Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Book Report: Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia
Fascinating book, a history of Afghanistan and Pakistan since September 11th. The book shows how Musharraf, then dictator of Pakistan, and the Pakistani intelligence service (ISS) extensively fooled the US for years, pretending to be fighting Islamic extremism while actually supporting it.
The book extensively criticizes the Bush administration for 2 things -- its failure to do major nation-building in Afghanistan, and its willingness to leave power in Afghanistan in the hands of warlords. I'm no fan of Bush, but I don't think these criticisms are entirely justified.
Firstly, it would have been nice of us to spend a fortune doing nation building in Afghanistan, but then, why not do nation building in Botswana? At least Botwana had never hosted a terrorist organization that killed thousands of Americans. It would be nice of us to spend more money on foreign aid, but does it make sense to focus that money on countries where the people particularly hate us?
Secondly, I have read (but it was not mentioned in this book), that Pashtuns, if not all Afghans, are notoriously xenophobic. If we had chosen not to leave power in the hands of native warlords, it would have involved a much greater presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, triggering a xenophobic backlash. Working through the warlords, however backward and unjust they might be, was a shrewd strategy.