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A U.S. neo-con fantasy gone very wrong

Nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq is a failed ideological experiment


 
A U.S. neo-con fantasy gone very wrong

Jim Young/Reuters

When the final edition is written of America’s imperial adventures in the early years of the 21st century, a significant plot point will be that Americans demonstrated a profound lack of faith in their own institutions. Unlike the British, who retreated from empire and left versions of their own parliamentary democracy behind, Americans used nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq as the occasion for failed ideological experimentation.

Despite having the world’s oldest federal constitution, as the Harvard professor Thomas Barfield put it in his recent history of Afghanistan, Americans routinely prefer to support all-powerful strongmen abroad. And given the violence they visited upon that constitution in the name of strong executive authority after 9/11, it is clear that Afghanistan was set up as an idealized version of the system the neo-cons in Bush’s office would have preferred for themselves back home.

Which helps explain why Afghanistan’s democracy remains so fragile. Jan. 21 was supposed to mark the inauguration of Afghanistan’s second parliament. Instead, President Hamid Karzai postponed it for a month pending the results of an extraordinary five-member panel of judges appointed by Karzai himself, to review cases of alleged fraud. Last fall’s parliamentary elections didn’t exactly go in Karzai’s favour, and the decision marked an intensification of his ongoing campaign to have the legally certified results at least partially overturned, if not completely annulled. At press time, Karzai appeared to have caved to pressure, tentatively agreeing to open the Wolesi Jirga on Jan. 26.

But the fundamental problem has not changed. When the Afghan state was being rebuilt after the Taliban were chased out in 2001, there was some debate over whether power should be concentrated in Kabul, or whether a federal state was more appropriate. The diverse character of Afghan society, and the growth in regional autonomy over two decades of war, argued for a decentralized state. But the international community, led by the U.S., sided with their clients in the Kabul elite to implement a powerful president and bureaucracy, which gave the central government broad powers over taxation, appointment of provincial governors, and responsibility for the provision of local services.

This concentration of power in Kabul might have seemed like a good idea administratively, but from the perspective of legitimacy, it has been a disaster. The national government now takes the heat for virtually everything that goes wrong in the country. And because Karzai is seen by most Afghans as the puppet of the Americans, local anger flows straight up to Kabul and out to the international community itself. Worse, the essentially monarchical character of the Afghan constitution only amplifies Karzai’s personal flaws: he’s always been weak and indecisive, but it turns out he’s also a petulant child-king who apparently doesn’t care how his behaviour affects the citizens of his country.

If the flawed Afghan strategy represents the political dimension of neo-con adventures in nation-building, their economic agenda was reserved for Iraq after the U.S. invaded in 2003. Convinced that greed was good and markets were natural, the Americans destroyed the institutional and legal framework of the Iraqi economy. In its place they installed all of the perceived preconditions for a capitalist economy: a privatized state, minimal taxes and tariffs, and no restrictions on foreign ownership. In this Edenic laissez-faire ecosystem, it was assumed free-market capitalism would spontaneously arise.

As we all know, what in fact happened was that Iraq spontaneously descended into violence, looting, and mob rule. But then-secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld famously shrugged when asked about the looting, “Freedom’s untidy. Democracy is a messy thing.”

For the Americans, capitalism in Iraq amounted to destroying the state and seeing who starts a business, while democracy in Afghanistan involved appointing a strongman and seeing if anyone would vote for him. These twin experiments in the neo-con laboratory failed for the exact same reason: institutions matter, and historical structures cannot be ignored.

After Karzai announced his postponement of parliament, legions of cynical columnists quickly jumped in with the usual world-weary pronouncements: the West has no stomach or talent for nation-building; you can’t impose democracy on those who don’t understand it.

Balls. It’s precisely because Afghans understand what democracy means that they have little time for the sham version the international community has tried to foist upon them. If our attempts at building a democratic Afghanistan fall apart, it won’t be because they weren’t ready for it. Rather, it will have failed because we didn’t have enough faith in our own democracy to let the Afghans give it a chance.


 

A U.S. neo-con fantasy gone very wrong

  1. For the love of Gd, stop quoting Paul Krugman. He's as devoid of principles and/or brain as our local real estate pimps. Try quoting Martin Armstrong some time, if only for the sake of, you know, objective reporting.

  2. Amen re: Krugman & other "authorized" commentators.

    I find that the most visible government services are usually first to get cut, the purpose being to scare the public into tax submission. The worst fat is deeply embedded and rarely trimmed. Western government is obese. Stop taxing and get trimming!

