>From: Charlie Stross <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>The question presupposes that cultural engineering is *possible*.
>With all due respect, I don't believe it is -- at least, not in
>this context. The west has _not_ conquered and occupied
>Afghanistan. All that's happend is that the Taliban's morale has
>broken and their old rivals have scored some victories in the
>civil war that's been raging for about fifteen years. The cities
>are honey-traps; they don't actually have a significant industrial
>base, and actually nailing the Taliban will require occupying
>the country and cutting off their recruiting base.
Excellent points. The Talibans main recruiting base is the
>This doesn't mean the Taliban can win, any more than the Khmer
>Rouge could in 1978 (after Vietnam responded to their cross-border
>terrorist activities by invading). But it doesn't make them a
>non-factor, either. Look at how thoroughly the Khmer Rouge screwed
>Cambodia over the next couple of decades for an example of what
>_could_ happen if we break out the champagne prematurely.
More good points. But defeating Bin Laden would be cause for
>Afghanistan isn't a country with a distinct national and cultural
>identity; the nearest analogy I can come up with is Yugoslavia. It
>has traditionally been a crossroads between Empires, and has a
>population of tribal groups who in many cases don't even speak the
>same language and who hate each other virulently.
Which is why U.N. peacekeepers will be required.
>Into this mix, add religious beliefs of a remarkably fanatical
>variety, shored up by the religious schools in Pakistan who are
>bankrolled by rich Arabian Wahabbites. Then add an illiteracy rate
>of 70% among men, rising to 90% among women.
They will need to be taught something new. I am in favor of
eliminating the current madrassas curriculum.
>You can't educate people who can't read and don't speak your
It will be necessary to begin with basic skills.
>I therefore conclude that if our governments decided to opt for
>social engineering, and reform, it'll take two whole generations
>to re-program enough of the population to ensure stability and
>liberalism. Two generations, moreover, without a running guerilla
>war or the jackboot of foreign infidel oppression for the mullahs
>to rail against.
I think it can be accomplished in less time but will require
>Given that the political horizon in the west is about two years
>away, I don't hold out much hope of this happening. It's far too
>much of a long-term committment for a democracy to undertake. Now,
>the Soviet government could conceive of such projects, but they
>weren't hampered by the short-termism of western politicians.
This is clearly U.N. territory.
>Stop brow-beating yourself and start worrying about the effect
>dealing with barbarians is going to have on _our_ core values.
>Speaking as a hard- core liberal, I'm more worried about detention
>without judicial review and military tribunals getting a toe-hold
>in the west than I am about western values teaching the poor
>tribesmen how to read and write.
While no one is proposing these things for citizens, I agree that
this will require watching.
Extropy Institute, www.extropy.org
National Rifle Association, www.nra.org, 1.800.672.3888
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