Category Archive 'Afghanistan'

21.11.05

An Economist’s Case Against an Interventionist Foreign Policy

Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Outside Analysis, Outside Commentary


David Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an associate professor of economics in the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy at the Naval Postgraduate School. Henderson is neither liberal or conservative, though the natural inclination would be to align him more with the conservative camp, if for no other reason than that he is a free market economist who works for the Hoover Institute, a well-known conservative think tank.

I say this, because in reading David’s article below, a skeptic might be inclined to think he’s just another typical “anti-American” liberal (not me, but there are folks who feel that way). I can assure you — and David Henderson’s credentials can back me up — that this is not the case. If his Hoover Institute affiliation isn’t enough to make that point, a look at his book The Joy of Freedom would seal the deal. Here’s a link to reviews of that book — a glowing tribute to the free market and limited government.

Anyway, on to the piece, which highlights a handful of examples of how U.S. intervention in the affairs of other nations has had unfortunate unintended consequences– for the U.S. Meaning that often when we venture abroad to try and solve what appears to be a problem for the U.S., we set in motion an even bigger problem that we will have to deal with at some point.


An Economist’s Case Against an Interventionist Foreign Policy
David R. Henderson

Antiwar.com
November 14, 2005

I’ve been an economist over half my life. The more I’ve learned, the more I’ve seen what a powerful insight economist Ludwig von Mises had over 60 years ago when he pointed out that virtually every government intervention leads to unintended consequences that then lead to further interventions. So, for example, Nixon’s 1973 price controls on gasoline caused us to waste hundreds of millions of dollars in time lining up for gas. That led the U.S. government to dictate the fuel economy of cars. The fuel economy laws caused auto companies to make lighter cars, causing a few extra thousand deaths a year. (For more on this, see Chapter 2 of my book The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey.) The gasoline lines also caused people to be more sympathetic to intervening in the Middle East.

In foreign policy also, when government intervenes, it creates problems that it tries to solve by intervening further. Take Iraq… please, as the late Henny Youngman would have said. How did we get to the point where the Bush government invaded Iraq? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

In 1963, the CIA helped a young Iraqi ally who, along with other plotters, overthrew General Adbul Qassim. You may have heard of this young Iraqi ally; he’s been in the news lately. His name is Saddam Hussein. Five years later, the CIA backed another coup that made Hussein deputy to the new military ruler. Then, in 1979, Hussein took his turn as dictator.

Hussein proceeded to wage a long and costly war on Iran. Although many people, correctly, point to this war as evidence of Hussein’s evil, they rarely mention one highly relevant fact: the Reagan administration supported this invasion with billions of dollars in export credits and with satellite intelligence. Saddam Hussein was evil for initiating and fighting that war. How, then, should we evaluate the U.S. government officials who actively supported him?

But my main purpose here is not to question the morality of war. Rather, it is to point out how one intervention leads to another. The U.S. government supported a man who eventually took over Iraq’s government and who later became, in the eyes of the U.S. government, the enemy. The U.S. government’s interventions of the 1960s led, indirectly but inexorably, to its current intervention.
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16.11.05

“Afghanistan: The War Without End” (within a war without end)

Afghanistan, News Articles, Outside Analysis, Outside Commentary, PNAC.info Commentary


This article provides an eye-opening look at the reality of that other war we’re in– the one that doesn’t get so much press these days. The key thing to note, of course, is that the Taliban is still operational–and in ways, appears to be quite strong, and possibly staging some sort of attempted comeback. And the war in Afghanistan is still a war in Afghanistan. From the way it’s presented by many who seek to defend the success of the “war on terror” as it has been conducted so far, one might think that Afghanistan was over and done with. But as you can see in the article, things are actually about to heat up in some ways. (In this case, I’m referring to the British troops who are going to be moved into an insurgent stronghold to try and gain control of that area.)

In searching for a quote from the PNAC on Afghanistan, I came upon an editorial from the Weekly Standard of October 29, 2001. It’s on the PNAC site as a PDF file, and it’s by frequent co-writers William Kristol and Robert Kagan, both of whom are part of both the PNAC and the Weekly Standard. Which is to say, I don’t know if it’s an official PNAC position statement, but it’s certainly very close to that if not.

The editorial only glancingly touches upon Afghanistan, actually — as noted in the recent American Conservative piece, the neocons had Iraq as their focus even when everyone else was honed in on Al Qaeda and Afghanistan — but it does lay out clear and simple terms for victory: victory is to be defined by “the unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden.”

So while I’m using this excerpt for the bigger picture statement within it (you’ll see what I mean) it is also certainly relevant as a lead-in to an article entitled “Afghanistan: The War Without End”. After all, it has been four years since the war in Afghanistan started, and not one of those three targets has been unequivocally destroyed. That only adds to the irony when you read how in 2001, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan were already gearing us up for the “broader war in the Middle East” that is being widely dreaded today. (Not dreaded by them, I assume.)

Here is what these two top neocons had to say about Afghanistan and the Middle East in post-911 2001:

We do not for an instant minimize the difficulties and the dangers to our forces of the current mission in Afghanistan, especially now as the Bush administration wisely moves closer to the more aggressive use of U.S. ground forces. We are glad that President Bush is apparently following the Pentagon’s advice to accelerate the military campaign to unseat the Taliban, without waiting for the State Department to name the cabinet and sub-cabinet officials in an as-yet imaginary “post-Taliban government.? Nor do we doubt the vital importance of victory in Afghanistan—a victory defined by the unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden.

But this war will not end in Afghanistan. It is going to spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity. It could well require the use of American military power in multiple places simultaneously. It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid. And it is going to put enormous and perhaps unbearable strain on parts of an international coalition that today basks in contented consensus.

The signs that we are on the precipice of a much wider conflict are all around us. …

Full editorial (PDF file)


And here’s what a British journalist has to say about Afghanistan today:

Afghanistan: The War Without End

The Independent (UK)
By Justin Huggler Asia Correspondent
Published: 15 November 2005

British troops have come under attack in Kabul and Nato forces were targeted in two co-ordinated suicide car bombings in which at least four people died.

The attacks took place as ministers revealed that units are preparing to extend Britain’s role in Afghanistan when it takes command of the international peacekeeping operation next year.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, told Parliament that Britain faced a “prolonged” involvement in the country. But MPs warned last night that British troops faced being mired in a long-term military commitment to a country in the grip of a growing insurgency.

They insisted yesterday’s extension of Britain’s role in Afghanistan, four years after troops first arrived, also reflected the size of the task facing coalition forces in Iraq.

Fears for Afghanistan’s future emerged in the wake of suggestions, by the British and Iraqi governments, that British troops could begin pulling out of Iraq by the end of next year. For British troops, however, yesterday’s violence in Kabul was a taste of what they will face next year when they deploy to the turbulent province of Helmand as part of a move by Nato to take over security in the Taliban heartlands.
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