One long year after activists at Jobs for Afghans began putting out their unique message, that creating cash-for-work jobs in Afghanistan would cut short the insurgency and be much cheaper than a prolonged war, Time Magazine has thrust this solution into the spotlight with this week's cover story "How Not to Lose in Afghanistan" (April 20, 2009.) The double-page spread leading into the story makes no bones about where it is headed: JOBS. This is not a nod in the direction of fighting smarter. This is a full embrace.
Taking a page from Sun Tzu's Art of War, Time, if not the American people, seems to understand that the most preferable way to win a war is never to have to fight it.
Reporter Aryn Baker quotes a Korengal Valley elder:
"The Taliban say they are fighting because there are Americans here and it's a jihad. But the fact is, they aren't fighting for religion. They are fighting for money. If they had jobs, they would stop fighting."
Thank you, Time Magazine. I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I'd hear myself saying that.
Is it really that simple? Afghans like Khan say only a small fraction of the insurgency consists of hardened jihadis willing to fight to the death; the rest are ordinary, poor villagers who simply haven't been given a better option. Khan estimates that the insurgents earn from $100 to $200 a month..."
Most of that money comes from illegal trade like opium or clear-cut lumber. Baker notes that the U.S. policy of poppy eradication has only fueled the fighting by eliminating income without providing an alternative.
Baker flips the emerging Pakistan-first analysis on its head, and notes the obvious:
Stabilizing Afghanistan might well become crucial to preventing the far more terrifying prospect of an Islamist takeover in Pakistan.
Buy this issue of Time. It's not every day that the flagship of the corporate media, bizarrely miscast by the far-right as "liberal," not only gets it right, but gets it exactly right. We may be forgiven if we think we hear in the distance the footfalls of a Velvet Revolution.
A hawk-dove issue it is not. One of the first to go public with jobs-as-a-weapon-of-counterinsurgency was Karl Eikenberry. As in, General Karl Eikenberry, former Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan:
"Much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to support their families"
The far-right will attempt to squash this deviation in thinking from that preferred by the military-industrial complex, which Republican President Eisenhower warned us about. Eisenhower warned us that war is profitable, but sometimes there are solutions other than war. He urged us to recognize that business forces will tend to drive us towards war.
Not that there isn't fighting ahead (I refuse to say "ahead of us." There is no "us." Our American lard-asses are safe here. It is ahead of young guys carrying backpacks, who do the fighting for us.) There will be fighting. But perhaps not of the stupid sort, which brings to fruition bin Laden's dream of "bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy." He said:
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al Qaeda, in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note,"