Afghanistan: You Can't Make a Fictional Nation Do What You Want
© 2010 Peter Free
28 June 2010
Afghanistan is a fiction that leads American thinking astray
You can’t make a fictional nation do what you want. Afghanistan is a fictional nation in the same way Iraq and Yugoslavia were arbitrary concoctions imposed by the political happenstances after large-scale wars.
(When Americans call Afghanistan a failed nation, they are criticizing Afghans for a nation-attempting error the West made. Why should people(s), who never considered themselves a nation in the Western sense, be criticized for failing at something they never seriously attempted?)
Why we can’t make a fiction act like the real thing
Afghanistan does not have the wide-ranging internal governmental and economic mechanisms that a real nation does. At best it has access to somewhat expanded tribal mechanisms that create as many problems (for American occupiers) as they solve.
Absent accepted government institutions, there are no effective social, cultural, or economic ways with which to exercise the American occupier’s will.
Peoples, clans, and tribes are the real nations
In reality, the Taliban is a Pashtun people’s sub-phenomenon that has little to do with Afghanistan’s arbitrarily-imposed borders and a lot to do with the fragmented cultural and religious mix in central Asia, including Pakistan.
Thinking that Americans can occupy an unrealistically-created nation like Afghanistan and change its multi-ethnic and deeply ingrained conflicts, even over a period decades, is unrealistic.
Assuming that Americans can try to do this by armed means, without raising further hostility, is absurd.
Counterinsurgency, American-style, is not going to work under Afghan conditions
Counterinsurgency of the Petraeus-McCrystal type might work in a quasi-developed nation, but it is not going to be effectively imposed in a third-world non-nation that is historically:
(i) geographically fragmented,
(ii) grossly impoverished,
(iii) incompatibly multi-ethnic,
(iv) corrupt (a Western pejorative for a cultural style),
(v) predominantly Islamic.
Enhanced security will not be enough
Even with the carrot of enhanced American-provided security, such a demographically-varied geography has no enticing reason to align itself with an alien and historically undependable culture like the United States.