By "A Guy in Afghanistan"
Best Defense guest columnist
The United States has invested a great deal of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Thus far, senior leadership (both civilian and military) would have us believe that we are receiving a valuable return on our investment, in the form of a stable and democratic government. Some exaggeration of the positive aspects is to be expected, of course, but when the ground truth blatantly belies the narrative, shouldn't we start questioning it?
The story of Helmand is a microcosm of America's Afghan counterinsurgency experience. Massive expenditures have piled up, as well as many lives lost. Supposedly, security and democracy have now taken root in the former Taliban heartland. However, from my time there last year, that's not what I saw. I saw large swaths of Taliban-controlled areas where ISAF and ANSF forces simply did not go. It wasn't for any lack of strategic importance; it was because ANSF had tried to secure these areas and failed.
The documentary This is What Winning Looks Like shows what most coalition forces in Helmand, and Afghanistan more broadly, experience:
These problems aren't going to be resolved by the end of 2014, or 2017, or whatever deadline we place upon them. Afghans recognize this; a common saying is "you have the watches, but we have the time." Why are we throwing good money and lives after bad when there is no foreseeable way to salvage any positive return on our investment?
Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images
By "Pierre Tea"
Best Defense guest columnist
Two months from now, in May 2013, the debate on COIN, as applied to Iraq and Afghanistan, will become academic, historical, and ripe for serious post-application analysis beyond the walls of the Pentagon.
The COINs will have all been spent, the PRTs' tents folded, and whatever hearts and minds purchased, leased, or lost can be counted, weighed against our costs, and their results. To quote Omar Khayyam, "The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on."
No credible analysis could avoid the obvious: that "something" had to be done about Saddam Hussein who ruthlessly threatened his neighbors (our allies) and his own populations, and about Osama bin Laden and his list of supporters, who directly attacked the United States. How did the "something" done work out?
As a first-hand civilian witness to the application and aftermath of "money as a weapon" surged by the billions into active and highly-fragmented war zones, I look forward to post-application debates on the key questions of COIN and PRTs: Did they help, hurt, or just fuel the multi-year conflicts to which they were continuously re-applied?
The U.S. dream of a peaceful and democratic Iraq and Afghanistan, however, has not been realized, and instability in adjacent Syria and Pakistan threatens to unravel anything enduring that we may have, through COIN, hoped to purchase from these two countries without any agreement with the Old Man in the Mountain (Iran), whose negative influence remains substantial, and undermines an accurate audit of what actual hearts and minds were purchased, for how long, and to what end.
My suspicion is that once all the COINs are spent, serious post-engagement analysis will end and the domestic shroud of myths needed to justify the honored dead and injured's contributions will drop in place, with little institutional learning, and even less than myths to show for it.
Leave it to Hollywood to mythologize the region, its history, and the heroism of individuals and incremental missions accomplished and we guarantee that history will repeat itself.
"Pierre Tea" probably has shaken more Afghan sand out of his shorts than you've walked on. This post doesn't necessarily reflect the official views of anyone but it sure does reflect the unofficial views of some.
That's what my friend Rosa Brooks assumes, writing that, "Even if humans are somewhat less nasty to one another than they used to be, the complexity of our world has increased exponentially, and our ability to inadvertently mess the world up has similarly increased." I know and like Rosa, but I think she's wrong here.
Yes, we can mess up the world pretty well. But I disagree with her other assertion. That is, I don't think life is infinitely more complex these days than it was in the 18th or 19th centuries. I think life changed faster then than now. Those times saw huge leaps in the capabilities and reach of the human race. Until the Industrial Revolution, it was hard to move people or goods much faster than six miles per hour, and that depended on the vagaries of sail. And almost all information moved at the same tortoise-like pace. Then came the railroad, the telegraph, and the precise measurement of time and goods. This all was accompanied by a massive shift of people from farms to factories, from countryside to cities. In response, the professional governments we know now in the West were created. (London didn't have a police force until the 19th century, for example.)
In my view, the Internet is just a faster, more colorful telegraph. And the sense of change was greater in the 19th century than it is now.
