February 27, 2003

The Failed Afghanistan Democracy

Some of you will remember in the heady days after Clinton was first elected (well, heady for Democrats anyway, and at the time I was one), when suddenly there seemed to be a spate of "failed Clinton presidency" analogies popping up here and there. This would have not been so notable much later in his presidency, or even now; but this was right after he entered office. It became a joke, and Dave Barry regularly referred to "the Failed Clinton Presidency" in his columns. I believe that one of the reasons was the "National Health Care" debacle, which had the interesting effect of uniting two sides, the Right and Left Wings, in mutual distaste. (The Right hated the very idea of any national health-care system, the left hated the fact that health care hadn't immediately become free for all Americans the moment Clinton took his oath of office. I exaggerate only slightly.)

Well, I am seeing something of the same theme running throughout left-of-center commentary on the current state of Afghanistan. It has only been little over a year since the Taliban was kicked out of the country, but already I am seeing reference to "Afghanistan, the Failed Democracy," "Afghanistan, Not So Rosy," "Afghanistan Isn't 100% Fixed Yet So the U.S. Failed!" and "Afghanistan, Where Women Still Can't Drive Naked," and so on. Any article that refers to the return of Afghan refugees to the country, increasing entrepreneurship and other evidence that the people of that country are taking advantage and rebuilding their lives, is counteracted by an article or a comment on how Karzai is still in trouble and doesn't have 100% backing of everyone in Afghanistan, there are excursions by Taliban forces, the women still don't feel comfortable wearing a bikini on the street, and so on. Think I'm exaggerating? Check out the first comment to this post.

It is true that the country is still a mess, and that it will take more than paper and happy words to repair many of the problems there, but it seems to me that all the detractors of people who speak hopefully of Afghanistan's chances are doing something akin to telling someone who's leukemia has just gone onto rescission remission*: "Well, it could come back you know, it's not like you're completely cured, so don't be so happy!"

*Thanks to alert reader mikeski for the correct word. For some reason I couldn't think of it.

Posted by Andrea Harris at February 27, 2003 03:07 PM

More good news about Afghanistan: a community-building branch of the military is working to construct schools and roads.

Posted by: mary at February 27, 2003 at 06:15 PM

Typical, depressingly so - though it's possibly not so much a left-of-center thing as a short-attention-span thing. Either way, the assumption seems to be that because Afghanistan hasn't been turned into a U.S. clone less than 16 months after the Taliban were driven out, our efforts there are a general failure. Just how do you try to argue with people who take the viewpoint that if something isn't done in 15 minutes, it's a bust?

Posted by: Joe at February 27, 2003 at 06:32 PM

[rolls eyes]

Lordy... This sort of thing takes time!

Jeez... I'm certain this is the fault of the microwave. Years ago, waiting fifteen to twenty minutes for a meal to reheat wasn't a big deal. You just pop it in the oven and wait.

Now, people (me included, I'm ashamed to say) don't even want to wait the 45 seconds to minute and a half it takes for leftovers to warm up.

The microwave has ruined us all...

Posted by: Ninjababe at February 27, 2003 at 08:35 PM

Well said, Andrea.

Posted by: Ith at February 27, 2003 at 08:45 PM

The modern US political system as we know it didn't really come into being until after the Civil War (although recognizeable parts of it were present before the Civil War). It took the US 90 years or so to become what it has. So where the hell do people get off on us failing in Afghanistan when in a year and a half they still aren't a fully developed democracy. Somebody needs to sit down and read some history books.

That's not to say that I expect it to take 90 years in Afghanistan. When our government was evolving the people of the time were starting from scratch with no model to follow. Afghanistan, on the other hand, has numerous models it can follow which I think will (or should) make their transition to democracy way faster than it was for us. But it still ain't gonna happen over night.

Posted by: James P at February 27, 2003 at 09:14 PM

Ah, Afghanistan...as I believe Christopher Hitchens desrcribed it, the only country ever bombed OUT of the Stone Age. Is it very far from perfect? Well, yeah, where isn't? But anyone suggesting it isn't light years and orders of magnitude better off than it was under the Taliban is, again, living evidence that some people care more about the high-minded purity of their idiotarian ratings than about the lives of real people (especially noble multicultural non-white people, who it is ALWAYS better to leave under local monstrous tyrants than dare allow to be rescued by Amerikkka...oh, vomit).

Posted by: David Jaroslav at February 27, 2003 at 11:27 PM

Afghanistan has been one of the most awful places on the planet for about as long as anybody has tracked such things. The only way to make even remotely acceptable to these idiotic quick-fix types would be to completely sterilize the place with nukes.

At least then all the residents would be extremely well behaved and equality would reign.

Posted by: Eric Pobirs at February 28, 2003 at 08:09 AM

Andrea, I wholeheartedly agree, but I think you meant leukemia that went into "remission."

"Rescission" is the act of rescinding something and is generally used in a legal context, i.e., the rescission of a contract or a law.

Posted by: mikeski at February 28, 2003 at 01:50 PM


You rescind a contract, but not a law. Statutes and regulations get repealed; case law gets overruled.

Posted by: David Jaroslav at February 28, 2003 at 02:20 PM

Argh. Thanks, Mikeski -- I could not remember the correct word. I worked for a mortgage company for fourteen years, so I guess "rescission" got stuck in my brain.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at February 28, 2003 at 02:48 PM

Let's look at a little bit of history, OK folks. In Afghanistan there has been either 29 or 25 years of armed conflict (i.e. WAR!!). (29 years if you date the troubles back to the unsucessful coup attempt by Soviet-backed marxists against the government in 1974, or the sucessful coup by Soviet-backed marxists against the government in 1978 -- with the subsequent invasion by the Soviets in 1979 when the local marxists were going to have their asses kicked.)

Let's call it 25 years. In those 25 years there have been FOUR wars fought. The Soviet Invasion (1979-1989), the inner-faction fighting (1989-1995), the war against the Taliban by certain factions (1995-2001), and the US kicking the Talibans ass (2001-2002). But the US has failed because we just started, but have not yet completed, undoing all the damage done over those 25 years, and 4 wars.

Posted by: David Crawford at February 28, 2003 at 04:22 PM

Something must be going right - millions of refugees are returning.

Posted by: ellie at February 28, 2003 at 08:57 PM

There is no talking to that one, Andrea. He's absolutely right and you are absolutely wrong. That's just the way it is. [/sarcasm]

Posted by: Sekimori at February 28, 2003 at 11:06 PM

You've got that right. What's funny is he seemed to think he had come up with things no one had ever blogged about before. I had to check the calendar to make sure it wasn't last year.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at March 1, 2003 at 12:16 AM

Aren't these the same folks (those on the touchy-feely left) who tell us that life is a journey, not a destination?

I guess that is only true when seeking one's inner child.

I found my inner child.

He has ADHD and is currently in the basement playing with matches.

I gotta go, I think I smell smoke...

Posted by: Mike S at March 1, 2003 at 11:11 AM