Sunday, July 13, 2008

Creative Problem Solving

Another reason for optimism: a lovely gentleman from Montana builds schools in Pakistan on a teeny-tiny budget, which turn out to be better anti-terrorism weapons than billion-dollar bombs.

The Pentagon, which has a much better appreciation for the limits of military power than the Bush administration as a whole, placed large orders for “Three Cups of Tea” and invited Mr. Mortenson to speak.

“I am convinced that the long-term solution to terrorism in general, and Afghanistan specifically, is education,” Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, who works on the Afghan front lines, said in an e-mail in which he raved about Mr. Mortenson’s work. “The conflict here will not be won with bombs but with books. ... The thirst for education here is palpable.”

Military force is essential in Afghanistan to combat the Taliban. But over time, in Pakistan and Afghanistan alike, the best tonic against militant fundamentalism will be education and economic opportunity.

So a lone Montanan staying at the cheapest guest houses has done more to advance U.S. interests in the region than the entire military and foreign policy apparatus of the Bush administration.


Anonymous said...

Pretty Lady

It may well be a reason for optimism, God bless Mr. Mortenson’s efforts.
But damn it! Must every such story feature snarky attacks on the Bush administration – AND MISS THE POINT BESIDES? If they believe the readers aren’t up to getting: BUSH AND BUSH ADMIN ARE EVIL/DEMENTED/STUPID/HAPLESS CLOWNS, perhaps they should start highlighting those passages in yellow. But we get it already, we do.

Let’s see. Mr. Kristof, Mr. Mortenson, Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, even the anthropomorphized Pentagon get into the act (THE PENTAGON, WHICH HAS A MUCH BETTER APPRECIATION FOR THE LIMITS OF MILITARY POWER THAN THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION … placed large orders for “Three Cups of Tea”). Now to the MISSED POINT.

Just when was the order placed? BEFORE Bush, Bush admin, Bush military, Bush billions, Bush tomahawks killed off the Taliban and sent the remnants into the mountains. Or was it after?

Pretty Lady said...

Bush IS an incompetent jackass. The press is perhaps overdoing itself in pointing it out, in compensation for not doing so when it might have made a difference.

Anonymous said...

This is old news from the Korean and Vietnam wars... see The Ugly American by Burdick and Lederer.

Anonymous said...

Considering the level of death, destruction, lies, misplaced priorities, etc., I don't think it can be said enough. As for Kristoff's restrained barbs, there are far, far snarkier, and angrier to be found. Just ask any one of the thousands of families (and that's just counting Americans; the Iraqi numbers can only be estimated) who have lost someone in this pointless carnage.

The annoyance of reading a few too many times about this administration's incompetence pales in comparison to the devastation Bush & Co. are directly responsible for.

Oriane Stender

Anonymous said...

“Considering the level of death, destruction, lies, misplaced priorities, etc.”

Anonymous, what is difficult about THE POINT.
No action in Afghanistan = no death and destruction of the Taliban = no Mr. Mortenson and his schools = status quo. Simple eh?

Or are you a fantasist?

Pretty Lady said...

George, Mortensen started building his schools in 1993. The Bush administration invaded Afghanistan in 2002. What was your point, again?

Pretty Lady said...

Quote from the article linked:

To get a school, villagers must provide the land and the labor to assure a local “buy-in,” and so far the Taliban have not bothered his schools. One anti-American mob rampaged through Baharak, Afghanistan, attacking aid groups — but stopped at the school that local people had just built with Mr. Mortenson. “This is our school,” the mob leaders decided, and they left it intact.

Really, George.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not sure what your point was, George. Mine was fairly simple. Considering what is going on the world, "I'm tired of reading bad things about Bush" is pretty low down on the list of things people of conscience should care about.

Also, I am not anonymous. I don't feel the need to register my identity with blogger or google or facebook or myspace, etc., but those two words at the end of my post are my name. I'm putting my name where my criticisms are. (Which I may regret in this case but life's too short to sweat the small stuff.)

Oriane Stender

ps As always, you go, PL!

Anonymous said...

What was your point, again?

My point being, Pretty Lady, that the Taliban was not some static little tribe lording over their own canton somewhere in Afghanistan. They were a dynamic scourge, seeking to make all of Afghanistan their fief. At which point enter the U.S. Military. If any out there wonder as to what all the fuss re the Taliban – just Google ”Taliban Atrocities”

“and so far the Taliban have not bothered his schools”

The key words being “so far”. The Taliban seem restrained to be sure. I wonder if after being reasoned with they’ve seen the light or is it the American military presence in Afghanistan and Pakistani military sweeps through northwest Pakistan that have softened their outlook on life, such as educating girls.

I am all for Mr. Mortenson and his efforts. I am sufficiently impressed to want to aid him and his organization in my small way. There is no doubt that his work might have been further along had it not been for the Taliban. The Taliban – NOT THE AMERICAN PRESENCE in Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Oriane, I’m sorry as to missing your name.

"I'm tired of reading bad things about Bush" is pretty low down on the list of things people of conscience should care about.

I am not tired of reading bad things about Bush. Anyone wanting to have a go at it, by all means, write it, I’ll read it. What I am tired of is the snark level re Bush when reading articles which have NOTHING TO DO WITH BUSH, you know, you’ve come across them. They go something like this: “Inspite of the Bush administration’s lack of funding for the sciences, astronomers today announced the discovery of a new planet.”

In Mr. Kristof’s op-ed re some hopeful news in Afghanistan he does just that. It is grating, irritating, and distracting and that is what my point was.

Pretty Lady said...

George, the article specifically points out that the U.S. support of the regime and military presence in Pakistan has MADE. THINGS. WORSE. That's not irrelevant, it's central to his discussion.

We all understand what the Taliban atrocities are about--I was one of the people agitating for attention to the problem, years before 9/11 galvanized us to act. And Kristof specifically says that there is a time and place for military intervention.

But pouring billions of dollars into military intervention while completely discounting the far-reaching effects of gentle, collaborative 'soft power' such as that demonstrated by Mortenson is such a salient characteristic of the Bush administration's whole mindset that it needs to be discussed. There is WAY more than one way to skin a cat, and it's not an either/or scenario. We need to get used to thinking this way--CREATIVELY--or else we are truly doomed as a planet.

Anonymous said...

“pouring billions of dollars into military intervention while completely discounting the far-reaching effects of gentle, collaborative 'soft power' such as that demonstrated by Mortenson”

Finally, on this subject.

Pretty Lady, I have never discounted Mr. Mortenson’s efforts completely or otherwise. I had thought I made that quite clear. That billions may have been wasted wouldn’t surprise me. That billions were effective in preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan I am certain.

As for Mr. Kristof’s contention that the “backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11” well, it remains a contention. Those very same tribal areas were the source of much of the Taliban’s beginnings and resources. Those tribal areas were the haven in which much of the defeated Taliban sought refuge. That they should be in a funk as to the present state of affairs is not surprising and makes a more compelling reason for any backlash.

Anonymous said...

Well, before I started reading the comments, I got a warm fuzzy.

Screw the comments, I'm sticking with the warm fuzzy.

Deliberate ignorance for the win!!!!!!!!!!!