The dream of Afghan democracy is dead

#1
The dream of Afghan democracy is dead
By Anatol Lieven

Published: June 11 2008 18:59 | Last updated: June 11 2008 18:59

In public, defeat in Afghanistan is unthinkable for western governments. In private, for many it already seems inevitable – at least if the western definition of “victory” remains the vastly overblown goals set since the overthrow of the Taliban, within any timeframe that is likely to be acceptable to western electorates.

In recent meetings involving Nato officials I have been struck by the combination of public acknowledgment that, to achieve real and stable progress in Afghanistan, western forces will probably have to remain there for a generation at least, and deep private scepticism that western publics will stay the course for anything like that long. Indeed, most plans have the hopeless aim of producing clear results within three years, for fear that otherwise Canada will not prolong its presence beyond 2011 and the whole Nato effort will begin to unravel.
More on the link
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f25de8f4-37b1-11dd-aabb-0000779fd2ac.html
 
#2
It was dead when the Americans allowed Blair to expand on their limited war aims of destroying AQ and Taliban. It died when USA was diverted from even those limited and achievable aims to Iraq. It died when no one considered it important to have a unified long term funded mission.
The post op analysis can only conclude that the international community utterly failed to co-ordinate and produce a coherent doctrine/ set of principles to guide them.
A complete political farce. Tony Blair to blame.
Military, sadly, prolonging the agony. Each day the better they do, the more Taliban killed, villagers liberated, lives saved for future prosperity, only serves to highlight the contrasting situation on the political front. You can win every battle but lose the war. It’s not about killing Pashto men or, good for nothing but death, foreign fighters but about the political power in the country.
It is about law and order; Civil Servants; Tax collectors. Administrators not war lords. Pakistan and Iran.
All the battles fought are not even the beginning of the beginning. We haven’t even started to make a dent on the doctrine and political structures needed to last five seconds in the ring with your average Afghani, Pakistani, Iranian warlord, power broker, president. I blame Tony Blair and every schmuck out there who bought the cheap dreams he sold.
I do have respect for the Germans who refuse to compromise their political doctrine on running headlong into every fight Tony Blair picks with other peoples lives. By staying out of it until there is something even slightly resembling a coherent plan, shows intelligence.
Who knows, perhaps the Americans will take over, at least there will be a plan.
 
#3
When Afghans dream of Democracy then maybe the dream might be realized.
Whilst others dream of it on their behalf only chaos and war will be realized.

We all know this. How boring it is listening to another person trying to recount their dreams? They can never do it well, it never makes any sense and anyway we are never able to feel what it was they felt so strongly or strangely about let alone appreciate the significance the dream had for the dreamer.
 
#4
It was doomed from the very second some moron decided it would be a good idea to get involved 'democratising' a medieval, feudal and tribal society - and one with absolutely no concept of Western ideology. Quite ironic when one considers the instigators of such folly have questionable attitudes towards the very ideals they foolishly try to export to those who have no wish to adopt them.
 
#5
BuckFelize said:
It was doomed from the very second some moron decided it would be a good idea to get involved 'democratising' a medieval, feudal and tribal society - and one with absolutely no concept of Western ideology.
Something has to be done when said "mediaeval" society have trained pilots plunging airliners into the Pentagon, though..
 
#6
You're absolutely correct. Kabul was awash with 767 sims. Please don't tell me you fell for all that AQ Afghanistan 9/11 connection garbage? None were Afghans. They were indoctrinated in Saudi madrasas, funded by Wahabi fundamentalists, educated in Europe and trained in US flight schools - and succeeded largely due to naive liberal Western attitudes, bad int and poor border/immigration control.

Yes, Afghanistan is a hotbed for radicals, but so is Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria (amongst others) - and I don't see much in the way of 'long termism' in foreign policy going on there, just AU/UN intransigence.
 
#7
In my naivety I thought democracy is what people of a particular country want for themselves, not what the government of a different country want for the people it has no right to govern. If people of Afghanistan want feudalism and tribalism then it's their brand of democracy!

