Afghanistan, in review
To the Journal editor:
I would like to make several observations about Afghanistan.
First while I sympathize with Americans wishing to bring home our troops after 20 years of non-victory, I would point to Germany, South Korea and Okinawa where we have seemingly been forever. I would assume a review is made periodically gauging the importance of keeping them in place and thus they remain. I would hence view Bagram military base as a strategic prize worth keeping at all cost.
This is a turbulent part of the world and now we have nothing close enough to even monitor activities let alone respond to them, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan.
Secondly, nation building can only work where there is a strong central government which is something Afghanistan has never had and probably never will. Hence you have each province of which there are dozens or more being driven by their own interests. Thus they can switch allegiances whenever somebody offers them a better deal. I credit the Trump administration for recognizing why this war would never be winnable.
Women. I think all young women brought up during the U.S. operation should get out immediately. Anyone hoping for a big feminist uprising is smoking dope. I point out that older women that have lived under Islamic law consider their conduct a religious issue. Thus, though they may not like it they have acceded to it for centuries.
Thus I predict that any hope for change in the status of women in Islamic countries will not change in my lifetime. Any effort to pressure change will fail without great uprisings by the women themselves. Until they decide this is not a cornerstone of their religion, I see no change.
In summary, I see many erroneous decisions made right from the start and I believe that more are being made. Hence the Middle East turbulence will be with us until we understand local customs in detail. Any pressure or intervention must not seek to interfere with them in so far as possible.
One cannot expect to change centuries old customs in a decade.