That said, I think historians will regard global warming as the most important trend of our time, and will wonder why we didn't focus on it more. So I think Rosa B. might be fundamentally correct that we are in the handbasket, which was her real point.
By Katherine Kidder
Best Defense office of Communist Chinese capitalist studies
China's growing role in Africa over the past decade-or-so has raised some eyebrows. Questions surrounding China's motives for investment abound: Are they purchasing U.N. votes? Simply extracting natural resources? Expanding the rhetoric of revolution, as it did in the 1960s?
Yet most of these questions presuppose state-led investment in Africa. Xiaofang Shen, a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University SAIS China Studies Program and former investment climate specialist at the World Bank, said in a recent talk at SAIS that the more notable increase over the past decade has been the rise in Chinese private-sector investment on the continent.
Pre-2001, Chinese private investment in Africa was negligible; by the end of 2011, there were 879 private companies and OFDI projects registered with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. Contrary to the image of state-led extraction, Chinese entrepreneurs focus their energies mainly on manufacturing and service industries. They increasingly are forging relationships with local management, and aware of the value of learning local customs, religions, and languages.
So, what does this mean for the West? Interestingly enough, Chinese private investment in Africa may be a hat tip to Western models of development and governance: Xiaofang Shen's study finds that going overseas to do business was much easier for up-and-coming Chinese entrepreneurs than starting a business in inland China.
Most of China's industry grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, with little-to-no regulation. By contrast, many African laws (at least on paper) were copied and/or imposed by the West through such mechanisms as Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). As a result, Chinese entrepreneurs find African processes more conducive to business, from obtaining licenses and navigating the bureaucratic process to trusting that the food they eat for lunch is safe. African governments face higher incentives to improve infrastructure and devote resources to political stability and regulatory efficiency in order to attract capital -- precisely the same goals reflected in SAPs.
By Alexander Sullivan
Best Defense department of psynology
Contrary to some of the more sensationalist appraisals of China's rise in world rankings, David Shambaugh argues in his new book, China Goes Global: The Partial Power, that despite China's undeniable achievements, it has succeeded in becoming a global actor but not a global power. Hence the word "partial."
Shambaugh, a George Washington University political scientist, introduced his book last week in a February 13 talk at Johns Hopkins SAIS. He focused less on China's "vertical" rise -- its skyrocketing GDP and increasing military sophistication -- than on the extent of its "horizontal" expansion of its influence to the rest of the planet. He analyzed China's current global presence along five vectors: diplomacy, global governance, economics, culture, and security.
China has expanded its reach in most of these areas: It is the world's second largest economy and possibly the largest trading nation; it has relations with over 170 countries; it sits at the main table in most global multilateral fora; its official media outlets are opening new bureaus abroad; and it just launched its first aircraft carrier to lead its navy ever farther out in the Western Pacific. But according to Shambaugh, all the government's efforts along these lines have yielded precious little in the way of real power, as understood by people like Joe Nye -- that is, influence exerted to make actor A do thing X.
On the face of it, Shambaugh's conclusions are not unwarranted. China remains a "lonely power" with few genuine friends in the world. Increasing assertiveness in the East and South China Seas has helped roll back diplomatic gains made in its neighborhood since the Asian financial crisis, and even in African and Latin American countries where Chinese investment dollars (untrammeled by governance guarantees) had gained fast new friends, the picture is becoming less rosy.
One of Shambaugh's most interesting arguments is that while China's economic statistics are worthy of admiration, its "multinational" corporations have abysmal international brand recognition and an overall poor track record of breaking into overseas markets, calling into question whether China's corporate sector is really as much of a global business player as it is assumed to be.
He acknowledged that China has tremendous latent potential as a true global power and that its capacities will likely increase. What provoked by far the most interest during the Q&A session was one of his explanations for why China has so far failed to convert its potential into power, namely that Chinese elites are divided over China's identity in the world and the values it should represent. The lack of coherence among decision-makers in China, he said, has been one of the biggest impediments to their effective exercise of power. Absent consensus, the one thread that runs through it all (yi yi guan zhi) is poorly disguised, narrowly defined self-interest, which inevitably provokes counterbalancing by other international actors.
