Saturday, March 3, 2007

An Afghan Policy Built on Pipe Dreams


An Afghan Policy Built on Pipe Dreams

Published: March 3, 2007

The time has come to be honest about the limits of our power and the Afghan reality.

The international community’s policy in Afghanistan is based on the claim that Afghans are willing partners in the creation of a liberal democratic state. Senator John McCain finished a recent speech on Afghanistan by saying, “Billions of people around the world now embrace the ideals of political, economic and social liberty, conceived in the West, as their own.”

In Afghanistan in January, Tony Blair thanked Afghans by saying “we’re all in this together” and placing them in “the group of people who want to live in peace and harmony with each other, whatever your race or your background or your religion.”

Such language is inaccurate, misleading and dangerous.

Afghans, like Americans, do not want to be abducted and tortured. They want a say in who governs them, and they want to feed their families. But reducing their needs to broad concepts like “human rights,” “democracy” and “development” is unhelpful.


Rory Stewart’s latest book is the “The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq.” He runs the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Kabul and is a guest columnist this month.


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