Sunday, September 7, 2008

Should we arm the people of Afghanistan?

Here's evidence from U of O's Nipa Banerjee before the Foreign Affairs and international trade Committee. Yeez kin read it yerselves.

But here's my thought: Based on the premise that we in the West have an obligation to rebuild Afghanistan, my opinion is that we should all use our massive wealth to pour billions into the country and let the new state institutions of Afghanistan do it. [And if that means they have to get outside help from the nations of their choice, so be it, we'll pay for it.]

Canada and other donor nations will of course reserve the right to monitor the spending of their dollars on the lookout for blatant corruption, and the "stick" that will be used will a total cessation of funding until the relevant egregious corruption is ended.

The goal should be to make the army of the government in Kabul much, much stronger than that of the warlords'. We shouldn't submit the people of Afghanistan to renewed civil war though. The government's strength should be used to tame them and eventually make them irrelevant.

But this would all be based on the premise that the government in Kabul and its agents can be trusted and they haven't shown themselves to be trustworthy. That's why I toss out the option of arming the entire country.

I'm certain that the bulk of the population is sick of war. The bulk of the population wants rebuilding. The bulk of the population wants some sort of life for women larger than the narrow strictures of the fanatical Taliban. The bulk of the population wants some respite from the depredations of the warlords and the thieves and thugs of the official army and police. I'm pretty sure that they don't want to all start fighting amongst themselves. If they were all well-armed, wouldn't it be possible that these farmers could provide their own security? If Taliban nut-jobs destroy their schools, the farmers could protect themselves or hunt them down. If Karzai's underpaid, incompetent, corrupt police try to shake them down, they can defend themselves.

It sounds incredibly risky, but we're already failing these people. Plus, this is a blog, not a policy paper. Speculation like this isn't as dangerous in this context.


Boris said...

Speculation can be interesting...
If, say, we had the money, resources, and commitment to do something workable in Afghanistan several things, I think, would have to happen:

1) The Americans would have to go. To them, Afghanistan is a security operation, and they control the bulk of the military activity in the county. Further to that, the current US administration sees Afghanistan as tool in grand strategy games against Russia and China. All multinational/NATO/development activities in the country are either subordinate too, or influenced by US operations in the country. Perhaps NATO operations could be reflagged as UN which would make things look a lot less Western imperialist in nature and more like a true multinational peace and development mission. This would also open the door to participation by soldiers from non-Western states.

2) The Taleban, as Banerjee suggests, would have to be brought into the political solution. A critical first step in this process is securing a ceasefire agreement. Get the shooting to stop, and the security situation improves 10 000 fold.

3) A coherent and coordinated strategy focused on developing Afghan institutions needs to be developed and implemented. Inclusion of the Taleban and Pakistan in this is also critical.

4) Funding, funding, funding.

This is dreaming. The Americans will not leave, nor will they likely surrender influence. Money will not be forthcoming. NATO will continue plod its incoherent way along in the hope of something happening and maintaining its own goes on.

trog69 said...

Bringing the Taliban into any political solution would be painting a target on the Afghans asses, and then having them bury their heads in the sand.

I've been reading about a program involving subsidies to provide power, water, schools, etc. to the villages directly, through an NGO. I don't have the specifics, but it was working really well, with the spending on the projects an open book for the entire town, and the people providing much of the labor for free, to encourage efficiency. Each time an expenditure is made, the whole village can see where their funds are being spent! Man, if only...naw, it'd never fly here.

Of course, Bush and his co-horts are trying to cut funding to this program.

Weapons for evabuddy? The Afghans already have access to abundant small arms right there in their country. Afghanistan has the world's largest arms sales market around.

What they need is a reason to get up in the morning, and a reason to be proud to be Afghan.

thwap said...


Just to say, your last paragraph was entirely true. One action can't mitigate that the whole thing is a lie suited to Western interests.


Very well put.