By Major Michael L. Burgoyne, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest columnist
In this time of fiscal austerity, continued support for Colombia is both a necessity to allow Colombia to secure its country and an investment in a valuable partner.
Given recent positive trends, it is easy for some to erroneously assume that U.S. support to Colombia is no longer required. On October 18, 2012, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government initiated formal peace talks in the hope of ending a five decade internal conflict. Unlike previous efforts however, the FARC finds itself in a difficult negotiating position. During the last attempted negotiation, the FARC boasted some 20,000 fighters and was threatening the capital. After a decade of successful security policies, the FARC's numbers have been cut in half and the group has been reduced to guerrilla activities. Colombia's focus on "democratic security" has facilitated healthy growth in the Colombian economy and direct foreign investment. Colombian GDP has averaged 4.45 percent growth, resulting in an increase of $233 billion over the last decade. In addition, the government has signed free trade agreements with the United States, the European Union, and Canada. Perhaps most importantly, virtually every measure of citizen security has improved: kidnappings have declined 89 percent, homicides have been reduced by 49 percent, and there has been a 66 percent reduction in terrorist attacks.
Since the inception of Plan Colombia in 2000, the United States has supported Colombia with training, equipment, and security assistance. To date some $9 billion has been focused on supporting Colombian counter-drug and internal security efforts. Although this support seems costly, in fact, it is a very small price tag compared to large-scale deployments to conduct security force assistance and foreign internal defense in Iraq and Afghanistan. The consistent support for Colombia, however, is now beginning to dissipate. The 2013 budget from the White House lays out a 15 percent reduction in military and narcotics aid to Colombia.
When evaluating security cooperation with Colombia, it is imperative to remember the following key points:
1. The war is not over. Despite the deserved praise of Colombian and U.S. efforts, the Colombians are still in the fight. Last year, 243 Colombian soldiers were killed and 821 were wounded. The FARC has been cut in half but still numbers 8,000 combatants. The FARC is also not the only threat facing Colombia. The National Liberation Army (ELN), another insurgent group, maintains some 2,000 guerrillas. Most importantly, the lucrative cocaine trade will not disappear with the FARC. A dedicated effort to control the growth of criminal bands (BACRIM) will be necessary to prevent Zeta-like groups from rising from the ashes of Colombian political insurgency.
2. The Colombians initiated an innovative new counterinsurgency strategy, creating joint task forces specifically designed to destroy the FARC system. The design methodology and outcomes of this initiative may prove critical as an example for other partner nations facing criminal groups. This is a worthwhile effort that the United States is trying to support, but it is very challenging given current Colombian resources.
3. The U.S. effort through Plan Colombia and the Colombian Strategic Development Initiative has not necessarily created lasting institutions that can sustain organizations once U.S. support is removed. For decades, the Colombian military has been understandably focused on current combat operations, often at the expense of building institutions. The Colombian Army's doctrine and education systems, as well as its personnel and logistics systems, require substantial improvement to ensure that, when budgets shrink due to continued success against the FARC, the military will retain its hard-won institutional knowledge.
4. Colombia has been a reliable and extremely valuable regional security partner. Most recently, Colombia (for the second time) participated in the multinational operational exercise PANAMAX as the Combined Forces Land Component Command. They performed exceptionally well, leading a joint multinational staff and working with their U.S. counterparts. The Colombian Army is composed of battle hardened veterans with a strong understanding of U.S. doctrine and systems. Their leaders and soldiers have an unsurpassed knowledge of counterinsurgency and transnational organized crime groups. They are arguably the most capable army in the region. Once the Colombian internal threat is under control it can be expected that the Colombian role as a regional and global security exporter will increase.
The United States has made a very wise investment in Colombia. Continued U.S. support will enable Colombia to consolidate control of the country in the coming years and allow them to take on a broader regional security role. If the United States drastically cuts support to Colombian security efforts, this would be akin to spiking the ball on the one yard line and could delay Colombian consolidation for several years.
