Saturday, November 21, 2009

Stanley McChrystal's War on Poverty

History News Network has linked to this critique from the left of General McChrystal's strategy in Afghanistan. I'm not a leftist myself - I'm more like a Whig - but I think there is undeniable merit in points such as these:

The biggest obstacle to [McChystal's new counterinsurgency strategy as stated in his leaked interim assessment for the White House] isn’t the supposed invincibility of the Taliban or an American liberal failure of nerve; it is achieving McChrystal’s ambition to do in Kabul what Americans couldn’t or wouldn’t do in New Orleans.

-- snip --

McChrystal hopes to transcend the policies of both the militarist right and the social-welfare left by expanding the war to “embrace the people,” be “a positive force in the community,” and “use local economic initiatives” to displace the insurgency. With massive new resources, his new doctrine would integrate “military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency." ... But whose government? Hamid Karzai’s has proven too corrupt as well as feckless.”

-- snip --

For half a century conservatives have derided and defunded such strategies except when they could be billed to “national defense,” like the U.S. Interstate Highway System and the first federal student loans. Small wonder, then, that people who so recently scorned “nation-building,” “community organizing,” community policing, and public jobs are now rhapsodizing them in the name of national defense.

-- snip --

The general also requests massive new resources to “fight corruption and improve the delivery of basic services such as clean water, paved roads, electricity, education, and a functioning legal system.” He wants to raise Afghan government salaries because “the notoriously low wages...are a major inducement for corruption.”... War on Poverty strategists wanted all this, too. So do American local and state governments. Right now.

The complete article, by Jim Sleeper, is in Dissent Magazine.

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