The Failure of Good Intentions

by Joshua Foust on 3/9/2009 · 2 comments

World Politics Review was kind enough to run a brief opinion piece on one of the many ways I see Afghanistan faltering under the U.S. military’s institutional rigidity. A snippet:

Interviewing village and community elders in Central Afghanistan can reveal a tremendous amount about what Afghans believe are the country’s most urgent problems. Security is certainly among them. One of the few lessons from Iraq that is applicable to Afghanistan is the pressing need for more troop presence, off of forward operating bases and on the ground, for long periods of time. That remains a distant and unobtainable goal, though, making it difficult to protect people who are threatened with beheading for, among other things, attending high school or a local shura.

But while security cannot be ignored, the West tends to exaggerate its importance. Indeed, when people complain about building new schools — “There are no jobs,” one said, “so what good is an education?” — and instead beg the U.S. for wells, roads, irrigation, and flood control, it’s easy to think that maybe we’re missing the point entirely.

Read the whole thing. Comments, as always, are welcome.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 2 comments }

Patton March 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

Wow. The policeman just walked up and took the money? I’d like to give mad props to him for being very subtle about his corruption.

Narcogen March 9, 2009 at 9:18 pm

“There are no jobs,” one said, “so what good is an education?”

That says it all. The author suggests this means that Americans don’t get it. I’d suggest the opposite. The idea is to take the long view and invest in the future. If people are unemployed today, what’s to stop them from going out and building the roads and wells themselves?

Interesting that you point out how brazen the policeman’s corruption was. Where I live there’s no shortage of that. I do notice, however, that while the ANA soldiers at least objected, it seems nobody else did.

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