  3. "This is no time to rest on our laurels."

    Here, here. The we have to pull ourselves up by the boots straps. Roll up our sleeves and get to work. Get the nose to the grindstone. The bankers have unloaded all of their toxic debt upon the taxpayers and they would be terribly disappointed if we didn't work harder, than we already are, and get their debts paid off.

    They will allow us to worry about our debts when they have retired. Maybe.

  4. Your points make sense Mr. P – and no doubt the history books will support you (depending of course on which side writes them).
    However – I was having a debate today over at the Mark with Alex Himelfarb – he of the formerly clerkly duties at Privy Council Office – and we seem to be of a like mind that the Canadian Federation is better served when power is concentrated in the centre.

  5. Your points make sense Mr. P – and no doubt the history books will support you (depending of course on which side writes them).
    However – I was having a debate today over at the Mark with Alex Himelfarb – he of the formerly clerkly duties at Privy Council Office – and we seem to be of a like mind that the Canadian Federation is better served when power is concentrated in the centre.

    • Federal employees supporting a bigger federal government? No Way!

      • WW is talking about "…power is concentrated in the center…" while MJ is talking about "….bigger federal government…"

        Comparing apples and bricks, methinks.

  6. Federal employees supporting a bigger federal government? No Way!

  7. I suspect the entire premise of this article ("Nation-Building") is off-base to begin with.

    Americans likely went into Afghanistan and Iraq first and foremost to deliver a good old fashioned ass-whoopin' to somebody…anybody…following 9-11. After the initial invasion and "mission accomplished" stage of these campaigns…there were no doubt a ton of American government officials and military brass who then looked at each other and thought…"whadda we do now?"

    The current political dysfunction in both countries could lead one to conclude that flawed "neo-con, ideological nation-building" policies are at fault…but it could also lead one to simply conclude that poor results come from "make-it-up-as-we-go-along" plans…which are in fact, not plans at all.

    Occam's Razor would suggest the latter hypothesis best explains the current situation.

  8. I suspect the entire premise of this article ("Nation-Building") is off-base to begin with.

    Americans likely went into Afghanistan and Iraq first and foremost to deliver a good old fashioned ass-whoopin' to somebody…anybody…following 9-11. After the initial invasion and "mission accomplished" stage of these campaigns…there were no doubt a ton of American government officials and military brass who then looked at each other and thought…"whadda we do now?"

    The current political dysfunction in both countries could lead one to conclude that flawed "neo-con, ideological nation-building" policies are at fault…but it could also lead one to simply conclude that poor results come from "make-it-up-as-we-go-along" plans…which are in fact, not plans at all.

    Occam's Razor would suggest the latter hypothesis best explains the current situation.

    • I agree with your overall analysis, but I have to take issue with the tone of your second paragraph. "Deliver a good old fashioned ass-whoopin…' . To have done otherwise after 9-11 would have been political suicide. I think any country with the means would have done the same. Anyone remember Chechnya? Beslan and the Moscow theatre spring to mind.

  9. I take your points and those of the above posters, but you have to be careful about conflating what went wrong in Iraq with what went wrong in Afghanistan. The differences are as important as the similarities. And note that Andrew focuses on this post on the economic aspects of the cock-up in Iraq, while focusing on the political aspects of the cock-up in Afghanistan. By the way, if any of you are interested, I highly recommend the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City — a brilliant, highly readable, extremely critical yet refreshingly non-partisan account of why the Iraq occupation went so seriously wrong. And yes, the Bush Administration did indeed pick ideological purity over common sense and experience time and time again. Their contempt for the professionals at the State Department (considered a nest of poncey liberal infidels) was a big part of the problem:
    http://www.amazon.ca/Imperial-Life-Emerald-City-I

  10. I take your points and those of the above posters, but you have to be careful about conflating what went wrong in Iraq with what went wrong in Afghanistan. The differences are as important as the similarities. And note that Andrew focuses on this post on the economic aspects of the cock-up in Iraq, while focusing on the political aspects of the cock-up in Afghanistan. By the way, if any of you are interested, I highly recommend the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City — a brilliant, highly readable, extremely critical yet refreshingly non-partisan account of why the Iraq occupation went so seriously wrong. And yes, the Bush Administration did indeed pick ideological purity over common sense and experience time and time again. Their contempt for the professionals at the State Department (considered a nest of poncey liberal infidels) was a big part of the problem:
    http://www.amazon.ca/Imperial-Life-Emerald-City-I

  11. None of the great imperial countries were successful at nation building in third-world countries.

    Britain – Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Somalia – real basket cases.
    France – Vietnam – a real basket case.
    Belgium – Congo.
    China – North Korea – a massive basket case.
    Russia – Eastern Europe – a collection of basket cases.
    Spain – Mexico, South and Central America.

