Welcome to Afghanistan: the 2nd most corrupt place on earth. The perfect vacation spot. In this Middle East paradise the weather is warm and the opium could not be better. For some great tourist destinations, check out Kabul home to Hamid Kazi, the most unpopular man in land. If you get bored his brother Wali can give you a wonderful tour of the village life on the CIA’s budget. Afghanistan, ranked by Foreign Policy Magazine as the 6th most failed stated in the world – and the place where you should spend your next tropical/desert getaway.
Sadly, I wish that a brochure for a future Afghanistan vacation would look rosier than the former. Unfortunately, this “dream vacation” spot is exactly as RNC Chairman Michael Steele put it “the graveyard of empires.” To me, the “good war” is turning into a war for a mysterious cause lost long ago. The words “America failure” is not a phrase that the home of the brave love hearing, but sometimes it happens. So, here is the news that I dread telling.
As mentioned above, Foreign Policy ranked Afghanistan as the 6th most failed state in the world, Iraq came in 7th. Only ahead of Afghanistan were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad, and Somalia (the #1 failed state). The scores were ranked by categories from demographics pressures to the security apparatus ranging on a scale of 1 to 10. Out of the total, Afghanistan was only 5 points behind Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991-92. What this points to is the failure of the U.S. science project in democracy promotion, joining the others such as Vietnam and Iraq.
Now terms such as “failed state” and its meaning are very debatable. I would certainly argue that categories such as technological advancement and government legitimacy were two categories that should have been added to the study, not that Afghanistan would have fared much better in the results. What is disturbing is that these terms are being used and yet billions of dollars have been allocated towards this noble cause. For instance, the National Priorities Project indicates that Afghanistan is costing around $281 billion dollars since 2001. Newsweek even reported in January that spending for the war would be around $6.5 billion for this year (2010). If the numbers are broken down further, 49% of those funds go to military operations, while only 11.4% goes to training the Afghan army and 3.98% goes to construction. To put it simply, the military is winning the war of funding over the humanitarian effort.
The results appear to be showing the dire progress, or at least trying to paint a lousy picture of it. The Washington Post reported in May that while the Obama administration hopes to meet its goal of increasing the Afghan forces from 109,000 to 134,000 by this fall that does not mean quality. The same report indicated that there is only 1 American trainer for every 29 recruits. Furthermore, the New York Times stated on June 28 that the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says that there is not a good way to tell whether the Afghan soldiers are being properly trained or any indication of whether the numbers of soldiers are accurate.
I bring up these facts about military and humanitarian operations specifically because that is the strategy that President Obama wants to use to win in Afghanistan. This “civilian surge” is the strategy that is supposed to save this nightmare country. I did not even mention the corrupt the government in Kabul, the continuing spread of opium, the Taliban border hopping to Pakistan, or even the strain in civilian-military relations.
On Monday, Vice President Biden told the Afghanistan government to “get in the game” as if he were a basketball coach telling giving his team a pep talk after being twenty points down at halftime Instead, maybe the U.S. should “get in the game.” Obama and Petraeus are being to sound like Henry Kissinger at the end of peace negotiations in 1972 of the Vietnam War saying “Peace is at hand,” which was hardly the case. The leaders seem to be deluding themselves that these strategies will work after using the same strategy for the last 7 years. During this great recession/possible depression, it is important to note that this war is creating tradeoffs. The National Priorities Project indicates that the War in Afghanistan for my home state of Kansas will cost the state 45,467 policemen for 1 year, 366,408 Head Start children losing spots in school for 1 year, and 46,033 elementary school teachers jobs for 1 year.
I know that everyone dreams of making Afghanistan the desert paradise of tomorrow, but is it really worth destroying the economy in a time of recession for today? I beg to differ. The leadership loves to believe that this time will be different than all the others.
Ironically, I believe President Obama said it best when he spoke at West Point last fall, “Simply put, American innovation must be the foundation of American power – because at no time in human history has a nation of diminished economic vitality maintained its military and political primacy.”
Alas, like the Soviets before us hoping for a communist dream in this land last conquered by Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan (who were not worried about Human Rights Watch), our efforts will be thrown into the graveyard of delusion called Afghanistan.
Foreign Policy Failed State Index
Transparency International Corruption Chart
Cost of the Afghanistan War – watch the money rise
Tradeoffs of Afghanistan War
Biden on Afghanistan
Newsweek Breaks Down Afghanistan Costs
Obama West Point Speech
Washington Post on Afghanistan training – though it says it improves that is debatable
NYT on Afghanistan army training flawed report