Colombia, in many ways, is a test of the light-footprint, long-duration approach to counterinsurgency. David Galula warns that in the final phase of a counterinsurgency "the main difficulty is a psychological one and it originates in the counterinsurgent's own camp. Responsible people will question why it is necessary to make such an effort at this stage, when everything seems to be going so well." It remains to be seen if the United States can display strategic patience and follow through on its investment in Colombia.
Major Michael L. Burgoyne, a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer, currently serves as the Andean Ridge Desk Officer at U.S. Army South. He holds an M.A. in Security Studies from Georgetown University and co-authored The Defense of Jisr al-Doreaa. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.
LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images
By Major Tom Mcilwaine, Queen's Royal Hussars
Best Defense guest columnist
Question Set Four -- What makes us think that schools and hospitals are going to help us alter the behavior patterns of others and win people over to our way of thinking? In the magnificent remake of the classic film Red Dawn, there is an excellent scene in which the North Korean occupiers offer medical facilities and electrical power in return for cooperation with their regime. The bargain is not successful. Americans, it seems, prefer freedom to electricity. At the risk of drawing theory from the scriptwriters of Red Dawn, this seems to me to be a reasonable reaction -- it is certainly in line with the reactions I experienced to development projects in Iraq. People want electricity, yes, and they will accept development projects if they are offered -- just as the Indian people accepted and (perhaps) benefitted from railways, the telegraph, and the legal system imposed by the British during the Raj. They still wanted the British to leave, though. Why would this have changed? This does not mean that ignoring the material needs of the population is helpful nor that it cannot work if you select an endstate they do want (e.g. their independence) and couple it with development. It does follow that development is not enough and cannot be detached from politics: we must remember that politics is the art of the possible.
By Maj. Jaron Wharton, U.S. Army
Best Defense guest columnist
In September 2010, President Obama's Policy Directive on Global Development offered that development is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States. Undeniably, it is a core pillar of our foreign policy, along with diplomacy and defense, in an integrated, comprehensive approach to national security. It follows that USAID's contribution to national security is vital -- but this has not been codified.
Because we are living in times that require a fully integrated national security approach, the USAID administrator should become the president's principal advisor for development and assistance (akin to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff role and associated linkage to the secretary of defense, but concomitant to the secretary of state) and a permanent member on the National Security Council. This elevated position will provide the president with unfettered development advice, while codifying the position that development is on par with defense and diplomacy. Maintaining USAID's intimate relationship with State recognizes the inherent ties of development assistance to foreign policy.
While historical trends, events, and statements have created numerous challenges to elevating the administrator's role, the agency's comparative advantage as an expeditionary organization which alleviates human suffering, develops markets of tomorrow, and expresses American values, provides an invaluable perspective. State's 2010 QDDR calls for USAID to play a greater role in the interagency policy process, including making its mission directors primary development advisors to the chiefs of mission. An elevated role for the administrator would be a logical follow-on to these other shifts.
Just over 25 years ago, Goldwater-Nichols changed the Defense Department in both a fundamental and positive way. One of the main shifts was to empower the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in two ways: (1) By expanding his staff into a large "Joint Staff" that reports directly to him; and (2) identifying the chairman as the president's senior military advisor. Over the last several decades, the newly powerful position of chairman has helped elevate the role of professional military advice to the president, while not compromising the secretary of defense's civilian authority. The history of this aspect of the Goldwater-Nichols legislation can apply to USAID in several ways: (1) It can help formally elevate the role of development; (2) it can help preserve the secretary of state's authority in foreign assistance; and (3) it improves the nature of development assistance advice to the president. An elevated status would assuredly achieve a more efficient use of development assistance resources and enhance their effectiveness.
USAID is undertaking a potent reform agenda, analogous to an internal "Goldwater-Nichols-light" to forge a more modern development enterprise. This change is as conscious and as basic a transformation in its 50-year history, and it is desirable for the USG to build on this framework through a persistent invitation for increased interagency engagement at the highest levels.
