Trump's "No Nation-Building" Folly in Afghanistan: No Nation-Building, No Peace

Updated on May 15, 2018
Matiullah Wesa, man on a campaign to reopen schools across Afghanistan, gives free open-air classes.
Matiullah Wesa, man on a campaign to reopen schools across Afghanistan, gives free open-air classes. | Source

Trump is an excellent copycat. He tends towards tough-guy themes which echo no one as much as George W. Bush Jr., saving himself from doing much original thinking beyond the political exigencies of the day. Want to appease hard right? Name Jerusalem the capitol of Israel. Want to lean left at the same time? Pull out of globalist trade agreements like TPP.

It's quite an interesting piece of political theater the likes of which we have never seen before. Trump makes it up as he goes along, following his gut for what plays well for enough voters to get elected. That's what politics is. No one said you have to know what you're doing.

The "no nation-building" in Afghanistan, we're going there to fight terrorists, not nation-build, has shown that it doesn't work so well. This is a tough guy theme Trump stole from George Bush. Now the longest running war in American history, bar none, maybe it's time to try some...nation-building. It doesn't sound as tough and flinty and no-nonsense the way Americans like. But it might save the lives of some of their sons.

Imagine if after World War II, as Europe lay in smoldering ruins and German women were prostituting themselves for something to eat, President Truman said "no nation-building." This is when Marxist movements were making significant inroads in both Eastern and Western Europe. It was one thing, the Marshall Plan, which was credited with keeping Western Europe from drifting into the Soviet orbit, which no amount of purely military intervention could have stopped. This was nation-building.

What is little understood is just how paltry the amount spent on the Afghanistan reconstruction has been compared to the deluge of funds for military operations, which has accomplished less than little. The insurgency now holds vastly more territory than it did 10 years ago, when it held almost nothing. It was on the verge of being small enough to drown in a bathtub when Obama decided on a "surge." Like the Iraq surge, it only succeeded in creating a hotbed of jihadis and terrorists where none existed before. Now ISIS is in Afghanistan.

At a cost which today is still $45 billion per year, and it used to be $100 billion. Spending on reconstruction has been at about one one-hundredth of that.

Were the numbers to be reversed, Afghanistan might have new roads from end to end and a semblance of a functioning economy, and the Taliban, which pays its fighters, finding no one to take the job. Instead, Afghans are still looking at 40% unemployment, and millions of children starving. The outcome certainly couldn't be any worse than it is now, with the Taliban running the country.

So how is it that the U.S. taxpayer has spent nearly a trillion dollars on military solutions to fighting "terrorism," but the "terrorists" hold more territory than ever? Isn't there a better way to spend this money?

It's not like there are not good conduits for the aid. Native, non-government Afghan civic organizations are the most promising. Beneath the headlines that the corrupt warlords and politicians make, thousands of Afghans are selflessly trying to make life better for everyone. You just never hear about them.

But we can't allow it to become a terrorist haven, the hawks say. But Afghanistan now IS a terrorist haven, when it wasn't one before. This shows one thing. That the nation-builders were right, and the tough guys were wrong.

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