Asia Scope

Palin Wades Into Afghanistan Debate

As Barack Obama kicks off a reconsideration of US policy in Afghanistan, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has waded into the debate on troop numbers. On Facebook. Unsurprisingly, she called on the US to stay the course and, again perhaps unsurprisingly, there is nothing particularly new or incisive about her critique:

‘We can win in Afghanistan by helping the Afghans build a stable representative state able to defend itself. And we must do what it takes to prevail. The stakes are very high. The 9/11 attacks were planned in Afghanistan, and if we are not successful there, al-Qaeda will once again find a safe haven, the Taliban will impose its cruelty on the Afghan people, and Pakistan will be less stable.’

But, for better or worse she’s still news, and still extremely popular among the grassroots of the Republican Party.

Anyone looking for an interesting take on the problems in Afghanistan, though, should check out the ‘Rethinking Security’ blog, run by security analyst Adam Elkus. Yesterday he picked up on an interesting op-ed by Joshua Foust questioning the wisdom of trying to bribe the tribes in Afghanistan.

“Despite three horrible, bloody wars that killed tens of thousands of British citizens (not just soldiers, but their families as well), [pundits] claim the [19th century] British policy ‘worked adequately.’ … Then again, we already tried that. It didn’t work, in part because in Afghanistan the word “tribe” is so ambiguous as to have almost no meaning. …It’s been decades since anthropologists really thought of ‘tribe’ as a useful descriptor for Afghan communities—’tribe’ is a flexible concept, with identical names applying to different levels of genealogy. It also implies a hierarchy where none exists—if you know someone is from a ‘tribe’ that is ‘higher’ than his neighbor’s ‘clan,’ will that give you any tools for leveraging influence or power? I assure you, it will not.”