2002 November 23 Saturday
Polly Toynbee On Aftermath Of The Fall Of The Taliban

Polly Toynbee visits Afghanistan to see what people think of the overthrow of the Taliban. This is a lengthy article worth reading in full. She finds that all the people she meets are glad the Taliban are out of power.

So was it worth it after all? The daisy-cutters and the cluster bombs, the misguided missiles butchering wedding parties while al-Qaida slipped away? Now, a year after Kabul fell as the Taliban left their hot dinners on the front line and ran, was it worth the killing of anything from 800 to 3,000 men, women and children?

Of course it was, said everyone I asked. They all had their grotesque Taliban tales. "Right there, bodies hanging, rotting, stinking!" said a trader in Chicken Street, the tourist trinket centre. Taliban horror stories poured out of everyone, unstoppable like water from a broken tap: "I was walking with my cousin and her husband outside here," said another man. "The vice and virtue police beat them both with big sticks, beat them to pieces, blood everywhere, because her ankles showed too much under her burka. I stood there, ashamed, but there was nothing I could do. I didn't go out after that." He was a young Pashtun and no friend of this new mainly Tajik government, but he had no doubt that the Americans did the right thing.

She makes the point that the per person international aid in Afghanistan is a fraction of what is being spent in East Timor, Kosovo, and other places. What is most worrisome in my mind is that a greater effort isn't being made to extend the rule of law more rapidly beyond Kabul. The international military force which is maintaining order in a fairly small part of the country should have been made much larger.

Toynbee, Being a liberal-left Guardian writer, couldn't help but make the occasional ridiculous moral equivalence argument:

The west hobbles its women with toe-crushing shoes, Islam with burkas and chadors.

Its like she has to establish her leftie bona fides by throwing in this sort of nonsense. Still, the article has many interesting observations about what is going on in Afghanistan.

(found on Vinod's Blog)

Update: David Brooks looks at the stories coming out of Afghanistan and sees a box that is half full rather than half empty.

While for much of the media, all news out of Afghanistan must be bad news, it's clear that there is a lot of promise to the place. The old problems of inactivity and despair are being replaced by the new problems caused by crowding, growth, and dynamism. There is now income inequality in Kabul. Were things better when nobody had anything? Because of the terrible transportation system workers struggle to get to and from work. Was it better when there was no work?

Brooks quotes from this Washington Post article by Pamela Constable which shows Kabul to be a bustling and rapidly growing city.

Today, Kabul is a bustling capital of 2.7 million, more than twice the population of one year ago. Women barred from public life under the Taliban now fill offices and classrooms; music, once banned as un-Islamic, blares from taxis and cassette stands. Shops burst with imported goods, houses are being stylishly renovated and new restaurants offer Thai and Italian cuisine.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 23 12:56 PM  MidEast Afghanistan

Bob said at November 23, 2002 2:14 PM:

Overall, a gratifying article -- not that I ever had any doubt about removing the Taliban.

It's interesting, though, just how much the lefties (or transnational progressives) fail to understand the simplest things. For instance, contrast "Seething resentment of the UN and the NGOs bursts out everywhere" with "the rich world has a duty to feed the starving, open up trade and help development."

What was that about "root causes" of "hatred toward the West"?

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