Monday, September 28, 2009

Dollars Well Spent

It seems to me that we're not learning much from our failed wars. In Vietnam, we slogged on and on, increasing troop strength time and time again in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the peasants. In the end, aside from dramatically increasing war casualties on both sides, it did little to change the outcome. The war finally ended when we told the propped up local government and military to take over the battle. As soon as we left, the local government and military were quickly overrun.

In Iraq, we've built up our troops and expenditures in concert with the bleaker and bleaker situation. It was only after we changed strategy last year that things are now looking somewhat better. What was the change? It was a decision to pay off the very groups that had been attacking us. They agreed it was more profitable to support us than fight us. The result, called the "Sunni Awakening", should have been called the "Sunni Bribe".

Now the focus has shifted to Afghanistan. We've heard this story before. The military is asking for an increasing number of troops on the ground as the situation worsens. If President Obama agrees to this, he will be repeating errors previously made in Vietnam and Iraq.

Instead, he should change the strategy to overwhelm the population with dollars not troops. There are approximately 30 million people in Afghanistan . The average Afghan makes under $200 per year. If we simply paid each person $1000 in cash, it's likely that they would rapidly decide that they no longer were supporters of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or whomever we think we're fighting in Afghanistan. Instead, I'd bet that they will gladly say that they're Westerners, Capitalists, Yankee Fans or whatever else we want them to be called. This would cost about $30 billion. Yes, this is a huge amount; but it's peanuts compared to the $440 billion we've spent there so far, and even less when compared to the estimates of over $1 trillion most analysts are predicting we'll spend before declaring we're leaving.

If this doesn't work in ending the Afghan war, then we should reinstate the military draft. Within months, the war would be over as the potential draftees and their supporters mimic the demonstrations that led to our departure from Vietnam.


Blyth said...

Whoa, this is a strange feeling. I totally agree with you.

onecakebaker said...

OK, so we bribe the Afghans.
Then what will they do with the money? Threaten someone else who will bribe them more.

Howard Lewis said...

Onecakebaker, we can easily out-bribe anyone on the planet.

However, if we're smart about how we dole out the "bribes", we can force them to use the money to improve their education, increase their ability to farm, make rugs, or earn a living by doing anything other than growing poppies.

keray said...

I agree with this. I also think reinstating the draft would end the war in two weeks. Right now the middle and upper classes are untouched by the war they seem to be turning a blind eye to.

onecakebaker said...

I agree with reinstating the draft. It is an absolute shame that the US does not have compulsory service. And I say this with two draft age sons.

Incontrovertible said...

Onecakebaker, have you urged your sons to enlist for military service in Afghanistan?

Neverwrong said...

We could just legalize heroin and bankrupt the Taliban.

Anonymous said...

What an unusual situation. Both of us on the same side in a political debate. I may have to take to my chaise lounge with the vapors.
How wonderful to know that we may
really be genetically linked.

SpecRider on the Storm said...

It is like so many other solutions today - it seems easier to throw money at the situation. we are spending it now anyway, and your solution seems to save us some cash that we can all ill afford.

I am reminded of a very bad joke that went around up here when Quebec was (still is) threatening to separate, the punch line was to put up a high fence and the problem would solve itself.

I am somewhat tempted to think that a bit of cash would solve the problem - but in the end I find myself drifting back to the thought that they need to end their own problems... a very dangerous thought in that we know that they are not content to keep their problems within their borders (hence the very high fence).

Money is the crux of the issue - but the reality is that a lump sum payout is a short term solution. To make the money viable, you need to tie it to an incentive to improve... "you get the money if you invest it in a small business" "in new farm equipment" "into education".

I have seen the scenario where the Americans and Russians were throwing money at Egypt (I was there), and provided one or the other was willing to throw in money - and it was like a competition back then - they were more than willing to keep taking it. And, there ultimate life position did not change appreciably since the became dependent on the cash handout - not the improvements that the cash handout could have achieved.

Sigh - can't we just all get along?

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you that money is the answer. However, I'd refine it a bit. The UN has a project to make loans to African women because the women (not the men and the children- the children will be helped by their mothers). The women can use the loan to start a business, go in with other women to build a school, or dig a well. If you give the money to the men- who knows what will happen. Women tend to be wiser and more careful with their investments and they keep the village and the children in mind.

Barbara said...

I agree, paying the Afghans money would be worthwhile. However, did you mean give every man and woman $1,000 or just the men? I'd give the women $1,000 too. They would get together and build a school; they dig a well; they'd open health care clinics or they might start a small business. Maybe it would be a start for the Afghan women to gain respect and help pass the laws, and progress toward equality.

Incontrovertible said...

Barbara, I'm an equal opportunity briber. I'd give the money to women as well as men for many of the reasons you mention.