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Turning Feudal Afghanistan Into Switzerland Was Always A Fool’s Errand

The most striking couple of sentences in the breathtaking report from the Washington Post about the West’s failed nation-building in Afghanistan were right in the middle. The report stated, in no uncertain terms, “Some U.S. officials wanted to use the war to turn Afghanistan into a democracy. Others wanted to transform Afghan culture and elevate women’s rights.”

Think about that for a moment. More than $1 trillion spent, more than 2,000 lives lost, more than 20,000 men and women maimed and scarred physically and psychologically for life, all to shape the semi-feudal Afghanistan into modern Switzerland. To do what the British Empire and the Soviet Empire failed before: to impose a Western idea — developed and practiced in the West, with all the cultural forces that shaped it — in a land which has historically never had a Magna Carta, a James Madison, or an October Revolution. It doesn’t even have a normative society such as erstwhile pre-colonial India, Egypt, or China, or pre-1945 Germany or Japan.

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