How to 'help' the Afghan Addicts

Stupid people and poor countries come together

Magic bus, early 1970s Magic bus, early 1970s
There should be an organisation called Afghan Addicts Anonymous. On the other hand perhaps the anonymous is not required. Far too many people are happy to put their name to yet another article on the subject of 'What to do about Afghanistan'. They seem to do so with the sole purpose of convincing others to meddle, as they do, in this sad country as long as possible. Rather like smokers would claim they have 'rights' the Afghanistas reckon that they do too with this 'work'. They think it's a right to 'sort out' this country, much as Tony Blair wanted to 'fix' Africa. On the evidence of progress so far, it's a form of arrogance, a sickness even.

These people are a motley bunch, politicos, think tankers and retired military types abound. But they share a weird desire to mess Afghanistan up.

The excellent museum at Cosford has a Cold War Exhibition showing many pictures of Afghanistan since the 1960s. The dress and appearance of the men, no women, is very much as today, only the weapons have changed. Originally the typical Afghan had a rifle that looked as it had come from a museum. Then following the Soviet era they moved onto the AK47.

This weapon and the other arms that came with the Soviet era transformed the country. Within easy memory for many people, buses left London for a trip to Kabul and beyond on a regular basis. The hippy magic bus trail was generally safe, although the local standard of driving was appalling. Now of course the whole country and much of the region is a war zone. When the USA and its allies leave, as did the Russians, they will bequeath to the region a more modern level of weapons that will blight the region for the foreseeable future. This will be their 'legacy'. We are told by the Afghan Addicts, the fixers of poor faraway places, that it is their desire to bring democracy to the region. So they must stay in the region for however long it takes to get this done.

Another of the weak excuses from the Afghan Addicts for this action is that there is a need to 'stabilise' Pakistan. You would have thought that any country with a war going on just across the border and a war that also crosses that border frequently, could be best helped by ending the war as soon as possible. But no, the Afghan Addicts plan to be there for years. And to prolong their work they plan to teach others the craft.

An army, the ANA, and militia-style police force are being trained. This is just what Afghanistan does not need. One quick look at Pakistan will suffice. This country is awash with arms with a military 'tradition' going back to the colonial era. So, traditionally, democracy in Pakistan hangs by a thread on the whim of the army. They pop in and out of parliament as they see fit. To build up the ANA lays the foundation for the same to thing to happen in Afghanistan. Perversely, the only way to prevent this, to stop the army taking over, is to allow one of the tribes to dominate. In other words democracy won't work. Hence the Afghan Addicts fail on both counts, introducing democracy and building up an army.
Kabul bus 2008 Kabul bus 2008
If you remember this was the situation in Iraq and, so long as Saddam Hussein and his crowd held sway, there was 'peace'; but not much democracy and a lot of people from the minority tribes were killed. Nonetheless, building up the army is a 'must do' job for the Afghan Addicts. A well know Addict is Daniel Korski, he writes reams of very predictable stuff as he was once an assistant to Paddy Ashdown in Bosnia. Old habits die hard and Korski, on behalf of his old boss, perhaps in tandem with him one more time, would like nothing more to 'help' in Afghanistan.

Another idea touted by Korski, and typical of the Afghan Addicts, is the creation of an Army Corps of Engineers styled on the US model. This is also wrong. The creation of the US Corps dates back to the US Civil War and is an unusual organisation that would be hard to replicate in any other country. It holds a unique position is US life and works in partnership with the private sector, in a way that is perhaps too subtle for liberal minded think-tankers to understand.

If Afghanistan needs school and hospitals then they should be built by local building contractors, not built by soldiers and especially by foreign solders. An Afghan Army Corps of Engineers would be noth more more than a vast opportunity for corruption. Another chilling thought is that Osama bin Laden trained as a Civil Engineer; do we want that again? Then Korski has a brilliant idea - “There is only one real alternative: a dramatic, eye-popping devolution of power”. Yes this is eye popping but perhaps not in the way Korski intends. For he like his chum and former boss Ashdown is a Europhile. The fanaticism they hold for this cause is about equal to the fanaticism held by the leaders of the different factions in Afghanistan to theirs.

How very odd. The nations of Europe must be welded into an alliance that is a good deal less than popular with the populations and so this must be done by trickery. The tribes of Afghanistan must be given autonomy, even if over many years they have formed natural alliances. And this eye popping wisdom is to be imposed by outsiders regardless of whether it's wanted or not by the indigenous population. Never mind, the know-all Afghan Addicts really do know best. Except that this sounds like an ever closer union in reverse!

What is it about messing up Afghanistan that so many people find addictive, then again, why are they so stupid too?