As the experiment in Afghanistan falls apart like Ikea furniture, American’s central planners are doing what they do best: Pointing the finger instead of the thumb. Whether you’re an Afghan tribesman or U.S. citizen, when Washington fails to run your life better than you do, it’s not their fault. Even in the face of collapse, they double down, convinced that they could train anyone to sit, roll over and speak for a handful of Scooby Snacks.
“Training” is a magic word to bureaucrats, the dismal record of government schools notwithstanding. If they can just cram enough human guinea pigs into a classroom, they’re sure they can turn coal miners and Pashtuns into programmers. Never mind that any teacher, parent, or pee-wee football coach knows that motivation is the key to achievement.
No, these apparatchiks close their eyes to the fact that we are individuals who choose jobs we find rewarding or for which we have God-given talent. To them, we’re just numbered drones out of Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” flash drives to plug into any USB.
According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the U.S. spent $88 billion “training, equipping and funding Afghan military and police.” But few applicants seem to have actually wanted those jobs since those are the very forces disintegrating before the Taliban onslaught, dropping their guns on a scale not seen since France in 1940.
Beaming Taliban militants recently showed off “900 guns, 30 light tactical vehicles, and 20 army pickup trucks” to Sky News, and their windfall is growing. America will leave Osama bin Laden’s BFFs better armed than when we arrived, and terrorists won’t need a New School seminar on killing. They are quite motivated to spill blood.
The U.S. military was motivated, too, routing the Taliban to avenge 9/11. But then the nation builders decided Afghanistan would be a great fixer-upper. Had they seen the 1986 Tom Hanks movie “The Money Pit,” they might have thought twice about trying to spackle and paint an entire country, much less perform a “My Fair Lady”-style transformation on 38 million people.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower began American involvement in Vietnam this same way, sending advisors to train pro-Western forces. However, the former Supreme Allied Commander warned Lyndon Johnson to stop there, that “the jungles of Southeast Asia would just swallow up our divisions,” a quote from discredited biographer Stephen Ambrose that nevertheless accurately reflects Ike’s position.
LBJ, a lifelong politician, was confident he knew better than some farm kid from Abilene, Kansas. He declared war on both communists in Vietnam and poverty in America. This time, good intentions were finally going to pave the road to utopia!
It’s no coincidence that areas without the human factor enjoyed the most success in Afghanistan. Life expectancy and literacy are up. Almost six times as many have access to clean water versus 2001. But did we really spend all that cash and thousands of young lives just so Mullah Omar’s posse could drink safely from the tap?
The 1776 Miracle in Philadelphia was just that. As President George W. Bush lamented to Bob Woodward of Iraq’s struggle to form a government, “Where’s George Washington? Where’s Thomas Jefferson? Where’s John Adams, for crying out loud?” That Mr. Adams himself griped at the First Continental Congress, “We don’t have men fit for these times,” demonstrates why the Founders credited God for their success instead of their own talents.
Maybe people in today’s government think James Madison’s crew had it easy and that they too can herd cats simply by signing declarations and spending enough tax dollars (and printing trillions more when that runs dry). But anyone who thinks it’ll be easy to change someone else can be cured of the notion by trying to change themselves. As Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry memorably quipped, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
None of this is to dismiss the suffering of Afghans, particularly women and girls. It’s noble that we tried to alleviate their heartbreak. But we were never going to train our way out of this. That the central planners refuse to learn despite repeated schooling by history itself should be an enduring lesson of Afghanistan.
And the next time some egghead promises that training programs are the magic answer to a problem, someone should remind them that human beings are not unruly cocker spaniels to be brought to heel — and even if they were, there’s a very true maxim about teaching old dogs new tricks.
• Dean Karayanis is content producer for the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton show, former Rush Limbaugh staffer, and host of History Author Show on iHeartRadio.
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