Posted by David Speakman, a resident of the Sylvan Park neighborhood, on May 5, 2012 at 9:34 am
The Voice needs a copy editor.
The citizens of Afghanistan are Afghans. Similarly, it’s Afghan food, Afghan politics, and Afghan afghans. The only time to use “Afghani” is in reference to the unit of Afghan currency by that name. Afghans spend Afghanis.
Posted by Hardin, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 8:40 am
"And when Obama pulls out, the Taliban will move back in and women will be back in bhurkas, with or without a computer science degree."
You may be right about this, but it also underscores how military occupation without other forms off assistance to change the culture is not going to be a long term fix. I mean, how much credit can we really take for making lasting change when things immediately revert to old, bad habits?
Don't get me wrong, our military presence is absolutely needed, given the situation there, but its also clear that the military is effective mainly in preventing conflict, not with nation building.
In the long run, outreach like what is showcased in the article above may prove to be a more effective way of winning the "hearts and minds" battle, in conjunction with security.
To be sure, America's most successful weapon abroad has been our "Western" culture. Whether you agree with its values and/or beliefs, it has been the single most powerful influence on our friends and enemies, globally. You need only look at Russia and China to see that.
Posted by Army Vet, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on May 6, 2012 at 11:06 am
The State Department sent over free John Deere tractors to the Khandahar. The tractors arrive. They are off-loaded from one tractor trailer and onto another. The answer you get when ask the Afghan recipients of the aid. They are being moved over the border for sale in Pakistan for cash, and maybe even for weapons to be used against US forces. So much for other forms of assistance. That's just one example. And this has been going on everyday, month after month, year after year.
Posted by Hardin, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on May 7, 2012 at 8:45 pm
..."So much for other forms of assistance. That's just one example. And this has been going on everyday, month after month, year after year."
So you are faulting the patient for being sick, and not the doctor for miss-diagnosing the disease and failing to try different treatments?
Is this a reflection of the Afghans or is it really a reflection of the miscalculation by the State Department on the effectiveness of the aid provided? Its been shown time and again that direct aid has its pitfalls, as the intentions of the giver may not match the intentions of the receiver.
Heck, just look at the abuse of welfare in this country for a good example of that.
But by encouraging economic competitiveness through the recruitment of native Afghans, and providing opportunities for women who do not have many choices in the existing culture, we begin the process of changing that culture by planting the seeds of hope and desire in the new generation, which will have more of a say about their country as they become the adults and caretakers of the nation.
McDonalds and blues jeans help too.
There's enough different with a foreign culture to believe that their path to democracy is going to be a different one than ours, and may look very different from our form of governence, when they reach their destination.
Posted by Hardin, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on May 8, 2012 at 8:36 am
"Spend a year there Hardin. Nothing will change Afghanistan, especially not McDonalds and blue jeans or computer scientists, mainly because toilet paper has yet to be introduced."
Not necessary to have a tour of duty in Afghanistan to see the potential for change in any country. Throughout history there have been countries that were deemed "unchangeable". China, Russia, East Germany, and most recently Burma have challenged the world's popular opinion of them as places that would always cling to their previous governments.
And the catalyst that was present in every case, was a pivotal leader that had a vision greater than the repression of the existing government: Deng Xiaoping, Gorbechev, and Aung San Suu Kyi were those leaders that changed their countries from within.
The primary problem isn't toilet paper, or tractors, or nurses robbing the patient. The main problem is the US perception and expectation that nation building takes years, and not decades. That simply occupying a foreign land with overwhelming and spectacular military power isn't all that is required. That landing on an aircraft carrier with a "Mission Accomplished" banner isn't all that there is to it. That nation building is prescriptive, from the outside, and not internally led, influenced and shaped by the customs and cultures of that civilization.
The greatest lesson to learn from Iraq and Afghanistan for America, is to understand the definition of humility, and the realization that military power is not the sole solution to every problem.
Let's agree to disagree. I'll accept I'm being overly naive, when you accept you are being overly pessimistic.