Anyway, who believes US went there to spread democracy? :roll:
 
#8
To be honest I'm beyond caring. I've grown so tired of hearing the same old shit day in day out. I don't care any more if they end up slaughtering themselves into extinction. Either send enough troops to sort the place out (which is not going to happen it seems) or leave and let them get on with it.

In military terms we are always going to spank them when we have a fight. Victory in the terms we understand it is not possible without many more thousands of troops which leaves the current war of attrition rather pointless and reminds me of Vietnam in many ways.
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#9
BuckFelize said:
You're absolutely correct. Kabul was awash with 767 sims. Please don't tell me you fell for all that AQ Afghanistan 9/11 connection garbage? None were Afghans. They were indoctrinated in Saudi madrasas, funded by Wahabi fundamentalists, educated in Europe and trained in US flight schools - and succeeded largely due to naive liberal Western attitudes, bad int and poor border/immigration control.

Yes, Afghanistan is a hotbed for radicals, but so is Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria (amongst others) - and I don't see much in the way of 'long termism' in foreign policy going on there, just AU/UN intransigence.
My Bold: Yes, they were Western educated Muslims, but they were actually trained in Saudi-funded Pakistani Madrassas, by Saudi preachers into the Wahabi ideology, and then afterwards in Taliban military training camps, where the final anti-western/anti-Saudi ideology was put in place by people like Osama. The problem of Saudi Wahabism is that it encourages revolt against government - including that of Saudi Arabia. Why the Al Saud family decided on Wahabism as a national religion is because it allows for very rigid control of the people through ultra-conservatism run from madrassas and Mosques. The problem with the religion/ideology is that it also promotes revolt against rulers - a bit of a tricky balancing act for Al Saud, unless you figure sheer, mindless brutality into the equation - public beheadings of everyone from teenage kids and women, all the way up to thieves and the like. Everyone knows how strict things are in Saudi Arabia, and what the penalties are for deviation from the religious rule of law - usually death by stoning or beheading, or having limbs chopped off.

What Kabul was awash with was Wahabism. The Northern Pakistan Madrassas were awash with Wahabi preachers and Saudi money at the behest of Western Governments to ensure that the right sort of ideology was in place to defeat Russian forces.

Only extreme Wahabi ideology could provide the suicidal nutters needed to take on the might of the Soviet Block. The Western gobments provided the intel, the radios and the missiles, and they were supported by the Pakistani ISI (at the request of the West) and Saudi money and training (at the behest of the West).

When the Mujahideen (like I said, funded by Saudi Arabia, and backed by the Pakistani ISI as well as the West) beat the Russians, the Saudis figured they could keep fundamental nutter conservative ideologies in place in Afghan as they do in Saudi Ariabia and thus maintain control of that region. They were backed by the Saudi-funded Madrassas in the Pakistan border region who kept up a constant supply of foreign nutters.

These same nutters worked on the Wahabi principles that even Muslims were legitimate targets if they were not Sunni or Wahabi. The Shia branch of Islam was considered a 'perversion' of Islam, and thus, these nutters closed the schools, clamped down on any behaviour outside the VERY strict religious doctrines (like full-on Bhurkas having to be worn) and killed ANYONE, including Afghan women and children who refused to denounce the Shia faith and convert to Sunni Islam.

Before Western forces removed the Taliban from power, 10's of thousands of Afghan civilians had been brutally murdered by the Taliban for being Shia or not observing the very strict religious rules that had been put in place. If anyone remembers the 'horror stories' about a particular Afghan warlord (helped by the CIA) who rounded up a load of foreign Taliban fighters after a battle in a particular fort, (many of whom had surrendered), you will remember that the CIA handed them over to the Afghans, who promptly shot a load of them, put the rest in containers on the backs of trucks, shot up those same containers, and then drove them for many many miles across the Afghan desert, wherein even more died from thirst and heat exhaustion (not to mention the bullet wounds from the shooting into the containers). Some of the survivors wound up in Guantamo - hence where the documentary on the so-called 'atrocity' stemmed from.

