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Afghanistan’s Bravest Woman Pins Hopes on U.S., Not Obama

Afghanistan’s ‘Bravest Woman’ Pins Hopes on U.S., Not Obama | OneWorld.net (U.S.).

I’ve been working with the Afghan National Army in Helmand Province since mid-2006 and am very familiar with Malalai Joya.  All the Afghans I am acquainted with know her and either cheer for her or have major disagreements with her.  After reading her book, I too fall into a for/against mode with Joya.  I think she is a remarkable and brave woman who is indeed extremely passionate about her convictions and love of her country — I cannot help but adore her spirit, drive, and speeches, even when they are derogatory to the United States.  I agree with her 100% when it comes to warlords in the government, the corruption, and her wish for women’s equality and a secular government.  I take issue with her depiction of President Bush, the U.S. armed forces, and her clearly socialist leaning.  She believes leaders such as Hugo Chavez, terrorist Palestinian groups and other socialists are to be praised.  Clearly her understanding of history, socialism, economics, capitalism, democracy, and international relations is slightly problematic.  She should spend less time reading Marx and more time reading Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, or F.A. Hayek.

To be clear, the United States didn’t elect Karzai the first time, nor during the August election, the Afghan people did.  Nor did the United States create or vote for the Afghan constitution, the elected representatives of Afghanistan did that.  She takes significant liberties when she asserts that Afghans can indeed govern from a central authority and cites the short era at the beginning of the 20th century as evidence.  One small stint that didn’t last does not an ability to govern make, and both the decades after that rule, and the many centuries before, Afghanistan has not been able to implement a strong, central government and there is no reason to think they are capable now.  Whether or not we should be nation building is indeed a debate, but the bigger picture here is our national interest.  We did not attack Afghanistan, elements in that country attacked us and we are well within our rights to respond.  We could’ve taken many different directions in our response.  We could have acted like the Russians did in the 1980s or as they did to Georgia in 2008.  We could’ve been more brutal.  We have the power to create a landscape of nothing but glass, or to engage in a scorched earth policy, but we did not.  We have the power to treat this war like we did WWII (Dresden, Tokyo, Berlin, etc..) and to be sure, there are many military thinkers who believe we should.  But alas we are not, and Joya doesn’t seem to understand the difference.  She doesn’t “get” that we take great pains to ensure civilians are not killed, oftentimes at the expense of our own troops.  She misses the idea that we are trying our level best to earn hearts and minds and help the Afghan people.  She sees black and white with very little white, and absolutely no grey.
There are indeed warlords in the Afghan government and government officials are clearly corrupt — show me a government that isn’t.  But the key distinction here is that they are our allies.  They are not planning attacks on our country, nor are they in league with al Qaeda or the Taliban.  Do many believe in Shariah and a stern interpretation of Islam?  Yes they do, but that is no fault of ours; we are not about cultural transformation or a reform of Islam.  We are however interested in our security.  Hence, so long as they are in power, we are more secure.  Furthermore, so long as we are here, we disrupt the ability of the Taliban and al Qaeda to use Afghanistan as a staging/planning/training area from which to attack our country.  We may not be “winning”, but that is not the point – -we are disrupting and keeping the fight in their back yard, thus preventing it from happening in ours.
I love Malalai Joya, her story is compelling, but her problems are really not the fault of the United States, but instead with the very culture of her own country.


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