I laughed to myself when I saw a NY Times headline, suggesting that Donald Trump’s Afghanistan Address, on Monday evening, had been “Masculine”. My reaction was—Yes, with other people’s kids! I have previously revealed my contempt for so-called “Wartime Presidents”: those who avoided service themselves, while keeping their own sons home. Let the Poor go to war: What do they have to lose? DUH!
One of Trump’s key themes, on Monday evening, was that we are going to help the Afghanistan people take control of their country back. Really? Afghanistan’s government has little relevance, once you venture outside of the capital. Various Afghan presidents have often been jokingly referred to as the “Mayor of Kabul!” That seems similar to the government of Iraq, where that nation’s leaders rarely strays outside of the Green Zone!
Very poor, pre-industrial nations such as Afghanistan, rely mostly on ancient agricultural practices, barter and the common person fending for themselves, and their families. The per capita Gross Domestic Product of Afghanistan was only $594.32, in 2015. There is one other agricultural crop, however, which for some reason, just doesn’t seem to be included in the usual GDP Statistics. Poppy production!
One species of poppy, Papaver somniferum, contains the opium derivative, known as alkaloids, which is found in morphine. Such opioids are currently a major cause in drug addiction in the U. S, and in other Western nations. Afghanistan produces 555,750 acres of poppies annually, which is almost four times that of the next highest producer, Myanmar (formerly Burma), at 143,321 acres, followed by #3, Mexico, at 37, 056 acres. Would Afghan poppy growers really take money, to kill the means of their sustenance?
The poppy crop is so pervasive in Afghanistan that, after the imams warn that it is forbidden, they still take their ten percent. Perhaps tithing is just tithing, huh?
I had written previously about traveling on a dirt road, in a very remote part of (then) South Vietnam back in 1968, and realizing that that one man, working his own rice paddy, was all by himself. I could only assume that he had no idea who was ruling in Saigon, and surely, the government there knew, nor cared, little about his needs—infrastructure or personal. But he was surviving—war zone, and all!
This is how the average person survives in such poor nations. In fact, while these rural peasants are totally on their own, there are groups—somewhat like organized crime families in the West—who provide certain basic services, especially protection. The local warlords and such, always receive their pound of flesh, however, in return for their “services rendered”.
We in the West cannot adequately understand what it means to take one’s country back, especially when our very presence there might have provided the very cause for its disarray. The various groups that we assume to eradicate are not the ones causing the death and destruction that the people fear the most. And when they and/or we are gone, there will be other groups, offering to help. And that’s the way it has always been!
NOTE: Another recent blog post, “Does foreign aid really work, or is it just another form of bribery?” takes another look at the life of the average rural resident from a different perspective