Saturday, December 5, 2009

Education: Another Option for Helping Afghanistan

Here's another option Obama overlooked on Afghanistan: funding a national educational system.

The thesis of "Hammering Islamic Radicals" was that Obama’s troop surge into Afghanistan solidifies U.S. relapse into the neo-con foreign policy based on force, effectively institutionalizing an aberrant, extremist position that ignores a broad range of policy options. While a few of these options were noted, the article’s thesis stands on weak ground unless it can be demonstrated that, in fact, the policy options Obama is ignoring truly do constitute a “broad range” of serious options.

Making that case will require significant thought and research. Any reader with suggestions is cordially invited to offer them. Here, I simply wish to add one option that was suggested by a reporter interviewed on Dalgit Daliwan’s TV news program on December 4:

Fund a national educational system for all the Afghan students currently studying in madrassas so as to expose them to a modern education rather than an education that will arguably prepare them to be Taliban recruits.

I do not know how radical the curriculum of Afghan madrassas may be. One could also question the degree to which, given the deplorable condition of the Afghan government at all levels, how radical education should be in order to prepare young Afghans to build the kind of government they need. But "funding an Afghan educational system" should not be taken to mean imposing regime-controlled curriculum; indeed, the experience of an innovative new compromise madrassa in, of all places, violent Helmand Province, suggests that education might actually be a topic on which radicals and the regime can hold a useful dialogue.

But when the total cost of such an educational system for a year would only be equivalent to the cost of some 20 U.S. soldiers, according to the interviewee (i.e., $20 million)—cookie crumbs off the $30B table of military expenses for Obama’s new military surge, this is obviously an option worth considering. In fact, even under the violence-addicted Bush-Cheney Administration, the U.S. invested money in the Afghan educational system, one small Republican idea that would have been worth focusing on.


Other options include –

1. Campaign to eradicate heroin labs

2. Stress desire for Muslim rather than Western “boots on the ground”;

3. Offer the police a living wage.


Does anyone have more information about the current Afghan educational system?

Can anyone offer additional options that Obama might have considered to complement or substitute for his overwhelming focus on military force?

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