Normally I really like the columnist Thomas L Friedman, I even own a couple of his books. He is usually dead on the money, and even if I disagree with something he is discussing I can understand the validity of his discussion and it makes me think, and develop my own opinions more. Not this time though....
In his latest column published in the NY Times he starts off like normal, making a great deal of sense. But, then towards the end he goes off into almost a tangent that is just plain wrong and down-right incorrect. (NY TIMES) :
The truth is that Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Pakistan are just different fronts in the same war. The core problem is that the Arab-Muslim world in too many places has been failing at modernity, and were it not for $120-a-barrel oil, that failure would be even more obvious. For far too long, this region has been dominated by authoritarian politics, massive youth unemployment, outdated education systems, a religious establishment resisting reform and now a death cult that glorifies young people committing suicide, often against other Muslims.
The humiliation this cocktail produces is the real source of terrorism. Saddam exploited it. Al Qaeda exploits it. Pakistan’s intelligence services exploit it. Hezbollah exploits it. The Taliban exploit it.
The only way to address it is by changing the politics. Producing islands of decent and consensual government in Baghdad or Kabul or Islamabad would be a much more meaningful and lasting contribution to the war on terrorism than even killing bin Laden in his cave. But it needs local partners. The reason the surge helped in Iraq is because Iraqis took the lead in confronting their own extremists — the Shiites in their areas, the Sunnis in theirs. That is very good news — although it is still not clear that they can come together in a single functioning government.
The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is not because there are too few American soldiers, but because there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die for the kind of government we want.
Take 20 minutes and read the stunning article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine by Thomas Schweich, a former top Bush counternarcotics official focused on Afghanistan, and dwell on his paragraph on Afghan President Hamid Karzai:
“Karzai was playing us like a fiddle: The U.S. would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure improvement; the U.S. and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai’s friends could get rich off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009, he would be elected to a new term.”
Then read the Afghan expert Rory Stewart’s July 17 Time magazine cover story from Kabul: “A troop increase is likely to inflame Afghan nationalism because Afghans are more anti-foreign than we acknowledge, and the support for our presence in the insurgency areas is declining ... The more responsibility we take in Afghanistan, the more we undermine the credibility and responsibility of the Afghan government and encourage it to act irresponsibly. Our claims that Afghanistan is the ‘front line in the war on terror’ and that ‘failure is not an option’ have convinced the Afghan government that we need it more than it needs us. The worse things become, the more assistance it seems to receive. This is not an incentive to reform.”
First off I cant even begin to comprehend his comment about not enough Afghans wanting to fight and die for their country. I have watched the groups of Afghan Citizens sign up for basic training and advanced training to go off and fight and die for their country. In addition I have also met large numbers of well-to-do Afghans that returned from Europe and the United States to fight and die for their country. So in this area, this is just not a true statement.
Secondly he used Thomas Schweich's article as a reference. I was enormously disappointed to see this. I discussed in great detail the problems with this article in Narco State? What? Thomas Schweich neither understands the problems in Afghanistan, nor did anything about it. He was downright slanderous to both the Afghan People, their Government, and the United States Military. I question his rational thinking, and his motives for publishing this article. So again Mr Friedman your just plain wrong.
I have been from one end of Afghanistan to the other. I have travelled from Kabul, to Helmand Province, Kandahar, Her-at, Shindand, and Mes Ar Sharif. I have never seen the Afghan's resent us for being there. If anything they were hugely thankful that the US and ISAF was there helping them. To make the comment that Afghan Nationalism would flare in the wake of an increased presence is just plain wrong.
Finally the fact that the Afghan Government is basically playing us for fools and trying to use us for all we are worth without doing anything themselves is again false. I have seen more work and blood, sweat, and tears come from their people, then anyone else. In all honesty, I am insulted for them to read this.
Afghanistan is a vital ally of ours. I have seen them give everything in defense for their country and to try to make it better. They deserve better then a major name columnist to attempt to bash them and all that they stand for. Thomas Friedman, you are just plain wrong on this one.
God Bless America
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