18 July 2010

Blame the Afghans: the easy way out of the war

The tide of U.S. public opinion on the war in Afghanistan is changing and even some of the warmongers of six months ago are joining the opposition. That is good news for the people of Afghanistan and United States, though the change in heart masks a deeper problem that has historically made it all too easy for this nation to wage war.

One of the growing arguments among both the left and right for ending the war sooner is that the Afghan government is hopelessly corrupt, inefficient and failing to fulfill its military and civilian responsibilities. What this argument overlooks is that this is a war that was created by the United States when it unilaterally decided to invade Afghanistan to capture the 9-11 attackers and the people who sheltered then. I am not suggesting that were not Afghans who supported U.S. intervention, but their concerns had nothing to do with why the United States intervened.

True, the Afghan government is inarguably corrupt and inefficient, but it was the United States and its allies that handpicked Hamid Karzai as interim leader after the fall of the Taliban and then did nothing when Karzai captured a second elected term as president despite massive evidence of voter fraud. The charges of Afghan corruption have existed for years, so why have the U.S. and its allies continued to funnel money to the government for nine years? Who is responsible for monitoring that aid and ensuring accountability? And how is possible that nine years after they were easily toppled from power that the Taliban has morphed into a neo-Taliban insurgency that is today gaining ground against one of the greatest combines of military power in history?

Honest answers to those questions require a reconsideration of American exceptionalism, that bedrock belief in our national popular culture that claims the United States is divinely or secularly ordained to lead the world and that U.S. self-interests are, or should be, universal. Add superpower status to that equation and that worldview becomes arrogant, self-righteous and unwilling to engage in self examination. If the motives, interests and capabilities of the United States cannot honestly be assessed, then one of few remaining options in this case is blame the Afghans.

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