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Oct 23

Written by: Diana West
Tuesday, October 23, 2007 1:41 PM 

 Naivete on a college campus may be indulged or rationalized as "idealism"--behavior or thought based on a conception of how things ought to be, and even seem to be while dreaming beside a well-manicured quadrangle.  
    Naivete on a battlefield, however, is something else again--irresponsible. wasteful and dangerous monkeying around with people's lives and nation's fortunes.
    I was struck by this on reading a recent New York Times report about a new American effort to "break corruption," as a military commander  put it, in Afghanistan.
     Break corruption in Afghanistan? How about trying to obliterate evil from man's soul while we're at it? These fantasy missions of ours have begun to transcend good, old-fashioned satire.
    Ok. So what's our plan?
     Mainly to retrain the country's 72,000 policemen. Oh, and to embed 2,350 American and European advisers--anti-corruption minders--in police stations across the country. Which sure sounds like a fun and appropriate military mission (not).
     The heap o' sarcasm above is not to imply that Aghan corruption is not a mega-problem. A recent American survey found only 1,200 officers at work in an area when Afghan police commanders claimed 3,300 were on the job. As the Times put it: "Collecting the salaries of non-existent `ghost officers' has been a long-running practice of senior Afghan police commanders." The Times also reports that police corruption "has contributed to Afghanistan's becoming the world's largest producer of opium." And don't forget, meanwhile, that the brother of Afghan president Hamid Karzai is widely suspected of being involved in drug trafficking himself--"so much so that Western officials say they have long urged Mr. Karzai to have his brother leave the country."
    That said, it is simply not within the scope of do-gooding Americans to change this, no matter how many billions we sink down this particular drain ($2.5 billion, according to the article.) After all, we haven't managed to eliminate corruption in our own backyard--and this despite our own ideals about clean government, which are home-incubated and directly related to the once-vaunted Protestant Work Ethic and all that.
    Reality never stops the idealists, however--particularly while they remain so woefully ill-informed. Example: the former US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald E. Neumann.  He closes the piece with an "explanation" of  where Afghan corruption comes from. Islam? The culture of the Eastern bazaar? Ancient tribal strife? No. "You have a corruption of the entire culture of Afghanistan by 25 years of war."
    Twenty-five years of war? By this calculation, corruption came to Afghanistan in 1982.
    If that's really the case, Mr. Ambassador, Afghanistan should  be giving the rest of us lessons in virtue, no?

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