Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Oh, so the UN Will Make Afghanistan Work?

Will someone please save us from our experts? 

Question everyone. Defer to no one. 

If you have learned nothing the last two decades, at least know this; our elite aren’t. Our best institutions do not produce the best product. Credentialism is the last refuge of the incompetent. 

You have to assume these are well meaning people, but building off of yesterday’s post – let this week be a lesson to everyone that our self-selecting elites are like the Bourbons, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.” 

I’m not sure I can do more but quote from the latest article in FP by By Charli Carpenter, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and director of Human Security Lab, and Lise Howard, a professor at Georgetown University and president of the Academic Council on the United Nations System. 

This is like a parallel universe where Afghanistan - her history, culture and predilections - are either unknown or are somewhere in the middle of the bell curve internationally. A world where the UN’s track record from Rwanda, to Iraq, to Haiti and other places was one of competence, resilience, and success. A planet where hundreds of billions of dollars were not just poured out on to the sands of Afghanistan. 

It sounds nice. It sounds right, but it is not of this universe.

Where do we start?

The United Nations Charter pledges “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Afghans have been at war for several generations, and it is likely that the next generation will not see peace unless U.N. member states unite to prevent an intra-Afghan war.
It is almost like there were no Bonn Agreement. Like the UN never discussed Afghanistan. As if hundreds of thousands of uniformed and civilian people from around the world, backed up by almost a trillion dollars didn’t just spend two decades trying to make a silk purse out of a goat’s ear.
… there is a third way, between short-term humanitarian aid and fueling a civil war: deploying a U.N. or U.N.-supported peacekeeping mission. There is a fragile peace to keep in Afghanistan, and it is the duty of the United Nations to help keep it.
Who will pay for it? Who will garrison it (no, Nepal and Indonesia can't sustain what Afghanistan will require)? If you find a lack of historical perspective here or intellectual rigor … there is a reason. We have a parade of appeals to authority in line with a college freshman’s mid-semester paper.
According to the expert Fawaz A. Gerges and many others … According to research by George Mason University’s Philip A. Martin…Scholarly research (whose exactly?)… Research clearly shows... rigorous quantitative research shows (again, whose?)
And then we have comparisons that make you wonder if people writing about international relations have ever really traveled.
In fact, where the international community did not stand up such a mission—such as in Syria and Libya—catastrophic civil wars ensued. In contrast, a U.N. preventive deployment in what was then called Macedonia effectively prevented war.
Do they have any idea what it would have taken in the sectarian stew of Syria and Libya? Also … Macedonia? I’ve served with North Macedonians and Afghans. You cannot even put those two in the same category culturally, geographically, or historically. No. Just, what?
A peace mission need not be large: According to the Human Security Lab report, even a 5,000-troop mission could help. Maj. Ryan van Wie, an instructor of international relations at the U.S. Military Academy, wrote in War on the Rocks this week that a somewhat larger investment of 10,000 to 12,000 peacekeepers could provide even better geographical coverage in Afghanistan.
I guess no one made the effort to review Afghanistan from 2002-2005. Anyone brief them on the Bonn Agreement? The Lead Nation construct? Anyone … or is the past nothing? 

Just behold these jewels of historical incoherence;
… an observer mission can create a foothold from which an imperiled country can climb its way from endless conflict to first fragile and then durable peace… the Taliban’s own historic willingness to innovate and explore multilateral solutions... In 2001, it was the Taliban who offered peace talks, and the United States who rejected them. In 2009, the Taliban themselves indicated they could accept a peacekeeping a mission if it came from Muslim-majority nations and not the West… Georgetown University’s Desha Girod argues that the international community has significant leverage over the Taliban that is conducive to inducing and sustaining arrangements leading to a durable peace...a working paper by Timothy Passmore, Jaroslav Tir, and Johannes Karreth shows that it is actually countries like Afghanistan with a high degree of international economic interdependence that are likeliest to both consent to and cooperate with peacekeeping missions. That’s because for such countries there are “tangible incentives to both allow [peacekeeping operations] and to help fulfill the mission of return to peace.”… Perhaps most importantly, the international community holds what the Taliban want: recognition as a legitimate government and the financial means with which to govern…The Taliban leaders have indicated a desire for assistance and an openness to international guidance. U.N. relief chief Martin Griffiths recently told the BBC that Taliban leaders he spoke with told him regarding human rights issues, “Please help us address these issues together. We need patience. We need to learn how to do it.” This guidance should include assistance with conflict resolution and prevention.
There you go. These are the people and ideas that policy makers listen to, will listen to, and will have a great ability to shape perceptions and policy. They are training the next cohort to staff our institutions. 

Those who spent the last two decades trying to operationalize the concepts that cannot survive outside the intellectual terrarium of academia and thinktankdom need to stand up and – how do the cool kids say – speak “our truth.” 

We have no requirement to be kind, gentle or subtle. Well meaning, highly credentialed people with ill-informed, bad ideas made flesh get people killed, bring sorrow to countless families, empty treasuries, and inject strategic risk into nations and alliances. 

Learn. Adapt. Adjust … and be humble. Demand others who ask for you to assume the risk to life and treasure for their pet theories do the same.

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