Monday, March 25, 2002

WE'VE BEEN LUCKY SO FAR but I hope we don't get dragged into internecine battles like this one reported in today's Washington Post:
Elsewhere in Afghanistan today, the governor of eastern Khost province demanded that U.S. Special Forces troops hand over several rival Afghan allies who allegedly opened fire on the region's security chief, killing a bodyguard and wounding two others before reportedly fleeing into an American compound, according to wire service reports.
It would be nice if the West could build a civil society in Afghanistan. Who knows, maybe we can. But our bottom line should be much less complicated: Afghans may kill each other for whatever reasons they choose, so long as they do not harbor terrorists. Pulling out of Afghanistan probably won't accomplish that goal; terrorists are obviously attracted to power vacuums. But neither do our goals require making Afghanistan into a modern, stable state -- which is a good thing, since that's not going to be possible for hundreds of years. Our goals require a rough balance: enough economic and military aid to prop up a pro-Western regime that is humane by the standards of the region; and a credible threat to destroy any regime or insurrectionists that harbor terrorists. We can do that without having to police every tribal quarrel like this one.

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