Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Empowering Our Enemies

Americans have difficulty understanding how the Afghan War feels from the Afghan side. The comments below, from an article by Sameer Dossani, need to be taken into account as Washington plans its new (one prays) Afghan policy:

Perhaps the easiest way to understand what most Afghans and many South Asians, Muslims, and others around the world felt after the invasion is to remember how Americans felt after the September 11 attacks. George W. Bush was a deeply unpopular president. The election that brought him to power had split the population, with shady dealings in Florida and an activist Supreme Court ultimately deciding the race in favor of Bush. Many of my liberal compatriots despised the president, who was already acquiring a reputation for spending his presidency on vacation.
But after the 9/11 attacks, those same liberals were rallying around Bush. The logic was simple: in a time of crisis, with your country under attack, you support those who are going to defend you. You may not like George W. Bush, but his policies his armed forces stand between you and whoever caused significant damage to New York and Washington, DC.

By the same logic, who stood between Afghan civilians and the NATO aerial bombardments that killed about 3,000 people? The Taliban. Every bomb that detonated on a wedding party led to tens, perhaps hundreds of young people — mostly young boys and many of them orphans — joining the resistance movement under the flag of the Taliban.

And it’s not just that the Afghan population believes that the Taliban resistance is legitimate; that resistance is legitimate under international law. No less important a document than the United Nations charter gives the Taliban and other Afghans the right to legitimate self-defense against U.S. aggression.

By our own hubris, we have empowered our enemies. As our power declines in the midst of a deepening economic crisis that is turning into another example of gross mismanagement, corruption, and upside-down values, it is not at all clear how long we can continue to afford such shortsightedness.

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