During this administration, USAID's participation in senior-level NSS meetings has dramatically increased. While data are not readily available to compare across administrations, there has been a definite uptick in participation from previous years. This demonstrates a need on behalf of senior NSS leadership to hear from USAID, but also suggests USAID's contributions warrant continued participation. Having resident development expertise on the NSS only helps to better lead through civilian power, especially in issues that contribute to an imbalance in defense representation.
USAID should take internal steps to reinforce its relevance and further professionalize its engagement in the national security apparatus. However, as in Goldwater-Nichols, where the ramifications for the professionalization of the Joint Staff were extreme, USAID is already fully-capable of the increased level of responsibility. There is no longer a dichotomy within USAID between those focused on altruistic development and assistance and those who understand the necessity, practicality, and Hill-emphasized need for more targeted work to support national security objectives.
Indeed, the development portfolio is now facing critical challenges and is at significantly increased risk given growing fiscal constraints. Despite being elevated by the Global Development Policy to be on par with defense and diplomacy, elements of any effort by the agency to demonstrate true relevancy in national security must include improved and sustained engagement in the NSS. This inherently makes the case USAID's activities are considered in the national interest. Elevation of the administrator as a permanent member on the NSC provides an additional forcing function on the broader USG to recognize this point. At a minimum, the USAID administrator should be elevated and maintain his presence at the principals' committee level beyond an "informal member as appropriate."
Major Jaron S. Wharton is an active-duty infantry officer in the U.S. Army who served in Afghanistan (2002 and 2010) and in Iraq (2003-06). He previously served as a White House Fellow at USAID. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not reflect the official policy or positions of the U.S. Government.
By Chris Taylor
Best Defense guest columnist
After eleven years of combat that ultimately will culminate with a troop withdrawal in 2014, Afghanistan is neither settled nor solved. Long-term success in the region demands more nuanced approaches and gives cause to reimagine not a legacy, but a new engagement with smart investment in other levers of influence.
Eminent Harvard professor Joe Nye, who coined the phrase "soft power," recently said, "soft power is the ability to get outcomes through attraction rather than through force or payment, and education has always been an important resource to achieve that."
Education has already proven to be a powerful attraction in Kabul. Enrollment at the American University of Afghanistan rose from 56 students in 2006 to 1,800 in 2012, and continues to grow. Founded in 2004 by Afghan business and civic leaders, and modeled after the successful American Universities of Beirut and Cairo, the AUAF is a non-sectarian, co-educational institution with undergraduate, graduate, and professional development curricula.
In May 2011, the AUAF graduated its first class of 32; nine women and 23 men with two Fulbright Scholarships awarded. In 2012, 52 graduated with six more Fulbright Scholars named.
The university attracts Pashtuns, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Nuristanis, Turkmen, Aimaks, and many others. In doing so, it creates an intercultural environment where young Afghan minds interact, leveraging many tribal narratives into one sense of Afghan unity and progress.
But by far, the fastest growing demographic at AUAF is women. With an average enrollment of 25 percent in undergraduate and professional development curricula (11 percent in the newly minted MBA curriculum), Afghan women are defying archaic norms and risking their lives to educate themselves so they can lead in their communities, in business, and in the national government. These are the same women who have been disfigured by acid attacks and mutilation, raped by relatives, married against their will, and received death threats from the Taliban -- yet they still come to the AUAF because they believe they can change their future, and that of their nation.
AUAF graduate Wasima Muhammadi said, "I want to be a deputy in the Ministry of Finance, because currently I do not see enough women participation in the government. I think that a mixture of both male and female leaders in this country would have a positive impact on the progress of Afghanistan."
In a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, testified that, "Throughout history, insurgencies have seldom been defeated by foreign forces, instead, they have been ultimately beaten by indigenous forces."
The case, then, is made: an educated citizenry can redefine its country's narrative, drive change from within, and break free from tyranny.
While education is a strong soft power tool, it affects national security, too. Afghanistan's low literacy rate poses significant challenges to strategic training programs for its army, police forces, and government agencies, potentially impairing its ability to fully take responsibility for its own security in 2014.
