February 14, 2004
@ 09:03 PM

A couple of days ago I wrote about The war in Iraq and whether the actions of the US administration could be considered a war crime. It seems this struck a nerve with at least one of my readers. In a response to that entry Scott Lare wrote

Today, between Afganistan and Iraq there are approx 50 million people who were previously under regimes of torture who now have a "chance" at freedom. Get a grip on reality! Talk about missing the point and moronism.

I find it interesting that Scott Lare sees the need to put chance in quotes. Now ignoring the fact that these “regimes of torture” were in fact supported by the US when it was politcally expedient the question is whether people's lives are any better in Afghanistan and Iraq now that they live in virtual anarchy as opposed to under oppresive regimes? In a post entitled Women as property and U.S.-funded nation-building he excerpts a New York Times opinion piece which states

Consider these snapshots of the new Afghanistan:

• A 16-year-old girl fled her 85-year-old husband, who married her when she was 9. She was caught and recently sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment.

• The Afghan Supreme Court has recently banned female singers from appearing on Afghan television, barred married women from attending high school classes and ordered restrictions on the hours when women can travel without a male relative.

• When a man was accused of murder recently, his relatives were obliged to settle the blood debt by handing over two girls, ages 8 and 15, to marry men in the victim's family.

• A woman in Afghanistan now dies in childbirth every 20 minutes, usually without access to even a nurse. A U.N. survey in 2002 found that maternal mortality in the Badakshan region was the highest ever recorded anywhere on earth: a woman there has a 50 percent chance of dying during one of her eight pregnancies.

• In Herat, a major city, women who are found with an unrelated man are detained and subjected to a forced gynecological exam. At last count, according to Human Rights Watch, 10 of these "virginity tests" were being conducted daily.

... Yet now I feel betrayed, as do the Afghans themselves. There was such good will toward us, and such respect for American military power, that with just a hint of follow-through we could have made Afghanistan a shining success and a lever for progress in Pakistan and Central Asia. Instead, we lost interest in Afghanistan and moved on to Iraq.

... Even now, in the new Afghanistan we oversee, they are being kidnapped, raped, married against their will to old men, denied education, subjected to virginity tests and imprisoned in their homes. We failed them. 

To people like Scott I'll only say this; life isn't an action movie where you show up, shoot up all the bad guys and everyone lives happily ever after. What has happened in Afghanistan is that the US military has shoot up some bad guys who have now been replaced by a different set of bad guys. Short of colonizing the country and forcing social change there isn't much the US military can do for a lot of people in Afghanistan especially the women. I accept this but it really irritates me when I here people mouth off about how “life is so much better” because the US military dropped some bombs on the “bad guys“.

As for Iraq, John Robb has a link to an interesting article on the current state of affairs. He writes

Debka has some interesting analysis that indicates that the US is in a bind.  The recent moves to empower Iraqi defense forces to take control of city centers is premature (as proved in the brazen attack in Fallujah yesterday).  At the same time the US is committed to a shift of power this summer and the UN is talking about elections this fall.  There are three potential outcomes for this:

  • A full civil war that draws in adjacent powers.
  • Democracy and stability under Sunni leadership. 
  • More US occupation but with increasing resistance.

How would you assign the odds (in percentages) for each outcome?

Considering the animosity between the various factions in Iraq, democracy and stability may not go hand in hand. Being Nigerian I know first hand that democracy doesn't automatically mean stability, I guess that's why some refer to us as The New Pakistan


Sunday, February 15, 2004 7:24:29 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
All this stuff bothers me. Here's the reasons why iraq needed to be slaughtered:
* they had and could deploy weapons of mass destruction
* they disregarded the UN, making them a rogue and untrustworthy state
* they committed human rights abuses.

Now, let's look at the USA:
* they have and can deploy weapons of mass destruction
* they disregard the UN
* the PATRIOT act allows american officials to detain people for various "anti-terrorist" reasons, thus providing a way from them to legally(?) abuse human rights.

The only possible explanation is "America's good, but Iraq's not". However, that's just arbitrary - that way lies madness.

The only good reason for going to mars? There's no politics out there.

Thanks for letting me spout off on your blog, Dare :)
Sunday, February 15, 2004 12:38:43 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
democracy is one way to invest the economic surplus provided by productivity gains. historically this could be achieved when one part of the population enslaved another lot. now that productivity gains can be achieved by other means, this is no longer needed.

but stability is needed if you want productivity gains in the first place.
this is why athauritarian regimes are usually needed first. history doesn't begin with the "founding fathers".
Monday, February 16, 2004 6:30:44 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Iain wrote:

"democracy is one way to invest the economic surplus provided by productivity gains."

Democracy is highly overrated in general. In specific cases, such as the United States and Western Europe, democracy has been an incredible success largely because historical political and cultural forces caused democracy to be viewed as a way of protecting the rights of the individual from the state (and the way those societies achieved that was to severely limit the democratic process).

But as Nigeria, India, Lebanon and other countries have proved, this need not be the case -- democracy can instead be used to cement the political power of groups at the expense of individuals. Nigeria's problem in many respects is that it has too much democracy so religious majorities can alter the political order in some Nigerian states in ways that would never be tolerated in Western Europe or the United States (OTOH, it is also import to note that it took WE and the U.S. a couple hundred years to reach that point, and even then democratic societies simply eliminated inconvenient minorities -- such as Indians -- in a way that the world supposedly would not tolerate today, although a whole lot of dead Rwandans might beg to differ).

Democracies in Africa and elsewhere have also largely escaped the transparency that minimizes corruption in the United States and Western Europe.
Monday, February 16, 2004 8:45:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Being an argentinian, all I can say is that, even if we didn't get US military (yet), we've suffered their politics. Economic formulas and joint corruption (don't tell me they didn't know...) caused a disaster over here. 50% poor people... my God...
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