“The Thirty Years’ War“, Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation, 12 August 2009:
With great anticipation, I trucked over to the posh St. Regis Hotel, just north of the White House, to see Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and his team at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress. I shouldn’t have bothered.
The weird thing about the event is that in the room were literally hundreds of the Washington foreign policy elite, current and former officials, people with lots of experience in the Middle East and South Asia, and, of course, journalists, too. And Holbrooke brought with him literally his entire team, minus a few who couldn’t be there: top regional experts such as Barnett Rubin and Vali Nasr, and about a dozen other members of Holbrooke’s Af-Pak task force. But the session was boring, pedestrian, and so mind-numbingly simplistic that it seemed like Holbooke and Co. were talking to third graders.
And their goal was to convince us that the “civilians” involved in the Thirty Years’ War in Afghanistan can rebuild that shattered nation from the ground up. They didn’t convince me.
… the Holbrooke team focused on developing Afghan agriculture, building civil society, USAID programs, creating a public health system, and so on.
… Several members of the team, including counterinsurgency expert Vikram Singh, explained that we and the Afghans may have to build an entire media and communications system that can reach down into remote Afghan villages to bring an anti-Taliban message. He said that in FATA there are 150 pro-Taliban pirate radio stations, and that in large parts of Afghanistan and in FATA there is no cell phone service. True enough, I suppose, but does the mission of defeating Al Qaeda include building a entire telecommunications system in one of the poorest areas in the world.
… Listening to Holbrooke and Co., I couldn’t help thinking that the brutalized, raped and genocide-stricken people of Rwanda and eastern Congo must be wishing that they had an Osama bin Laden of their own hiding in the central African jungles, so another US special envoy would assemble a team of nation-builders and scramble up $4 billion a month to rebuild Africa, too.