Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Now that's a story

Michael Yon mentions the real story behind Rudyard Kipling's "The Man who would be King," in his first posting from Afghanistan. It turns out that the novel was based on the true story of an American Jew named Josiah Harlan, who actually did manage to get himself made a prince if not a king. His descendents are apparently around today and had the title "Prince of Ghor.” that really is better, not only than what I could make up, But what Rudyard Kipling could make up.

He goes on to discuss the situation in an isolated area called Ghor. The Lithuanians are in command of this outpost and they take their job very seriously. He reports at length on an interview he has with a local official. Two points are of interest. One is that the Indian government has provided some support for building a TV station. Moves by regional powers to gain influence in Afghanistan is an underreported aspect of this conflict.

The other point the official argues at length is that the Americans are spending too much money and resources in the South fighting the Taliban, rather than supporting Afghans in the rest of the country. Why spend money and resources on the people are fighting and let your friends go begging? I think this is a very important point.  I've heard this point for many in Afghanistan. It seems to be a leitmotif of our approach to the world in general, to concentrate on our enemies and ignore our friends. I don't know why we do that. Liberal ideologues seem to think that we can make our enemies like us. The military -- perhaps not surprisingly -- concentrates on killing enemies and leaves taking care of our friends to others. I wonder if it is not due in some part to our  judicially oriented approach to foreign policy.

A judicial approach to the world looks at problems primarily in terms of people whose behavior you want to change. People whose behavior is good are ignored. A law-abiding citizen should not only not be punished, but should have no particular contact with the law in general. Moreover, a judicial mindset sees its job not only as leaving the law-abiding alone, but may also induce one to look at benefiting the law-abiding, rewarding those with whom we have no particular complaint as showing favoritism. A court and a judicial system is there to punish wrongdoers.  Rewarding people for not  doing wrong is irrelevant to its reason for existence if not actually corrupt.

I heard over and over again about how America does not take care of her friends. I hear over and over again, particularly from people in the ethnic groups that side with America, that they get nothing out of it. Of course, to a judicial mindset, getting something out of a relationship with an authority is the definition of corruption. But a judicial mindset works well when the state has a monopoly on power. When trying to establish a government in conditions of anarchy, not rewarding your friends is the definition of a loser.

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