Friday, December 02, 2011

Hard lessons in Afghanistan and Iraq

A lot of soldiers (and civilians) were killed and injured, a lot of money was spent, and a lot of political division was created -- for what? The dream is to have stable, free democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, but I doubt we'll ever see this happen:
    President Hamid Karzai has pardoned a jailed rape victim, but only after she agreed to marry the man she says raped her.

    The 19-year-old woman, whose name is Gulnaz, was one of the subjects of a documentary recently produced by the European Union, highlighting the phenomenon of rape victims being imprisoned for the "moral crime" of having sex outside marriage, even against their will.
There's no nice way to say this: the culture in that part of the world is not suitable for freedom and modern government. That a rapist could get a prison term, then pardoned by agreeing to marry the rapist (story from the LA Times) is a good example of why we made a mistake in setting up "democracies" in that part of the world. Widespread corruption is another example.

I think both wars were necessary, but what followed wasn't. Removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein made the world better, and the U.S. safer, but the overall cost of "rebuilding" is far too high. The theory of fostering democracy was to prevent a reversion to Islamism and tyranny, but if the people are unwilling to live in a civilized manner, what's the point?

We may be asking too much of the Afghanis and Iraqis. When I look at our own history, there were hundreds of years, maybe 1000 years, of small steps leading us to where we are now -- mostly stable, mostly free cultures and governments. In the Middle Ages there were kings in Europe, many of whom were Saddam-like figures. There was terrible religious persecution, such as the Spanish Inquisition. These things were not removed in 21 days (the time it took to capture Baghdad), they evolved very slowly only after a lot of philosophizing and warfare. Could England have changed from the Plantagenets to a modern, parliamentary United Kingdom as a result of futuristic weaponry and building schools?

Next time, we should use our space-based weapons and stealth technology to remove threats, and stop there. Removing the democratic element from the equation will mean we have to repeat the exercise every 10 or 20 years, sure, but isn't this better than what's happening now?

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