Saturday, March 27, 2010

Invisible country

Afghanistan. A place of emptiness and void, crime and corruption. Or a land of beauty and hospitality. The graveyard of empires. Foreign Policy Issue NĂºmero Uno. A failed state.

It's wielded for many purposes, bent for many an agenda, understood insofar as necessary to conquer. It's thought of only en route to somewhere else. Somehow it's often the same destination: security. Buffer for Pax Brittanica. Site shoving the stake into the heart of Evil Socialism. The key to international security in a globalized world.

The vogue, today, is to win the hearts and minds of an unnamed Afghan populace, offering the toys of money and prestige to coax a warring people away from insurgency.

We ignore Afghans as they are, imagining them instead as we want them to be. Forgotten are the policy contradictions. Not only those borne out a generation ago, at the endgame of the Cold War -- the blowback of those inconsistencies already writ large on our collective consciousness. Nor just the support proffered to the Taliban months before an invasion to remove them from power. But also those internal inconsistencies in the halls of knowledge and power that fail to advance even their own designs. The twins of war and development cannot be left welded together for security, in distant terrorized countries or in local counterterrorized villages.

What would it take to see an invisible country? A different way of knowing and acting.

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