Tuesday, October 11, 2005
# Posted 11:36 PM by Ariel David Adesnik
The last time I saw Hakim Taniwal, I thought he was a dead man walking.Wow. Again: Wow. And don't forget to read the rest of Baker's article, which includes a half-dozen other success stories that are almost as stunning.
Sometimes, I think of Afghanistan as what Iraq would be without powerful insurgents. For all of its persistent maladies, Afghanistan as it now stands is living proof that American armed forces often are the heralds of true liberation.
Nonetheless, it would be impossible not to temper with caution this sort of optimisim. Baker himself fills the remainder of his article with a multitude of caveats:
Even the most optimistic Americans here acknowledge that the job of stabilizing Afghanistan is nowhere near finished, and they worry that it might come unraveled again if a distracted Washington averts its attention too soon...What is most amazing about Afghanistan in a certain way is that no one can attribute its success to the genius of American planning. American officials such as Zalmay Khalilzad may have done quite a lot for the occupation, but Washington certainly never prepared for the task of nation-building.
In spite of its negative sound, that statement doesn't carry much in the way of partisan connotations because no one could have expect the Bush Administration to do much planning in the two months between September 11 and the fall of the Taliban.
But how, then, could Afghanistan have succeeded? After all, isn't Bush & Rumsfeld's total lack of planning the principal cause of the ongoing chaos in Iraq?
Yes and no. I think the relative success of Afghanistan demonstrates just how much influence unexpected circumstances have had on both occupation efforts. If you had asked the experts before 9/11 whether it would be harder to occupy and democratize either Iraq or Afghanistan, the experts would have declared both to be impossible, with one, perhaps, being more impossible than the other.
But the importance of luck hardly exonerates the White House for what's going on in Iraq (even if I am more optimistic about the situation there than most). What the relative success of Afghanistan demonstrates, I think, is that serious planning might, just might, have made a major difference in Iraq. Or not.
But given the potential for success, the failure to plan is profoundly regrettable.
UPDATE: In contrast, Josh Marshall agrees with Matt Yglesias that there was probably never any chance of things going right in Iraq at all. (0) opinions -- Add your opinion
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