    The US just didn't do any better.

  12. None of the great imperial countries were successful at nation building in third-world countries.

    Britain – Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Somalia – real basket cases.
    France – Vietnam – a real basket case.
    Belgium – Congo.
    China – North Korea – a massive basket case.
    Russia – Eastern Europe – a collection of basket cases.
    Spain – Mexico, South and Central America.

    The US just didn't do any better.

    • I'm sorry, but I've rarely seen so many different apples and oranges littering a comment. For Britain, look at India. A large number of warring states were combined first under the British East India Company, then under the Crown. Now it seems to be becoming something of an economic powerhouse. Malaysia also comes to mind, as well as Singapore,Hong Kong and Kenya. I won't even mention the United States, Canada, Australia, and (technically) Israel (see the Balfour Doctrine). Defining these countries as Third World is putting the cart before the horse. Since the Third World is supposedly the underpriviliged, under-developed, under-everything, saying that these powers were unable to
      "uplift" them is a tautology. Is it cause or effect?

      For France, I would remind you that the French never really took "la mission civilatrice" all that seriously. They never really had any intention of trying to transfer power, and never really did except under duress (see Algeria). Continued in next post…

      .

    • For France, I would remind you that the French never really took "la mission civilatrice" all that seriously. They never really had any intention of trying to transfer power, and never really did except under duress (see Algeria).

      Belgium… We really don't need to go into the moral abyss of King Leopold II basically owning all rights to the Congo, do we? Even other imperial powers found the king's attitude toward the natives of the Congo basin horrifying at the time. Even they blenched before some of his more egregious treatment of the native population (it is thought that up to half the population died under his rule).

      China hasn't had any recent imperial adventures outside of its own borders, with the possible exception of Tibet. China's history of the past hundred years seems to be more focussed on keeping its own populace in line. Continued in next post.

    • China hasn't had any recent imperial adventures outside of its own borders, with the possible exception of Tibet. China's history of the past hundred years seems to be more focussed on keeping its own populace in line.

      Russia's history of imperialism in eastern Europe had everything to do with strategic rather than economic reasons (at this point someone is sure to contradict me). They were intent on using the other countries as a military buffer between themselves and the West (read NATO), as well as exporting and converting others to their Communist faith (Church of Lenin (Reformed)).

      Spain had no interest in doing anything other than extracting resources from their imperial colonies, were even more disdainful of the native populations than most of the other imperial powers, and only really seemed to become engaged with the locals when it came time to gain more converts for the church. The idea of the people in the colonies running things for themselves was (I suspect) a rare thought in Madrid. Continued in next post.

    • I think it is early days for anyone to claim that the US policies have failed. Some or all of them may fail over time, but to claim so now tells us more about the author's own ideology than that of Dubya or any others. "Let not perfection be the enemy of the good."

      I would also like to throw out something for discussion; is imperialism necessarily a bad thing? Explain without explicitly moral objections, and include a definition of imperialism.

      • When you look at the Asian countries that have been ruled by European powers, like India and China, and then look at the Asian countries that weren't, like Japan, you would have to say that imperialism has had very little benefit for the ruled. If British gunboats had chugged into Yokohama harbour in 1854 instead of Commodore Perry's, Queen Victoria would have been Empress of Japan as well as Empress of Ireland and Empress of India. The result would have been the stagnation that plagued India and China into the middle of the 20th Century. Because the US let Japan maintain its independence, that country emerged as an economic and military powerhouse in Asia. Japan didn't become what it is today overnight, you know. It took more than a century, and it had to recover from the devastation of World War II.

        Canadians and Americans forget that most of us are descended from colonizers, not the colonized like the members of the First Nations are. Clearly, nations like the Mohawk and the Cree are worse off from having come into contact with Europeans, when you consider the alcoholism, suicide, teenage obesity, and what-not that they face today. And let us not forget the Beokuk of Newfoundland: they were exterminated by the middle of the 17th century.

        No, Tom, I don't think imperialism is a good thing.

    • Yeah, India's a real mess….thank you for the entry-level lesson in cherry-picking.

