Sunday, September 12, 2010

Afghanistan and the Romans

While dealing with a revolt by the Franks he found that one of his supposed allies had betrayed the Romans and was complicit in the killing of many Romans. Caesar's soldiers wanted him to put the traitorous ally to death. But Caesar stopped them and ordered the rebellious tribal leader set free and even rewarded. For Caesar individual justice was a lesser good than that of the whole. He reasoned that whatever the truth of the matter was--and Caesar was in little doubt--the man was perceived as a friend of Rome. His aim was to advance the power and peace of Rome. And the most important principle in advancing the Pax Roma was that the enemies of Rome be seen to suffer and the friends of Rome be seen to prosper.

We in American have found a way to obey the opposite principle. In Afghanistan it has been our policy to benefit our enemies and harm our friends.

We have arrived at this unfortunate pass through good intentions, lack of imagination and bureaucratic inertia.

If one looks at the correlation between attacks on American soldiers and development aid it would be hard to avoid the conclusion that the best way to get American money is to spill American blood. Not that this is purely an American policy. Aid from other national governments and from international bodies follows largely the same pattern. The more violent an area is the more aid it gets. What is going on is the result not so much the result of explicit and conscious policy coordination as it is the result of common elite belief systems across the Western world. Call it the globalization of appeasement, of Chamberlainism. Violence is caused by poverty and deprivation. The perpetrators of violence are the victims of i. To stop their violence cure their deprivation. The problem is, the dog might bite you because he is hungry or because he has found a new way to get fed.

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