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Linda Polman on
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 20 September 2010 - 4:26pm
It is frequently acknowledged that U.S. policy in Afghanistan is "failing." But a sharper question is less frequently posed: are the actions of the U.S. government making Afghans worse off than they would be if the U.S. were doing nothing in Afghanistan?
If Afghans would be better off if the U.S. were doing nothing in their country, that is not only a powerful indictment of current policy; it strongly suggests that the direction that U.S. policy ought to move in is in the direction of doing much, much less in Afghanistan.
If current policy is not making Afghans better off than if the U.S. were doing nothing, after nine years, two Presidents, two Secretaries of Defense, different generals, different force levels, many revisions of policy, thousands dead and maimed, and a huge expenditure of resources, we should be skeptical that any proposed policy which purports to be better than doing nothing is actually feasible. We should consider the possibility that our inability to do better than nothing in Afghanistan has deeper causes than Presidents or generals or Secretaries of Defense, causes which are more difficult, perhaps impossible, to change.
While Afghans have little effective voice in our current policies, it is apparent that the interests of the Afghans do matter, even from the point of view of Washington, because if the majority of Afghans conclude that the actions of the U.S. are worse for them than if the U.S. did nothing, over time they can take actions which will compel the U.S. to move in the direction of doing nothing in their country.