  13. You're just coming to this conclusion now?

  14. You're just coming to this conclusion now?

  15. I'm sorry, but I've rarely seen so many different apples and oranges littering a comment. For Britain, look at India. A large number of warring states were combined first under the British East India Company, then under the Crown. Now it seems to be becoming something of an economic powerhouse. Malaysia also comes to mind, as well as Singapore,Hong Kong and Kenya. I won't even mention the United States, Canada, Australia, and (technically) Israel (see the Balfour Doctrine). Defining these countries as Third World is putting the cart before the horse. Since the Third World is supposedly the underpriviliged, under-developed, under-everything, saying that these powers were unable to
    "uplift" them is a tautology. Is it cause or effect?

    For France, I would remind you that the French never really took "la mission civilatrice" all that seriously. They never really had any intention of trying to transfer power, and never really did except under duress (see Algeria). Continued in next post…

    .

  16. For France, I would remind you that the French never really took "la mission civilatrice" all that seriously. They never really had any intention of trying to transfer power, and never really did except under duress (see Algeria).

    Belgium… We really don't need to go into the moral abyss of King Leopold II basically owning all rights to the Congo, do we? Even other imperial powers found the king's attitude toward the natives of the Congo basin horrifying at the time. Even they blenched before some of his more egregious treatment of the native population (it is thought that up to half the population died under his rule).

    China hasn't had any recent imperial adventures outside of its own borders, with the possible exception of Tibet. China's history of the past hundred years seems to be more focussed on keeping its own populace in line. Continued in next post.

  17. China hasn't had any recent imperial adventures outside of its own borders, with the possible exception of Tibet. China's history of the past hundred years seems to be more focussed on keeping its own populace in line.

    Russia's history of imperialism in eastern Europe had everything to do with strategic rather than economic reasons (at this point someone is sure to contradict me). They were intent on using the other countries as a military buffer between themselves and the West (read NATO), as well as exporting and converting others to their Communist faith (Church of Lenin (Reformed)).

    Spain had no interest in doing anything other than extracting resources from their imperial colonies, were even more disdainful of the native populations than most of the other imperial powers, and only really seemed to become engaged with the locals when it came time to gain more converts for the church. The idea of the people in the colonies running things for themselves was (I suspect) a rare thought in Madrid. Continued in next post.

  18. I think it is early days for anyone to claim that the US policies have failed. Some or all of them may fail over time, but to claim so now tells us more about the author's own ideology than that of Dubya or any others. "Let not perfection be the enemy of the good."

    I would also like to throw out something for discussion; is imperialism necessarily a bad thing? Explain without explicitly moral objections, and include a definition of imperialism.

  19. I agree with your overall analysis, but I have to take issue with the tone of your second paragraph. "Deliver a good old fashioned ass-whoopin…' . To have done otherwise after 9-11 would have been political suicide. I think any country with the means would have done the same. Anyone remember Chechnya? Beslan and the Moscow theatre spring to mind.

  20. "This concentration of power in Kabul might have seemed like a good idea administratively, but from the perspective of legitimacy, it has been a disaster." Now, replace 'Kabul' with 'Ottawa' and I'm all ears…massive nation-states have jumped the shark, maybe?

  21. "This concentration of power in Kabul might have seemed like a good idea administratively, but from the perspective of legitimacy, it has been a disaster." Now, replace 'Kabul' with 'Ottawa' and I'm all ears…massive nation-states have jumped the shark, maybe?

  22. Well said, sir. Amerrogance fails again.

  23. Well said, sir. Amerrogance fails again.

  24. Great article – only one complaint, and its typical one of Canadian journalists. You rightly start out lambasting the US for their terrible international policy and colonialist approach in Afghanistan and world. Yet when you begin to get really direct with your words, like in the last two paragraphs, suddenly you pull back on keeping the finger pointed only at the US, and start using much more inclusive and kinder language like "The West" and even "we".
    There is no we, here. Canada may be quite involved in Afghanistan, but not only is that due only to extreme pressure previously asserted on us by the States over Iraq, but more importantly Canada has never had the colonial, us vs. them mindset, the protagonist history, nor the glaring disregard for another nation that has caused the States to enter and destroy Afghanistan in the first place. And all apparently in the name of "democracy" rather than the truth: As a way to keep winning the Cold War and stay on top. Don't align us with the States at all, Potter. The reality is, in this case, we are worlds apart.