What was not shown in that documentary was the fact that (I think the Afghan commander who ordered this treatment was called Doshko or something) the Afghan tribes/natives had suffered exactly the same, or worse treatment at the hands of the Taliban for years. Unlike Doshko, the Taliban did this to everyone from old men down to women and children; that and cut their throats. Doshko's only victims were the foreign wahabi indoctrinated fighters who were directly responsible for the woes of the Afghan people after the Mujahideen got thrown out by the Taliban.

So, there endeth the lesson. Back to the thread: The Afghans don't really care for a Democracy, much less a 'Western' style system.

What they want is peace, a strong but benign national government, to make their money from opium or whatever else turns the folding stuff, the freedom to worship their God in whatever manner they wish or through whichever branch of Islam they adhere to, and perhaps even an end to the battles between the so-called 'warlords'. If they can get that, and the removal of any foreign forces and influence, whether they be Pakistani, Saudi OR Western, they'll be happy.

All we in the West have to do is put the place back on its feet - by ensuring the requirements above are met, and the benign, approved of, national government is kept in place. If we can do that, the Afghans will be happy and we can walk away.

How does that fit with out needs? Well, we don't want Saudi-sponsored fundamentalism in Afghanistan - we want the place to be benign. We are on our way to meeting that objective by keeping up a constant supply of fiery chariots to heaven and queues of nubile virgins on tap for the just-deceased jihadees. We are achieving our hearts and minds objectives slowly but surely by showing that WE are benign unless you are a jihadee, and by demonstrating that WE are the biggest, baddest boys on the block, but will help you (or leave you alone) if you stay on side.

We are NOT generally speaking, interfering with their cash-crops - and if the right choices are made, may actually legitimise the whole process of opium production by actually buying the stuff off them - we DO need it in the West after all. If some brain-dead politician makes the wrong choice, and decides that we are against Afghan opium production no matter hoiw much we need it, then it's all going to go t!ts up in a BIG way - and that is always a possibility where politicians of ANY nationality are concerned.

Do we ACTUALLY want a Western style democracy in Afghanistan? Maybe, but it will NEVER happen. The place is too lawless, too corrupt, too backward and too poor. It is not in the interests of any of its neighbours to see the place stable, well educated and rich either. See what Pakistan thinks on the matter.

Anyone who thinks that the West seriously believes it will achieve any such goals of Western style democracy and freedoms in Afghanistan is deluded.
 
#10
Biped, excellent post.

Any clues on timescale? My boy's 6 at the moment; will I be waving him onto a plane at Brize in 12 years time?
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
angular said:
Biped, excellent post.

Any clues on timescale? My boy's 6 at the moment; will I be waving him onto a plane at Brize in 12 years time?
Methinks that may be on the cusp of electoral acceptability old bean. In twelve years time, people may very well be saying 'FFS, what IS the point?', but you may yet need to stock up on suntan lotion for the boy. :D
 
#12
Biped said:
All we in the West have to do is put the place back on its feet - by ensuring the requirements above are met, and the benign, approved of, national government is kept in place. If we can do that, the Afghans will be happy and we can walk away.


We are NOT generally speaking, interfering with their cash-crops - and if the right choices are made, may actually legitimise the whole process of opium production by actually buying the stuff off them - we DO need it in the West after all. If some brain-dead politician makes the wrong choice, and decides that we are against Afghan opium production no matter hoiw much we need it, then it's all going to go t!ts up in a BIG way - and that is always a possibility where politicians of ANY nationality are concerned.
Like angular said, -- excellent post. Just two points that are not clear for me:
1. ANY Western involvement into putting in place benign, approved of, national government will be viewed by some in Afghanistan as Western interference and the government itself as puppet and thus illegitimate. As soon as the West'll pull out of Afgh. an internal scuffle/tribal wars will ensure, which would require the West to go back and interfere some more, or swallow a bitter pill and allow Afgh. to sort itself out, -- then why not get out now (if all the West is interested in is Afgh.'s happiness)?

2. Are you sure the West needs more heroin?
 
#13
The big question, which I've never been able to satisfactorily answer for myself, is "Are people the world over essentially similar in their reasoning and aspirations or does socialisation mean that you can't even begin to have an inkling as to the thought processes of people from radically different cultures?"

