Thursday, August 18, 2011

Barack Obama's Afghan Hostages.

Among Afghans, the great hope of an Obama presidency was that Donald Rumsfeld’s “we don’t do nation-building” approach was finally over and done with. The Bush administration came late to the realization that its so-called light footprint was precisely what had allowed the Taliban to regroup and reassert itself throughout Afghanistan’s southern provinces. It’s why there is still a war in Afghanistan at all.

You don’t need to scour tea leaves for worrying evidence of a return to Rumsfeld’s policy in Washington. Last February, unveiling the administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan Regional Stabilization Strategy, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was explicit: the strategy is “far from an exercise in nation-building.”

The message to Afghan democrats could not be clearer. Hope and change has come to mean despair and a recrudescence of the same old self-flattery, shortcut remedy prescription, and attention-deficit disorder that has afflicted American policy in Afghanistan since at least Bill Clinton’s time. “I am not optimistic at all,” Suraya Parlika of the Afghan Women’s Union recently told Reuters. “Women are at risk of losing everything they have regained.”

It’s not even the idea of “negotiations” that’s the problem anymore. The deep anxieties among Afghans about who would be doing the negotiations, what they’d be for, and what would be on the table—it’s gone past that now. . .

That's from my essay in today's Dissent magazine, followed by a friendly argument of sorts with Michael Walzer.

And did I mention my book? No? Oh, well then, here it is. I have placed myself in the position of having written a book about Afghanistan that will make pretty well everyone (except the majority of Afghans, who won't get a chance to read it anyway) very, very angry with me. This will either be good for sales or absolutely fatal for sales. Oh well.

And no, it is not that I like making enemies, or that I enjoy controversy. One simply takes notes, writes it all down, and the enemies will follow as surely as night follows day. The trick is to maintain at least the semblance of a cheery disposition, of which I am possessed in abundance.


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