  25. Great article – only one complaint, and its typical one of Canadian journalists. You rightly start out lambasting the US for their terrible international policy and colonialist approach in Afghanistan and world. Yet when you begin to get really direct with your words, like in the last two paragraphs, suddenly you pull back on keeping the finger pointed only at the US, and start using much more inclusive and kinder language like "The West" and even "we".
    There is no we, here. Canada may be quite involved in Afghanistan, but not only is that due only to extreme pressure previously asserted on us by the States over Iraq, but more importantly Canada has never had the colonial, us vs. them mindset, the protagonist history, nor the glaring disregard for another nation that has caused the States to enter and destroy Afghanistan in the first place. And all apparently in the name of "democracy" rather than the truth: As a way to keep winning the Cold War and stay on top. Don't align us with the States at all, Potter. The reality is, in this case, we are worlds apart.

    • If Canada lacks a "colonial mindset," Joel, it is because few countries are more firmly in the US orbit than Canada. Economically, one could even call Canada the "North-West Territory" of the United States, since more than 75 per cent of Canada's trade is with the US. Canada exercises its national sovereignty mostly by stopping "undesirable" US nationals at the border who only want to cross for fun in topless bars like Studio 4 in Windsor. Now, Canadians might feel cause for celebration because Immigration Canada has finally decided to prevent US crack addicts from marrying crack addicts in Canada and having crack babies with dual citizenship– it happens in border towns like Windsor, you know. But the day will come when Canadians from Ontario will need visas to cross into Quebec, and Americans from Michigan will need visas to cross into Ohio. With the war on terrorism that both countries are involved in, anything can happen.

  26. TomtheTerrible, you're missing the more important point that that plane/building incident in the States was a direct result of years of the them screwing Afghanistan over. The political suicide had already happened prior. It was in fact the States that received the good old fashioned ass-whoopin on 9/11, and their retaliation since has been pathetically confused, ineffective and nothing resembling true power or strength.

  27. Hey Andrew, any chance you know the name of a book that highlights how the neo-cons were so addicted to the purity of their dream[ others nightmare] they actually tried to assign only people to Iraq that passed their insane litmus test – such as views on abortion, loyalty to the republican party et al., I can't for the life of me remember its tittle or author.[ now you're going to tell me it was crap anyway] I heard it reviewed/discussed somewhere and have drawn a blank ever since. It's premise seemed so bizarre at the time, but now i wonder.

  28. Hey Andrew, any chance you know the name of a book that highlights how the neo-cons were so addicted to the purity of their dream[ others nightmare] they actually tried to assign only people to Iraq that passed their insane litmus test – such as views on abortion, loyalty to the republican party et al., I can't for the life of me remember its tittle or author.[ now you're going to tell me it was crap anyway] I heard it reviewed/discussed somewhere and have drawn a blank ever since. It's premise seemed so bizarre at the time, but now i wonder.

  29. WW is talking about "…power is concentrated in the center…" while MJ is talking about "….bigger federal government…"

    Comparing apples and bricks, methinks.

  30. Thanks to my local library, I was able to read your article about Afghanistan (I reside in the U.S.).

    This article is awfully long but may shed some light on the reasons Afghanistan is in such dire straights.
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/14/110

    The country is totally corrupt!!!

  31. Thanks to my local library, I was able to read your article about Afghanistan (I reside in the U.S.).

    This article is awfully long but may shed some light on the reasons Afghanistan is in such dire straights.
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/14/110

    The country is totally corrupt!!!

  32. The United States had Jimmy Carter, Canada had Kim Campbell, and Afghanistan has Hamid Karzai. Hopefully, there's hope in all this. Even with Karzai at the helm, I still believe that time is against the Taliban. They have not been in power in nearly a decade, so I don't think they will ever come back. The escalation of the violence in Afghanistan is proof that the Taliban are desperate. However, all the countries with troops in Afghanistan have problems back home, and they can't afford to prop up somebody like Karzai. Karzai had better wake up or he will face the type of demonstrations that brought down Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine al-Abbadine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Let's hope so anyway.

  33. The United States had Jimmy Carter, Canada had Kim Campbell, and Afghanistan has Hamid Karzai. Hopefully, there's hope in all this. Even with Karzai at the helm, I still believe that time is against the Taliban. They have not been in power in nearly a decade, so I don't think they will ever come back. The escalation of the violence in Afghanistan is proof that the Taliban are desperate. However, all the countries with troops in Afghanistan have problems back home, and they can't afford to prop up somebody like Karzai. Karzai had better wake up or he will face the type of demonstrations that brought down Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine al-Abbadine Ben Ali in Tunisia. Let's hope so anyway.

