Meanwhile, Back in Kandahar…

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The Wash Post reports on trouble brewing in Afghanistan, a country whose place names have now almost certainly been forgotten by most Americans (if in fact we ever learned them in the first place):

Many Kandaharis, once alienated by the harsh rule of the Taliban, say their early support for [President Hamid] Karzai is now giving way to a grudging nostalgia for the Taliban era.

At that time, many said, a person could walk around the city carrying quantities of cash and drive roads long after dark without fear. Today holdups are common, few people venture out after sunset, and many are haunted by a sense of vulnerability.

Whole thing here.

This story is soft on specifics–lots of talk of crime waves and kidnapping sprees but little hard data (understandably, given the lack of information available). But it's a reminder that elections, however improbable and well-supported and legitimate, remain a starting point of nation building, not its conclusion.

Back in our November issue, we ran a piece about the "coming warlord war" in Afghanistan. Clearly off in its timing, here's hoping that doesn't come to pass. Read it here.

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  1. Nick Gillespie,

    Why do you hate America? 🙂

  2. I seem to remember a “grudging nostalgia” in many former Bloc countries as well. Hell, there’s still quite a bit of that sentiment around.

    At least the trains ran on time…

  3. …and as long as policy makers continue to snicker at such little people’s concerns, that nostaglia – and political programs aimed at people who feel it – are going to snowball.

  4. joe

    I doubt anyone sneers at concerns about crime (just wish liberals and libertarians in America cared more). I also doubt Taliban nostalgia will “snowball”…although warlords could thrive.

    A pity is that Afghanistan could be a comfortably well-off society, if their non-pareil crop was legal to sell.

  5. “I also doubt Taliban nostalgia will “snowball”…although warlords could thrive.”

    Quite possibly – recollections about the strong, respected, safe Soviet Union haven’t propelled the Communists back to power, but they may well have contributed to people’s willingness to allow Putin to flex his muscles.

  6. someone tell the neocons: freedom isn’t everything.

    they may well have contributed to people’s willingness to allow Putin to flex his muscles

    certainly they have. a majority of what i’ve read in quotation of the opinions of russians speaks to their desire for authority to end the rank corruption that permeates their “free” economy. you can argue about how free it is, etc etc, but its more free and more corrupt and there’s more hardship for far more people even as things get very good for some. people aren’t nuts to desire authority under those circumstances.

  7. A pity is that Afghanistan could be a comfortably well-off society, if their non-pareil crop was legal to sell.

    I couldn’t agree more. But it is a little ironic that the people who were most enthusiastic and optimistic about regime change in Afghanistan are the ones who embrace and support enforcment of the very laws that are helping to make it a less safe and prosperous society.

  8. Answer: it’s not.

  9. Answer: it’s not.

    ???????

    Well, we could review everything from medicare to the prescription drug bill, but why do that when we can be glib?

    Reply: yes it is.

    anyhoo…on topic:

    Fear provided by the state, or fear provided by rampant criminal behavior. Seems to me, while both suck, when faced with the choice one is still preferable to the other.

  10. A pity is that Afghanistan could be a comfortably well-off society, if their non-pareil crop was legal to sell.

    I think it’s more likely that, were heroin to be legalized, it’s farming be picked up by some huge agribusiness and the profits sent to shareholders. Modern agriculture is not a path to being “comfortably well-off”, by any stretch of the imagination.

  11. I agree with Mike. It would be tempting to assert that ending prohibition would magically make everything better, but that’s not always the case. It would devolve power away from drug traffickers, but there’s no guarantee that better forces would fill the power vacuum. And while Afghanistan would no longer be an economy based on a single resource, there’s no guarantee that it would become a diversified economy. It could just as easily become a non-existent economy.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of legalizing opium regardless, because it probably won’t make things significantly worse there. But I’m not going to pretend that it will make things magically better either. The outcome is too tough to predict.

  12. when faced with the choice one is still preferable to the other.

    indeed, fear of the state is much more tolerable. the state will at least leave you alone if you do not raise your head against it; criminality will destroy randomly. that is the lesson of vast sums of history, i think — people desire not freedom but safety, when push comes to shove.

  13. Never underestimate the power of the “cheap smack” lobby.

  14. I have my hopes and doubts about the success of any type of central government in Afghanistan. Historically the country has been ruled by warlords. Given this background I have doubts that any central government will be able to rule unless it is an extremely despotic type such as the Taliban. But, one can always hope.

