The American Conservative — Russian Lessons

The American Conservative — Russian Lessons:

“Until the security situation improved, the economy could never prosper, but the security situation would never improve unless the regime changed its behavior.”

“Worse, in our efforts to fight the Taliban, we are providing Afghanistan with a massive army, a huge police force, and vast numbers of schools, hospitals, roads, and so on. All of this has to be paid for. The Afghan state cannot do so, nor will it ever be able to. When the Soviets left, Najibullah’s regime survived only as long as Moscow paid the bills. The same will be true for Karzai and his successors.”

“Only if a state relies on taxes levied directly from the citizenry does it have to respond to those citizens’ needs. It is no coincidence that rentier states that rely on oil or gas revenues or on foreign subsidies are associated with autocratic government and corruption. The Soviets could not improve governance in Afghanistan because the government relied on the army to stay in power, and the Afghan people did not pay for the army, the Soviets did. Our efforts to improve Afghan governance may fail for exactly the same reason.

Unless there is a significant improvement in the quality of aid, President Obama is likely to be disappointed in his belief that a redoubled development effort will help bring peace to Afghanistan. The country probably needs less aid rather than more. It needs to tax its own people directly. (It scarcely does at the moment, and has little incentive to as long as the foreign checks keep flowing.) It needs a small army, not a big one, and a manageable social infrastructure, one it can afford. As happened in the past, pumping in more aid and sending in more advisers will simply reinforce the institutional barriers to progress. The pursuit of our immediate military goals is condemning Afghanistan to perpetual governmental, and thus economic, failure.”

-Paul Robinson


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