Initially funded by a grant from USAID with support from first lady Laura Bush, AUAF has grown substantially beyond that support. The university has an aggressive campaign to raise $80 million over five years -- a fraction of the $108 billion budgeted for operations in Afghanistan in 2012.
It seems education is quite the deal these days.
Contractors have made substantial profits in Afghanistan. The Federal Procurement Data System lists over $50 billion in contracts for companies who have supported combat and stabilization operations. Imputing an estimated profit of 10 percent leaves $5 billion -- a small amount of which CEOs should invest in the education of some of the tens of thousands of Afghans they employ. As the CEO of my former company, I instituted an AUAF scholarship program for top performing Afghan employees, or children of Afghan employees killed while serving the company and the military. Today, six bright students, three of whom are women, are studying accounting and finance, public administration, and information technology on these funds.
The wealthy Afghan diaspora should be first in line to support the AUAF's mission. Many have benefited from Western education, and sharing their experiences and financial assistance would give others still trapped by war and extremism a view to a better future.
As the United States now weighs its strategic options, investing in the American University of Afghanistan makes sense. The extremist narrative lures disenchanted youth every day, but that's because there is not a stronger, positive message for them to embrace. Without funding for education, young Afghans will flee the country in search of other opportunities; most never to return -- or worse, stay home and simply endure whatever may come. That need not be so.
A commitment to the American University of Afghanistan brings with it a new generation of Afghan leaders who will catapult forward fresh ideas that counter extremism, reject corruption, and embrace equality for women, all while creating necessary long-term regional relationships and giving voice to young Afghans who are the future of their country and dedicated to a moderate and free society.
We should make that commitment today.
Chris Taylor is a member of the Board of Trustees at the American University of Afghanistan and the Chairman and CEO of Novitas Group. He is a former enlisted infantryman and Force Recon Marine. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council, he holds an MBA from the College of William & Mary and an MPA in political economy and international security from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he co-authored, "Transforming the National Security Culture" for the Defense Leadership Project at Harvard's Center for Public Leadership.
American University of Afghanistan
Do it all at CNAS's annual Woodstock for policy wonkers. It will be on June 13 in DC.
If you haven't seen Brzezinski and Scowcroft do their breakdancing routine, you haven't lived. Bust them moves.
Best Defense guest columnist
Ten years ago I teamed-up with two Kenyans named Salim Mohamed and Tabitha Festo and cofounded Carolina for Kibera (CFK) as a non-governmental organization. I was an ROTC Marine Option midshipmen at the time, and our objective was to reduce ethnic violence and spark change from within one of the world's largest slums -- Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya.
No one knows exactly how many people live in Kibera. Population estimates range from more than 200,000 up to a million people living in abject poverty in an area the size of Central Park. Until recently, the Kenyan government didn't recognize its existence, and thus provided practically no services: electricity, public education, healthcare, and access to safe drinking water and waste disposal.
CFK began with an inter-ethnic soccer program. In order to play in the league, teams had to be ethnically diverse and participate in "wars on garbage" -- physically exhausting community service cleanups that occurred during each soccer tournament. We call our approach "participatory development." The key is that the organization is owned and led by community leaders, and that dozens of American volunteers participate as partners, not directors. In my book, It Happened on the Way to War, I draw parallels to the challenges and limitations our military faces when forced to grapple with similar work.
The release of the book marks CFK's 10th Anniversary, and the organization has created an outreach campaign to American high schools and colleges called the Power of 26. Meanwhile, in Kibera, CFK remains committed to long-term investment in young leaders through locally-led, integrated programs. These include a soccer league with more than 5,000 members, a girls' center, a scholarship program, and a health clinic that treats more than 40,000 patients per year. That health clinic started with a grant to my co-founder Tabitha Festo of merely $26. Hence the "power of 26."
