Some interesting and valuable articles to read

Today’s recommendations for your reading pleasure and enlightenment.

  1. Nobody Expects the British Inquisition“, Mark Steyn, National Review Online, 26 October 2009 — The British police act as the paramilitary wing of The Guardian.
  2. Rescuing the University“, Robert Weissberg, Minding the Campus, 27 October 2009 — Two parts.  Hat tip to the Instapundit.
  3. Responding To Weissberg“, Peter Wood, Minding the Campus, 29 October 2009
  4. More Schools, Not Troops“, Nicholas D. Kristof, op-ed in the New York Times, 29 October 2009

Kristof’s article is important, esp this point (often made, seldom so vividly):

In particular, one of the most compelling arguments against more troops rests on this stunning trade-off: For the cost of a single additional soldier stationed in Afghanistan for one year, we could build roughly 20 schools there. It’s hard to do the calculation precisely, but for the cost of 40,000 troops over a few years — well, we could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D.

Today’s “your government at work” feature

“Highway Robbery: State’s Ailing Roads & Bridges Robbed”, Thomas DiNapoli (NY State Controller), 29 October 2009 — Press release about this report.  Excerpt:

“Only one-third of the money in the Highway and Bridge Trust Fund has actually been used to pay for highways and bridge. The rest has been siphoned off to pay for debt service on back-door borrowing and to fund operational costs for the DMV and the state Department of Transportation. This money should be going toward keeping our roads and bridges safe, not to fund state agency operations.”

Today’s multimedia offering

Reason Magazine’s Nanny of the month!  (Hat tip to the Instapundit).


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14 thoughts on “Some interesting and valuable articles to read

  1. Whatever happened to George Marshall?

    “Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.”
    — Sec of State, George Marshall, 1947

    Fabius Maximus replies: Great point. Considering the magnitude of its success, I don’t understand why the Marchall Plan has not been tried again. For instance, after Israel’s victory in 1973.

  2. well, we could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D.

    Visions of Ph.D’s driving taxi cabs go through my mind….

    What’s more to the point is not education but heathcare. An estimated 40,000 die each year for lack of health insurance. That’s a 9/11 every few months. And we supposedly are in Afghanistan to prevent more 9/11’s?

    Why not draft the uninsured and ship them off to Afghanistan? That would solve multiple problems at once.

  3. It is a good point: “We could just about turn every Afghan into a Ph.D.”

    During these conflicts there has been little discussion of cost. I remember reading the analysis that during the Vietnam conflict America spent roughly $1 million per every man, woman and child in Vietnam. Couldn’t they have been bought off for a fraction of the price.

    We can debate on how to buy them off, but wouldn’t it be more cost effective?
    Fabius Maximus replies: Our national motto is “Millions for war, but only dimes for peace”. In Iraq and Afghanistan we have easily spent on war many times their annual GDP (in Iraq, easily 10x). We could have put everybody on the payroll and rebult the nation for the trillion or so spent there. This option is seldom discussed, another indication that America has gone insane.

  4. The Kristof article is remarkably silly, even by the rather low standards of the New York Times. The Taliban woukd destroy the schools, and murder as many of the students and teachers as they can get at, especially if they are female. They have a history of that sort of thing. If you want to argue that it’s time to leave Afghanistan, then fine, there’s a case to be made for it and we can have that debate. But this is nonsense.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Not necessarily. The key is to have everything build and run by local elites, rather than (as we prefer) by foreign infidels. This limits what can be done, but makes more likely what’s done will last. For example, there might be no schools for women, but some are better than none.

  5. #6 : Project Reconstruct Afghanistan . This novel idea is enchanting our gov . The Taliban having been exterminated , container ports will be developed along the Pacific coast , potatoes planted in the fertile plains of Helmand , and a vaccine developed for the Fat Death .

  6. Burke G Sheppard still has the correct view. The proposition that even local elites will build and run schools that meet our standards is doubtful, to say the least. It’s dangerous to be a teacher in Afghanistan in a proper school and such schools will be few. Schools of which there will be many are the madrassas, very popular with the morons amongst the mujahadin.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Still missing the point. The schools need meet only their needs, their standards. Whether it meets our standards is irrelevant, other than that teach secular subjects in order to obtain our funding.

    And the point is not schools, but more generally infrastructure. If they don’t want schools, build roads, water, and power systems. I don’t understand why you find this concept so difficult to understand.

  7. Why do they have to meet our standards? If this whole endeavor were sold to the American people as colonizing Afghanistan I doubt it would have received much support.

  8. #6 .FM , I find this hard to understand because it seems if we send westeners to build roads , they get shot ; and if we give Afghans money to build roads , they pocket it .
    I dont think the Chinese , using the third option of building a road to develop a copper mining business , have got very far yet either ??
    Fabius Maximus replies: That is not correct. If we give them money to build roads, roads get built. Much of the money is the form of overhead we call corruption. Just like that in the construction of Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project (3x increase in real terms from the original estimate, $15 billion for a 4 mile tunnel) and the F-22. Your point is?

  9. In Afghanistan, some folks may shoot at me, no matter what i am doing, or why i came. If i hand out money, some folks will use it wisely but others will just steal it. Nevertheless, i would prefer to build a road, instead of another prison camp. :)

  10. In re. to Kristof’s argument, yes a school costs less than soldiers. That school will also get blown up if there isn’t anyone around to guard it.
    Fabius Maximus replies: This was discussed above. First, no — it’s not that simple. It’s probably possible to build schools that the locals will successfully defend. Just not schools run by our standards. Second, don’t obsess over schools. It’s an example of a broader class of infrastructure that we could build, shaping their society without use of force.

  11. Let me add to my earlier comments that as far as I’m concerned, I don’t expect any hypothetical school that gets built in Afghanistan to be run by “our standards”, whatever those might be. That’s not the issue. I just want to make it clear that my objections (which still stand)were not based on any desire to dictate what Afghan children are or are not taught. I expect that the Taliban will do that, in the worst way, local elites notwithstanding.

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