the population, and then the American's won't have to kick the Taliban out. The Afghans will gladly do it.

No comments: