Saturday, November 20, 2010

The world is a big place.

 News from Afghanistan: 92 percent of men in key province are unaware of 2001 attacks on U.S. 

This article seems to think that the takeaway from this is, "Well surely, we could just tell them! Then they'll know what wonderful people we are and everything will be better!" Somehow I doubt that that's it.  I guess it's possible that the vast majority of Afghan men have just never been exposed to this particular piece of information, and that it will completely rework their world view. I think it's much more likely though that many of them may have heard it somewhere, and just didn't care enough to remember it. And those that did remember certainly didn't think it was important or interesting enough to repeat to others. Even if you could somehow send a memo to every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan, I bet you within a couple months you'd be back in roughly the same place.

I think the takeaway from this should be humility. There are still places in the world where nobody thinks that much about the United States, and places in the world where the official line of the US government doesn't carry any particular weight compared to other more local sources of little weight that it doesn't even get repeated. We've had armed soldiers in their country for almost a decade, and still Afghan men feel like there are better uses for their expertise than analyzing American motives...and they probably have good reasons for feeling that way. (I have no idea what they are, but I assume that most Afghans are pragmatic and rational people, at least as much as people anywhere else are). I think it's important to realize that, and keep it in mind any time someone gives you some utopian vision of what would happen if we could just send troops into some part of the world or another. The United States is an extremely powerful country, but there are limits.

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