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« Just One More Book | Main | Richa Arora - Part II »

March 18, 2007

Comments

Joe:
Thanks for posting on this thought provoking issue. (My internet connection was off all of Sunday. Didn't see this until this morning.) Also, I have been a bit under the weather for quite some time and haven't been able to wrap my head around serious political discussions. Which is why I have been winging it with easy cultural posts in the recent past.

It is hard for those living in well functioning, prosperous democratic nations to imagine that the minds and souls of entire populations can be bought off by providing a glass of milk, medicine and a class room for children in countries where poor/ corrupt governments provide no worthwhile public service. Supporting a murderous ideology is a small price to pay for staying alive. The religious and ideological terrorist groups know that very well. Which is why Hamas wins elections in the West Bank and Gaza, Hizbullah has support in Lebanon and Taliban and Al Qaida are protected by ordinary people in western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Poverty is the commonest cause of terrorism and brain-washing.

I applaud Edwards for pointing this out when all others are looking at military and high level diplomatic solutions. However, there is one ugly reality that perhaps no foreign government can correct with its generosity. That is the entrenched corruption and callousness of some of the governments who are being "helped." Sadly enough, foreign aid meant for schools, food and hospitals end up in the pockets of corrupt government officials to buy luxury cars, chateaus in France, gold plated dinnerware and shoes for their wives. The PLO, several African nations, the Phillippines under Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and many, many more regimes come to mind. I don't know what the answer is. But that relieving the oppression of poverty is an effective tool in eliminating terrorism is beyond doubt. A population satisfied with its present and hopeful for its future is not likely to engage in anarchist and destructive behavior. The million dollar question that remains is how to make sure that our largesse and good will reach the targeted recipients. (Pakistan, a long time beneficiary of generous US aid, has used it to build arms and line the pockets of government higher ups. Pakistani public education, once comparable to India's has been allowed to languish. Primary education in remote areas is practically non-existent. It is no wonder that Madrassas run by ill-educated fundamentalists have cropped up in those regions to fill up the social/ educational / cultural vacuum.)

Professor Thomas Nadelhoffer had a very pertinent article on the same issue quite a while back.

I'm glad you liked this. I wish all the Democratic candidates were addressing foreign policy this way.

I just wanted to correct some misunderstandings on the Marcotte issue. I was actually spending the night in Melissa McEwan's house the night the story started, and I was talking with Edwards' staff throughout the process, so I sort of have an inside perspective on this. The people I know within the campaign (mostly the internet strategy folks) weren't expecting either resignation -- they wanted to keep Melissa and Amanda, fought hard within the organization to keep them, and thought both were going to stay on.

Thanks for clarifying, Neil.

I'm more familiar with Amanda Marcotte and Pandagon than I am with Melissa McEwan, which is why I tend to frame my thoughts on the matter in terms of her. But after reading Amanda's "why I resigned" piece in Slate as well as the stuff I saw on Pandagon, my sense was that she was saying "I wasn't fired; I offered my resignation and they merely accepted it" -- typically code for "I was fired, albeit nicely." When you frame it in terms of the employer "accepting" the employee's resignation, it seems that the employer could have chosen to not to accept the resignation, which makes it an employer's decision after all (like Rummy's "resignation").

Not that it matters terribly to me -- bloggers are way down my "stances of potential Presidents that I care about" list -- but that's definitely different, and it sounds as if they had more control over their exits from the campaign than I'd believed.

I applaud Edwards for pointing this out when all others are looking at military and high level diplomatic solutions. However, there is one ugly reality that perhaps no foreign government can correct with its generosity. That is the entrenched corruption and callousness of some of the governments who are being "helped." Sadly enough, foreign aid meant for schools, food and hospitals end up in the pockets of corrupt government officials to buy luxury cars, chateaus in France, gold plated dinnerware and shoes for their wives.

Actually, this is one of the points where Edwards lets his near totalization of class get in the way of his better judgment.

Al Qaida isn't interested in development, and neither are the people who prop it. The areas where it enjoys support are tribal backwaters that view economic aid as a form of imperialism; those tribes are small enough units that the $50 million bounty for Bin Laden is more than they'd ever get in any international development schemes. Economic development is a good way of reducing the problem of political extremism exemplified by Hamas and Hezbollah the political parties, but it does nothing to reduce terrorism, exemplified by Al Qaida or by Hamas and Hezbollah the armed militias.

None of the counterterrorist success stories in recent history involves economic aid. They all involve winning hearts and minds in some way, but the focus is always on competent police work rather than on welfare. Britain didn't win the Malayan Emergency by giving economic aid to the Chinese minority, from which the communists drew their support. Neither did Peru beat Shining Path by spending money on economic development.

Terrorism is one of the problems solving which boils down to professional competence. Human rights violations in the name of counterterrorism tend to be the product of the frustration of the unsuccessful. The less competent elements of the Peruvian military killed innocent civilians because they couldn't put their hands on any actual rebel; eventually, the more competent elements successfully used detective work to capture Shining Path's leaders. Likewise, members of the US military kill Iraqi civilians to make their quotas. There are two ways of stopping those abuses. One is to concentrate on detective work, which requires a level of competence far beyond Edwards' capability. The other is not to invade countries in the first place, which again is beyond Edwards, who cosponsored the Iraq war resolution and thinks airstrikes are a good solution for the Iran nuclear crisis.

Finally, on another note, it's impossible to engage in development of the sort you're talking about in the first place. Giving money to rural areas can't ever pull them out of poverty; the TVA couldn't, and the level of development aid to third world countries needed to sustain even a TVA-style program is far beyond the first world's economic capability, let alone its domestic political capability. As Jane Jacobs notes, development means urban development. And although throwing money on encouraging import replacement in Karachi will be good for Pakistan's economy, it will only increase the level of resentment in the rural areas.

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