State building is a difficult and dangerous task. But it is a task America has always made itself a part of, for better or worse.
American state-building attempts have failed across the world, some ending in American casualties, like in Vietnam. But the attempts, and those of the United Nations, are necessary.
The future of Afghanistan depends on what strong countries involved in the United Nations and America do to help set up a usable government.
Afghanistan has seen wars tear at its borders for hundreds of years. The decision to help the country last came in the form of supporting the Taliban regime and helping Afghanistan fight against the former Soviet Union.
That decision, like Vietnam, backfired on the U.S. But, once again, the Afghanistan government has toppled and needs rebuilding. America is helping by using “billions of dollars in aid” as leverage in the talks in Bonn, Germany to get the different Afghanistan groups to come together.
Fighting with just guns and warplanes isn’t enough. The world needs to fight with political action. Afghanistan needs a government run by the people and for the people, not by the have vs. the have-nots.
Tribes control most of the country and any federal form of government would have to be three-fold, scholars from the Institute for Afghan Studies argue. There must be equal parts local, regional and central governance. There needs to be strong leaders and a strong infrastructure on each level.
America’s firepower has worked to clear out Afghanistan’s old rulers. Big bombs quickly weakened and are close to destroying the Taliban, quicker than a war waged by Afghans could have.
This past week in Germany, the country established a 29-seat interim government council. The U.S. and the United Nations took the lead in negotiating the council to represent all of Afghanistan.
That government needs to set up according to the culture, religion and beliefs of the area, not a cheap run-of-the-mill American system that will bewilder and disenfranchise the Afghan people.
America must follow a safe path through the dangerous woods of the threat of terrorism after Sept. 11. A structured government in Afghanistan can help to quell the threat of future terrorism.
But the second phase of the war on terrorism in Afghanistan must be fought carefully. The risks of not setting up a government in Afghanistan could yield more and more hatred against America. But getting involved holds the same consequences. At least this time America is not supporting coups but working very publicly with the United Nations.
If attempts in Vietnam, Somalia, Nicaragua and Western Europe have shown anything, state building must be done carefully or not at all. The risks are too high for the latter.