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Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 07:55 | SYDNEY
Saturday 19 Aug 2017 | 07:55 | SYDNEY

Afghanistan: Scott Burchill replies

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21 January 2008 09:46

Scott Burchill has this reply to my criticism of his recent op-ed

Why is non-intervention Burkean? Or conservative? The advocates of war in Iraq and Afghanistan are self-declared conservatives — Bush, Howard et al. The most astute critics of US interventions have always come from Gabriel Kolko, Noam Chomsky and others on the left. You're a bit confused.

As for 'constructive solutions for Afghanistan', what makes you think there are any? I don't have any answers and no-one else does, but I suspect the country has had about as much help from the West as it can bear. Time to leave them alone, I suspect.

Burke was sceptical of all government activism because it led to just the kind of unintended consequences Burchill describes in his op-ed. True, Bush and Howard call themselves conservatives, but it is a mystery for the ages why those who, in domestic affairs, are most sceptical about the ability of government to do good, should have decided that they could fix Iraq and Afghanistan with huge doses of government activism. As for solutions in Afghanistan...

I was genuinely disappointed that Burchill ended his op-ed with a throw-away line about 'diplomacy and compromise' being the answer to Afghanistan's ills. But the idea that we can do best by doing least deserves serious study. The sunk costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan operations are a huge cognitive barrier to clear thinking about this issue — we can see this in US debates, where those who favour the long haul argue that we ought to stay so that it cannot be said American troops have died for nothing. We need to get past that kind of emotionalism to ensure we do have a viable strategy.

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