  15. Kanda what now?

  16. “indeed, fear of the state is much more tolerable. the state will at least leave you alone if you do not raise your head against it; criminality will destroy randomly. that is the lesson of vast sums of history, i think — people desire not freedom but safety, when push comes to shove”

    I’d like to see those lessons, as I really can’t imagine what you are talking about. Are your REALLY trying to tell us that independant criminal thugs are capable of infliciting more human suffering than criminal thugs with the power of a state at their hands? Are you REALLY trying to tell us that “vast sums” of history support this craziness? Please, gaius, share those lessons.

    Are you also trying to suggest that an arbitrary state run by criminal thugs leaves those alone who keep their heads down? Where exactly are the “vast sums” of history that support this idea?

    There is no safety without freedom, gaius. I think that is the lesson those “vast sums” of history would be more likely to teach us.

  17. “There is no safety without freedom”

    Nor is there freedom without safety. If a little old lady can’t walk to the store and buy milk without fear of getting her throat cut, she’s not free.

  18. “Nor is there freedom without safety”

    Sounds like joe’s looking for work at DHS enforcing the PATRIOT act or something.

  19. Veni, vidi, vici

    Here was the report of a much smarter, equally arrogant cheerleader from ancient history. J. C., the original, who also had “gender”/doubts about his masculinity.

    Bush and bush: separated at birth? Duh.

    The very same (roughly) geography today causes us to question whether Julius had it right the first time. Or not.

    Jayzus Caesar

  20. Stop posting drunk Ruthless.

  21. Meanwhile, back in DC…

  22. Historically the country has been ruled by warlords

    So was Japan. Then everything changed, and a few years later the Japs beat up the Russians.

    The problem is that democracy is not fairy dust. Democracy is a system. But a system is only the half of the problem that we know how to control.

    No “system” can substitute for the intentions and abilities of those who rule. The half of the problem we don’t know how to control is: how do you get men and women of ability into the highest places?

    The right men and women often don’t want to be on top. They aren’t the types who will seek power for its own sake.

    Politics draws people who want power. What is needed, is people who want to (and are able to) do good.

    This is a key reason civilizations disintigrage with age. How do you keep capable leaders in the top slots?

    Devise any “democratic” or “republican” system you like. Crappy leadership will dismantle it sooner or later. There is no leash that cannot, with persistence, be broken.

  23. I’d like to see those lessons, as I really can’t imagine what you are talking about.

    ian, gaius is right. Look at it this way. Historically, economics improves when there’s a modicum of predictability in the realm of personal security and property rights. Rome was not built by bandits.

    It is much more difficult to be a merchant under anarchy, than under a government that’s even half way ordered. Now — it is true that gov’ts rules may not be entirely fair, just, or rational (look at the US 🙂 ). But a system that gives some predictability is better than no system at all.

    In the extreme, gov’t can put itself out of business. Sure.

    But if there’s no system at all, then I, as a merchant, will need my own standing army to protect my assets. Wa la musheer, I must become a warlord.

    Historically it’s fair to say, the peasants don’t want war. They just want peace and security so they can live their lives. Give them some measure of justice, even a limited measure, and they’ll go plow their fields rather than fight.

    If this makes no sense to you, then ask yourself a question. How badly would you want to spend two decades of your life in the army — because there was no better option available in the civilian sector?

    Look at Afghanistan, look at Vietnam. In both places you find many instances where the military was the best option for people with any degree of ability and ambition.

  24. “Historically it’s fair to say, the peasants don’t want war. They just want peace and security so they can live their lives. Give them some measure of justice, even a limited measure, and they’ll go plow their fields rather than fight.”

    Jaysus pragmatist:

    Put that way Gaius sounds like that fucknut Kantian Fukuyama.

    Say it ain’t so!

  25. Boy, the way our mullahs prayed
    Unbelievers’ hides were flayed
    Guys like us we had it made
    Those were the days!

    And you knew who you were then
    Girls were slaves and men were men
    Mister we could use a man like Mullah Omar again.

    Didn’t need no secular states
    Gays were crushed beneath great weights
    Gee, our Taliban ruled great!
    Those… werrrre…theeee…daaaaayyyys!

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