Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Speaking Truth to Power

I wish Harpo was in Chicago. If he was, maybe he'd load up on a lot of wisdom about the international turmoil now underway in Afghanistan and elsewhere. There's plenty of it to be had in the Windy City from the roughly 3,000 international affairs thinkers gathered there for the annual, International Studies Association convention.
Here, according to James Travers, writing in the Toronto Star, are some of the words of wisdom Harper could find helpful:

"Politicians stiffening national backbones won't find renewed strength in this sampler drawn from four intensive days. There's no guarantee imposing democracy controls terrorism, that being over there necessarily makes us safer over here or, most importantly, that the hope of reconstructing Afghanistan as a stable, modern state is guided by a common blueprint.

"None of that is idle musing. Academic and think tank business is booming in the failed states/security sector and the result is a lot of empirical holes in subjective cloth.

"For example, research predicts that violent groups will cling to their methods even after becoming political parties, Western powers become targets by intervening in essentially local conflicts, and practical short-term tactics make nonsense of the theoretical long-term Afghanistan strategy."

"A steady supply of walk-in suicide bomber recruits is a product of new anger over infidel boots on Islamic soil and not just a manifestation of more deeply rooted grievances.

"And in Afghanistan the goal of winning hearts and minds is being pushed further over the horizon by the day-to-day damage of air strikes in a war fought among the people and by anti-drug policies that make farmers poorer and more vulnerable to corrupt officials."

This isn't revolutionary thinking, far from it. It's actually very conventional wisdom that is simply not heard very often and even more rarely heeded.

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