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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Marc W. Herold, "Afghanistan: A Socio-Economically Irrelevant Space to be kept 'Empty' through Least-Cost Military Means," RAWA, May 29, 2008.

The facts regarding Afghanistan’s revealed irrelevance to the United States (and a reluctant NATO) are visible to all who wish to look: on average for every $100 spent on military efforts in Afghanistan, a trifling $4.50 is budgeted (and an even smaller amount is disbursed) for so-called reconstruction efforts (Table 1). At the same time, poppy cultivation and corruption have soared, poverty and inequality spiraled, and everyday life for average Afghans becomes both more difficult and insecure – though of course not for the small, urban, westernized Afghan elite. All this is to be expected if Afghanistan is seen as an “empty space” as I have argued many times, most recently in my book. (1) The United States seeks to re-establish Afghanistan as an empty buffer state at least cost (by which I mean few soldiers’ bodies and few dollars). Interestingly, a central component of Al Qaeda’s strategy is to bleed America to bankruptcy and to spread out U.S forces to the greatest degree possible (2) (both captured in the phrase “imperial overstretch”). All the talk about democracy and girls’ schools is for public consumption in Euro-America. Indeed, the new so-called humanitarian interventions are merely a smokescreen to hide and sell larger geo-political agendas. (3)

What reconstruction aid which has been disbursed is heavily biased towards high visibility, glamour projects (with military uses) and the much ballyhooed girls’ schools. If the do-gooder interventionists really cared about Afghan girls’ education, they would have channeled monies towards RAWA which has independently supported girls’ education in Afghanistan for over two decades, that is long before the likes of Sarah Chayes and Laura Bush discovered the girls of Afghanistan in October 2001. The new-found concern for Afghan women formed an integral part of selling the war to Euro-American publics. (4) But the completion of highways serves another very important function: it helps “sell brand Karzai” to the Western voting public as western “hotel journalists” (5) safely congregate for ribbon-cutting photo-ops of Karzai guarded by legions of foreign occupation troops. (6) If donors really cared about the well-being of average Afghans, dollars would flow into building toilets rather than highways and shopping malls in Kabul. (7) Naturally, some aid projects undertaken by NGO’s have had important wider beneficial effects, e.g., de-mining efforts.

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RAWA is the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan. Marc Herold is an American academic who has been tracking civilian casualties and economic development in Afghanistan from the beginning.Recommend this Post

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