Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 16:10 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 16:10 | SYDNEY

Rudd on Afghanistan aims


Sam Roggeveen


22 September 2009 16:28

From a recent interview with CNN:

HOST: What is your vision of success in Afghanistan?

PM: Well, can I say this: my vision of success in Afghanistan is not the creation of a Jeffersonian democracy. Let us be clear about that. I think there's been a bit of misty-eyedness about this from time to time. Remember, this country has essentially come from a feudal past, and having been there a number of times myself, I understand something, at least, of the conditions on the ground. So what we need is political stability, what we need is an effective set of security forces, both police and army, and what we also need on top of that is the prospect for development through reasonable government at the provincial level. And again, our province where we share responsibility, Oruzgan, that is what we're seeking to do, at those three levels.

It's a classic staw man tactic. You would be hard pressed to find a single respectable commentator who thinks it is possible to create a 'Jeffersonian democracy' in Afghanistan. But with that rhetorical flourish, Rudd positions himself as a realist among utopians.

But how realistic is he, really? Take, for instance, his criterion for 'an effective set of security forces, both police and army'. GEN McChrystal's leaked memo says Afghanistan needs a total security force of 400,000. Funding and training a force like that will be a burden for the coalition for years to come, but the problems go much deeper. An estimated 90% of the Afghan Army is illiterate, meaning the Coalition will have to first educate those men to a basic level before it can train them as soldiers or police.

Even if that project succeeds, effective security forces are more a threat than a resource if the central government that controls them is corrupt and illegitimate. So improving governance and democratic accountability are also natural outgrowths of Rudd's seemingly limited aims.