Afghanistan Epitaph

Afghanistan Epitaph. By Mark Jarrett.

The people of Afghanistan had twenty years to experience Afghan government and decide that it was not worth fighting for. The stories are legion:

  • The first president, Karzai, constantly releasing captured terrorist leaders as he dealt directly with the Taliban.
  • President Karzai’s brother being the top gangster of Kandahar. The Afghan Air Force heroin-smuggling ring.
  • The Thursday Man Love sessions for all the pedophiles of the Afghan police and military.
  • The “ghost” soldiers and ever-stolen supplies of the Afghan Army.
  • The massive vote fraud of the Afghan presidential elections.
  • The Afghan judges who gave no justice without a bribe.
  • In sum, the Afghan government had the façade of a constitutional system — but inside its halls, it was a collection of thieves and robbers getting as much as could be gotten while the money was flowing.

Did Afghanistan become more like the USA, or the other way around?

It has long been my observation that groups, communities, and nations usually get the government they deserve. A virtuous people is usually ruled fairly well — an anarchic people either collapses into anarchy or is ruled strictly. I think this was President Bush’s major conceptual strategic mistake in the post-9-11 wars. He believed that every nation longed for freedom and was capable of democratic self-government.

As we have learned the hard way, our American constitutional government was not just ordered into existence by the Founders; it is the heritage of untold generations of Germanic tribal self-government, the monastic stewarding of the Roman legacy of education, the Anglo-Saxon traditions of consultative government, the compromise of the Magna Carta, the residue of the English Civil Wars and Bill of Rights, and the self-governing experience of the Pilgrims and the colonial founders in the New World interacting with the French and Scottish Enlightenment.

This was not Afghanistan’s experience — the many peoples of Afghanistan lacked the human capital to democratically govern themselves. The vast majority of Afghans could not read, write, or numerate — parts of Afghan Army basic training were simply teaching soldiers to recognize numbers. The few Afghan elites were ethnically divided and mutually suspicious. Often there was no tradition of peaceful self-governance — of the clans living in a valley, often there would be a low-level war among them over resources. Simply put, the Afghans were not truly capable of self-governing democracy in the Jeffersonian sense. Therefore, they could not create a government worth dying for.

You cannot separate the culture from the people. There is a genetic substrate to society. People are not interchangeable.