Our story illustrates the power of small groups of committed citizens to make a significant impact with minimal resources. Preventing violence is cheaper and smarter than responding to it -- and yet there is so little investment in prevention. I believe we as a nation can learn from CFK's approach to helping create role models and break the cycles of poverty and violence in a volatile place. That's not simply a matter of doing good in the world. I think it is also a matter of national security.
Rye Barcott served as a human intelligence officer in the Marine Corps. He is a co-founder of Carolina for Kibera, and now works in the sustainability office of Duke Energy in Charlotte, North Carolina.
By Robert Maguire and Robert Muggah
Best Defense Haiti bureau chiefs
Following last January's devastating earthquake, Haiti's people were widely praised for their resilience and ability to spring back from disaster. Yet a year after the quake -- as in the decades preceding it -- most Haitians are still stuck in impoverished and desperate conditions. Opportunities to improve their well-being and fulfill their potential are as remote as ever.
The enthusiasm expressed among some to the Jan. 16 return to Haiti of former dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier following 25 years of exile in France vividly reflects widespread frustration over the slow pace and limited scale of post-quake recovery efforts. More deeply, it reflects the overall failure since 1986 among outsiders and Haitian leaders to improve social and economic conditions among the country's long-suffering poor.
Duvalier's presence is also a grim reminder of how brutal, corrupt, and self-aggrandizing leaders have burdened Haiti historically. In our view, Haiti's traumatic crises will continue to reoccur unless resulting social, economic, and geographic imbalances are fundamentally changed to allow all Haitians to meaningfully tap their potential. Precisely these points were made in January 2010 by Bill Clinton, the current U.N. special envoy to Haiti, when he stressed the importance of building back Haiti as a whole and not just the quake-ravaged capital.
The New York Times's breathless coverage of minerals in Afghanistan was greeted with chuckles not only by FP's Blake Hounshell but by old Afghan hands. Here John Stuart Blackton, who has shaken more Helmand River sand out of his shorts than most Americans in Afghanistan have walked on, provides some background. By the way, before running USAID in Afghanistan, John attended Stephens College of Delhi-as did Pakistan's Gen. Zia.
By John Stuart Blackton
Best Defense Afghan natural resources editor
The " discovery" of Afghanistan's minerals will sound pretty silly to old timers. When I was living in Kabul in the early 1970's the USG, the Russians, the World Bank, the UN and others were all highly focused on the wide range of Afghan mineral deposts. The Russian geological service was all over the North in the 60's and 70's.
Cheap ways of moving the ore to ocean ports has always been the limiting factor. The Russians were looking at a northern rail corridor.
Take a look at this little bibliography of Afghan mineral assessments. This one is mostly Russian, but pre-dates the DoD/USG "discovery" period by 30 years. In my day we did a joint USG/Iranian study of a potential rail line from Afghanistan to several of the Iranian rail hubs. This was predicated on mineral exploitation in a way that would thwart the Russian's northern rail corridor plans.
In the early 70's the USG had an old FDR New-Deal planner/economist/brains-truster - Bob Nathan - working with the Afghan Ministry of Plan to work out a fifty year mineral exploitation program. When the Russians took over they picked up Bob's plans and extended them. So this is anything but a "new discovery".
Low cost, long haul transport infrastructure remains the constraint. The Louis Berger "four inches of asphalt on the old Ring Road" doesn't do it.
CanadaGood / Flickr.com
On the morning of yet another big aftershock in Haiti, our correspondent Bob Maguire mediates on news reports that perhaps 400,000 homeless Haitians will be moved into tent camps. Or maybe a million:
By Robert Maguire
Best Defense Haiti correspondent
In 1994/95, following the US-led, UN-sponsored intervention that restored elected government to Haiti after three years of rapacious rule by the Haitian military and its allies, US Special Forces played a critical role throughout the Haitian countryside in restoring order and assisting local officials move forward with the always enormous task of providing services to citizens at the local and municipal levels. Much was written about this, but I recall it most clearly through a documentary produced by CNN called "Guardian Warriors." I recall from that documentary -- which I recorded on a VRC (it was that long ago) and is now stowed away somewhere on video tape -- that small Special Forces units around Haiti were playing a very positive role in this regard -- working with mayors; interfacing with local populations; providing technical and resource assistance. These men (I do not recall seeing any women) were portrayed as sensitive to local people and their culture and were finding ways to work within existing paradigms -- even broken ones. They were also very welcome by the local populations with which they worked.