  34. If Canada lacks a "colonial mindset," Joel, it is because few countries are more firmly in the US orbit than Canada. Economically, one could even call Canada the "North-West Territory" of the United States, since more than 75 per cent of Canada's trade is with the US. Canada exercises its national sovereignty mostly by stopping "undesirable" US nationals at the border who only want to cross for fun in topless bars like Studio 4 in Windsor. Now, Canadians might feel cause for celebration because Immigration Canada has finally decided to prevent US crack addicts from marrying crack addicts in Canada and having crack babies with dual citizenship– it happens in border towns like Windsor, you know. But the day will come when Canadians from Ontario will need visas to cross into Quebec, and Americans from Michigan will need visas to cross into Ohio. With the war on terrorism that both countries are involved in, anything can happen.

  35. When you look at the Asian countries that have been ruled by European powers, like India and China, and then look at the Asian countries that weren't, like Japan, you would have to say that imperialism has had very little benefit for the ruled. If British gunboats had chugged into Yokohama harbour in 1854 instead of Commodore Perry's, Queen Victoria would have been Empress of Japan as well as Empress of Ireland and Empress of India. The result would have been the stagnation that plagued India and China into the middle of the 20th Century. Because the US let Japan maintain its independence, that country emerged as an economic and military powerhouse in Asia. Japan didn't become what it is today overnight, you know. It took more than a century, and it had to recover from the devastation of World War II.

    Canadians and Americans forget that most of us are descended from colonizers, not the colonized like the members of the First Nations are. Clearly, nations like the Mohawk and the Cree are worse off from having come into contact with Europeans, when you consider the alcoholism, suicide, teenage obesity, and what-not that they face today. And let us not forget the Beokuk of Newfoundland: they were exterminated by the middle of the 17th century.

    No, Tom, I don't think imperialism is a good thing.

  36. Some excellent commentary. I would perhaps differ on the analysis of China as they are involved with just about every top human rights abusing nation on earth right now. Burma, N, Korea, Zimbabwe, Iran… Soft Power Imperialism? But a point I would like to make is that the former regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan were very effective in murdering just about every citizen in those nations with any education or inclination to support or foster secularism or democracy or a free press or anything in fact that we could agree is in the 'good' column of the equation, and the rest of their families too. I wish this could be a quick and effective and long-lasting transformation… but I don't reasonably expect it to be quick. I agree with the assessment that Afghanistan is corrupt. That's what you get in a nation where the only remaining players were ones able to accede to an accomodation with the Taliban. IMO talk of peace with the Taliban under any circumstances is ludicrous.

  37. Some excellent commentary. I would perhaps differ on the analysis of China as they are involved with just about every top human rights abusing nation on earth right now. Burma, N, Korea, Zimbabwe, Iran… Soft Power Imperialism? But a point I would like to make is that the former regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan were very effective in murdering just about every citizen in those nations with any education or inclination to support or foster secularism or democracy or a free press or anything in fact that we could agree is in the 'good' column of the equation, and the rest of their families too. I wish this could be a quick and effective and long-lasting transformation… but I don't reasonably expect it to be quick. I agree with the assessment that Afghanistan is corrupt. That's what you get in a nation where the only remaining players were ones able to accede to an accomodation with the Taliban. IMO talk of peace with the Taliban under any circumstances is ludicrous.

  38. Not to forget that the people involved in the attacks on New York were from Saudi Arabia.

  39. Not to forget that the people involved in the attacks on New York were from Saudi Arabia.

  40. Yeah, India's a real mess….thank you for the entry-level lesson in cherry-picking.

  41. What happens when you're just too ________ to fail.
    (smart,big, good, democratic, wealthy, powerful, fill in the blank.)

    The Greeks called it 'Hubris'.

  42. What happens when you're just too ________ to fail.
    (smart,big, good, democratic, wealthy, powerful, fill in the blank.)

    The Greeks called it 'Hubris'.

  43. And they were absolutely right:
    Follow me on Twitter, and you will understand how destructive the Conservatives are:

    http://twitter.com/matwilson6

    You know what a Dictator sounds like when he is afraid to debate his opponent.

  44. And they were absolutely right:
    Follow me on Twitter, and you will understand how destructive the Conservatives are:

    http://twitter.com/matwilson6

    You know what a Dictator sounds like when he is afraid to debate his opponent.

  45. Just thought i should mention Osama had been declared dead. the americans got him! thought i'd mention it since there isn't an article up yet

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