I remember reading an account from a journalist/writer who was with a group of Mujahidden in Afghanistan when $1m was offered for the capture of Salman Rushdie. They immediately seized him. He looked nothing like Rushdie, and had indeed been with the mujahidden for a while. However, from their point of view it was obvious - Rushdie was a western writer and here was a westerner - writing.

There was an experiment done with illiterates - "Bogo is in the North. All bears in the North are white. What colour are the bears in Bogo?" Typical answer, "I don't know. There are many types of bears".

I spoke to a very disillusioned soldier who had come back from a training job with a foreign army. His feeling - "Spend every penny you have, no matter how poor your country is, on primary education. By the time people get into their teens if they haven't been educated you are totally f***** trying to teach them anything".

I'm not saying it is the case, but it might be the case that we European inheritors of the Enlightenment don't have the first scooby about just what (and how little) is going on in then minds of a lot of people. Trying to teach them about democracy might be like trying to teach a medieval peasant to fly an attack helicopter.

Americans in particular find the above attitudes difficult - smacks too much of neo-colonialism/imperialism. Fact is, though, John Stuart Mill might be right - maybe there are barbarians who are unfit for self-government, and likely to remain so for a long time.
 
#14
gobbyidiot said:
John Stuart Mill might be right - maybe there are barbarians who are unfit for self-government, and likely to remain so for a long time.
It always seems illogical to me that leaders of the West insist that people be given the right to govern themselves, but then demand that they may only do so in a manner that suits us 8O

The Afghan system of government is largely a matter of indifference to me so long as any disputes remain within their borders. As soon as they allow the training of terrorists who kill people who disagree with them, then we're within our rights to give them a spanking (says the man in no danger of having to do the job himself :oops: ).
 
#15
Besides, if it was so important to the west and the Uk to achieve its goals in HERRICK, why prey does the fat mong known as Gordon, insist on personally approving force levels, even if the force levels requested might actually save some needless loss of life in the form of new capability and equipment, and, also greatly assist in achieving some of the aims he and his band of travelling cowards sent them there for in the first place.
 
#16
Agree with that. Very good post Biped.

Benign government. Yes but perhaps the biggest part of the task is persuading the regional feudal lords to channel some of their corruptly gained money back into making life better for their populace. As corruption is endemic in that place, Then surely that must be adressed, not to erradicate it because that just isn't going to happen, but to make sure that it is kept onside and that the corrupt party realises that it is in his interest to keep the system going.
It can be done, Franco made a career out of it.
Democracy as said won't happen either, they don't have the history, mindset, inclination, or understanding for it. Western democracy evolved over time, you can't just hand it to people and say get on with it, thay have to be educated into it.
Didn't work for Iraq and they were more progressive than the afghans.

Do we need more opium?, Possibly, possibly not, but might a better ploy be to persuade farmers to plant other crops and buy it off them at guaranteed rates. After a while farmers will have the habit of growing other things. back this up by ruthlessly burning all illegal opium that is found growing.
 

Biped

LE
Book Reviewer
#17
Domovoy said:
Biped said:
All we in the West have to do is put the place back on its feet - by ensuring the requirements above are met, and the benign, approved of, national government is kept in place. If we can do that, the Afghans will be happy and we can walk away.


We are NOT generally speaking, interfering with their cash-crops - and if the right choices are made, may actually legitimise the whole process of opium production by actually buying the stuff off them - we DO need it in the West after all. If some brain-dead politician makes the wrong choice, and decides that we are against Afghan opium production no matter hoiw much we need it, then it's all going to go t!ts up in a BIG way - and that is always a possibility where politicians of ANY nationality are concerned.
Like angular said, -- excellent post. Just two points that are not clear for me:
1. ANY Western involvement into putting in place benign, approved of, national government will be viewed by some in Afghanistan as Western interference and the government itself as puppet and thus illegitimate. As soon as the West'll pull out of Afgh. an internal scuffle/tribal wars will ensure, which would require the West to go back and interfere some more, or swallow a bitter pill and allow Afgh. to sort itself out, -- then why not get out now (if all the West is interested in is Afgh.'s happiness)?
If the government is one that is not hostile to the will of the Afghan people, and promotes national unity, and doesn't interfere too much with their lifestyles, the Afghan people shouldn't be too awkward. The system they are historically used to, is one based around the strong man for leader. They could still have that, both with PM AND local or regional elders, working with local or regional Jurgas and the like.