Today word is coming out of Haiti that the Haitian government is planning to move people now literally camped out on the streets and in various open spaces within the limits of Port-au-Prince to displaced persons camps that will be established on outskirts of the city. It seems we are talking about tens, if not hundreds, of thousands. Without doubt, providing for these earthquake victims to ensure that they have more sanitary and organized places to stay is a good move. Not only will it assist with the delivery of supplies that provide relief and assistance, but this should provide, one hopes, shelters that will keep people dry when it rains. Have you noted that since the quake it has not rained in Port-au-Prince? At least the timing of the quake was during dry season -- imagine how suffering would be compounded had it been raining over the past week. But that situation will not stand much longer, as rains, perhaps heavy ones, must inevitably fall.
Hopefully, these emergency settlements will not become permanent places of poor, displaced people yet again packed upon each other in places that offer limited opportunities for improved lives over the long term. As written in a previous post, one of the potential positives coming out of the quake is the prospect for a more decentralized Haiti -- with fewer people living in the capital city and more investment in services and economic development outside of PAP- - in the rural area and smaller cities that exist throughout Haiti and have been largely neglected in past decades.
Tens of thousands, if not more, city dwellers have been leading an exodus out of the city toward the countryside in recent days. Hopefully, as Haitians increasingly flee the destruction, death and nightmares of Port-au-Prince -- something we continue to see in increasing numbers -- we and Haitian authorities can catch up with and get ahead of this curve. Catching up with this curve, as suggested previously, could - indeed, should - come in the form of organized structures that can welcome the displaced people back home and provide them opportunities (alongside those already in these impoverished decentralized locations) to engage in programs of public works to help rebuild the country's infrastructure, restore the damaged environment, provide the framework for a disaster response mechanism, and provide people with wages, a sense of dignity through work, and greater ownership in the future or their own country. The mechanism for all of this will be a Haitian variant of New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps, Work Progress Administration -- that helped lift the US out of joblessness and depression, and helped to rebuild our nation at that time.
This is where the reflection on the prior role of the Special Forces comes in. The envisaged public works program -- a "Haitian Civic Service Corps" -- will require structure. It will require leadership that can impose a regime of 'tough love' much as occurred during the New Deal, when members of the US Forestry Service apparently played a key role in making sure that program participants showed up on time, became a disciplined work force, and got the job done. Haiti does not have much of a forestry service that can perform this role. Indeed, Haiti is going to require assistance in standing this kind of program and in managing it. Might some of those members of the US Special Forces who served in Haiti in the mid-1990's be interested in returning to Haiti to play a role in helping to build a new and decentralized country? Might they work alongside Haitian counterparts to help provide the tough-love discipline required?
I have worked on this idea of a national civic service with well-placed Haitian authorities even before the quake. They are keen on the idea. Yesterday, I had an opportunity to discuss the idea with a senior official in the Obama administration. There is considerable interest in it. Might there be interest from among 'our guys' who have been to Haiti; know and respect the country and its people; and are willing to try to make a difference in this time of Haiti's greatest need and, yet, perhaps of its greatest opportunity.
Meanwhile, here is an interesting website that is compiling information on needs and incidents in Haiti.
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On a morning when Haiti was rocked by a big aftershock, my friend Bob Maguire checks in to make the argument that most of the damage in that poor country happened well before the earth started moving.By Robert Maguire
Best Defense Haiti correspondent
I am being asked repeatedly to assess the earthquake damage in Haiti. From my perspective, the earthquake has been simply the coup de grace to a city and country damaged for decades -- indeed centuries -- by human factors. As we and Haitians move forward, I think we must consider how Haiti had already been damaged. Only then, in the words of Bill Clinton, can Haiti be "built back better."
THONY BELIZAIRE/AFP/Getty Images
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.