Some on the anti-war Left, while they disagree with having gone into Iraq, did agree that entering Afghanistan was justified, since we were attacked by al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was being harbored there. That’s a fair and debatable point. However, bringing democracy to the country is proving difficult for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the culture.

In an article on “Strategy Page”, some of the reasons are listed.

NATO military officials understand that not enough foreign troops are in Afghanistan to shut down the Taliban, but also realize that unless the Afghan government can deal with its own problems (corruption, mainly, but lack of administrative skills, religious bigotry and incompetence), the country will continue to be a lawless, poor, and violent backwater in a rapidly changing world. The senior people in the Afghan government are trying, but the obstacles are formidable. The drug trade fits in with traditional Afghan, “get all you can, when you can, any way you can” attitudes. Meantime, the establishment of a national government has backfired in some respects. Religious conservatives are trying to impose their own version of Islam in the entire country via the courts. This is causing unrest, just as it did when the Taliban tried the same thing in the 1990s. The national government has a tricky problem here, since religious tolerance is not an Afghan custom. In the past, the different parts of the country simply ignored each other, because there was no national government that actually imposed national laws everywhere. Whenever that has been tried, like in the 1970s by a communist dominated government, the results are disastrous (as in rebellion and much civil disorder).

Note how culture plays much of a role, and the idea of a shared national identity, outside of tribe and religion, is required for democracy to flourish. In addition, the wrong kind of shared values, such as the “get all you can, when you can, any way you can” thought above, keep this from happening. These are many of the problems faced when giving people control of their own government who have never, in their lives, had this responsibility. Democracy in Afghanistan may be a long time coming, but fortunately the slow progress isn’t being beaten up in the press.

I say all that to say this; cut Iraq some slaq … er, slack. Those suggesting we pull out of Iraq because of their slow progress politically should give it a chance. Radical change takes time. Selfishness is so much easier to express than selflessness, and that’s why building a democracy takes so much effort.

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