Domovoy said:
2. Are you sure the West needs more heroin?
As I understand it, Western political hostility to medicinal heroin is strong, and the use in hospitals has therefore dropped, especially in the US and UK. The medical community is quite clear on this on the other hand - opiates are one of the VERY best forms of pain relief that can be prescribed.

Thus, with political backing, the usage and demand for medicinal opiates will go up across Europe and the US. As pointed out by one of the MODS, there is some pressure to allow the Afghans to continue with the poppy crops, but also to help them process the poppy on-site by turning them directly into tablets for shipment from the villages to a central shipping depot for the rest of the world.

The idea makes sense, but it hangs on the ability for critical thought of our politicians, and we know how THAT works.

AS for providing an alternative to Opium production, there's a solution, but it comes with another problem.

The solution is to pay them hiked up rates for alternative crops (like the EU does - ridiculously corrupt and it already costs Britain a fortune in payments to EU coffers - that's why VAT exists - it goes directly to the EU).

The problem is that, in so doing, the availability of both illegal and legal opium goes down, and the price goes up. When demand and price goes up for Opium, it may still make more money for the Afghans than our guaranteed rates for say, wheat. It would turn into a vicious circle of price hikes.

The fact that Afghanistan produces something like 95% of the world's opium is significant - if they don't, the price will go up and they'll want to produce it again - and we can't afford to pay them ever increasing prices for such a basic commodity as food crops.

What we CAN do, is legally buy the finished opium products in tablet form, and allow the doctors in the West to prescribe more of it for pain relief - as they wish to do, but are discouraged from doing.
 
#18
gobbyidiot,

an anthropologist would say that there are many forms of democracy, and Western parliamentary democracy isn't necessarily the best.

Despite frequent newspaper claims that the Islamic world is unready for democracy, political systems a la House of Saud are completely atraditional, and rely on the threat of equally atraditional tanks and F16s to shore them up.

Pashtun politics is nowhere near feudal in the western sense. Yes, there are landlords, but decisions are made through consultation and debate. In fact, it's a system marked by individualism and rapidly shifting political alliances, where the position of tribe or village chief is highly precarious, and ripe for overthrow by a persuasive debater, (largely) irrespective of their economic standing. Pashtun culture is so democratic, in fact, that it's inherently unstable. There is a constant crisis of leadership, endless negotiation and frantic attempts at consensus. In short, it's participatory rather than parliamentary democracy, and our eye-rolling impatience at their inability to copy Westminster seems misguided.

As an aside, I think our policy of distributing gifts/bribes/'development' via village leaders is, like propping up 'community leaders' in Bradford, deeply misguided, and ultimately a relic of early 1900s African Indirect Rule. I has no relevance to AFG, and probably does as much harm as good.

BTW, excellent post Biped.
 
#19
I really couldn't give a stuff fir Afghan democracy. When (if) the people want it they'll make it known. What I do care about is the fact that 5 Paras can die in a week and it's business as usual.
 
#20
rc_2020 said:
What I do care about is the fact that 5 Paras can die in a week and it's business as usual.
Obviously if you don't know people personally then any emotions you feel are nothing compared to what others feel, but Gamble's death in particular got to me. There was something about the fact that he was trying to speak the language and trying to interact with a potential threat to try and avoid a death......

and making the link between that and the thread, what assumptions and what mindset underpins the actions of the bomber? You want to show them the "What have the Romans ever done for us" python skit to see if they can make the connection. "You see? We are the Romans. Your country is f***** ball-0. Get past your atavistic identity and it's all upside, you dumb f***".

Sorry. Frustration showing.
 

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