Social capital

Democracy Now!

Democracy Now! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social capital makes democracy possible, and its absence makes democracy difficult as in the US now or impossible as in Afghanistan. This quotation is from Comparative Politics, Using MicroCase Explorit by Michael K. Le Roy.

“Social capital is the reserve of goodwill and trust citizens have toward on another that allows them to engage in democratic behaviors. In a study of Italy, Putnam theorizes that democracy works best when citizens with different backgrounds and perspectives can trust one another. On the face of it, this makes sense. If you generally trust people, you will be more inclined to tolerate election results that do not work in your favor. While you may not agree with the decisions of your government, if you trust that people will not harm you, you are much more likely to allow them to govern if they are properly chosen by the community as a whole. Social capital in and of itself, though, does not necessarily precede democratic behavior. Democracy is usually very risky business if you are part of a group that feels threatened, so a track record of benevolent government and loyal opposition can help to build the social capital necessary for democracy.”

Declare victory

Afghanistan

Afghanistan (Photo credit: Ricymar Fine Art Photography)

As we did in Vietnam, I think that we should declare victory in Afghanistan and withdraw. We have driven al-Qaeda out of the country and into Pakistan, and we have punished the Afghan people enough for harboring bin Laden. After we withdraw, sooner or later, the Afghans themselves will decide their own government. It may include the Taliban or it may be a coalition of warlords. The Afghan people are tired of war and will welcome peace, any peace. The sooner we withdraw, the sooner they can start to sort out their own problems. We cannot impose a solution; only the Afghans can decide Afghanistan’s future.

Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Board o...

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Board of Governors, The Federal Reserve Board, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The answer is hell yes. We are out of Iraq and we are drawing down our troops in Afghanistan. Bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is on the run. The economy is improving slowly from the Great Recession. Too many are still unemployed and the housing bubble is not over. Who shall we thank for the state of the economy? Republicans in Congress who have attempted to block every one of President Obama’s initiatives.

We can rightly blame GW Bush and Alan Greenspan for not preventing the Great Recession and the housing bubble. After 3-4 years, Barack has rightly taken ownership of the economy. He acted to prevent it from becoming the Great Depression 2. It seems that most people don’t realize how bad the economic situation was and capable of becoming. Too many believe the GOP mantra that it is Obama’s fault, while the GOP are doing everything in their power to prolong the slow recovery until after the election. It is the same strategy used by the CIA under Nixon’s direction to overthrow the Allende government in Chile in 1971. Now the people of the US are learning what it is like to be on the wrong end of economic warfare.

Afghanistan revisited

Korean War Memorial

Korean War Memorial (Photo credit: Cocoabiscuit)

The US is training Afghan security forces so that our fighting men and women can be brought home. The Afghans are slated to be responsible for the security of their country. There are at least two problems.

The Afghan security force is larger than the country can afford to maintain.

Members of the Afghan security force are regularly, once or twice a week, killing or wounding their US or allied forces trainers. They are saying that they don’t want us in their country and our withdrawal can’t come soon enough.

Thinking back over recent US history, I can’t think of a single significant war that the US has won since WW2. The Korean war was a stalemate; Vietnam was a loss. Iraq was either a stalemate or a loss depending on how the future turns out. I expect to put Afghanistan in the loss column, stalemate would be an unexpected victory. Grenada and Panama don’t count because our opponents were way overmatched. There is something very wrong here with our leadership, both within the Pentagon and without, if we continue to wage war and haven’t won since 1945, 67 years ago.

On the plus side, we did win the Cold War, but it was waged without firing a shot. We are losing/have lost the war on drugs and the war on poverty. It’s too early to tell if we will win the Global War on Terror.

Eric Newby

The four-masted barque Moshulu, the ship on wh...

The four-masted barque Moshulu, the ship on which Eric Newby sailed. She is today a restaurant ship at Philadelphia, PA, United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eric Newby was a legendary travel writer, sort of your father’s Paul Theroux. He wrote several books which most people have heard of, if not read. If you have not read Newby, I recommend him highly. He wrote The Last Grain Race, about sailing a ship from Britain to Australia and return. It complements the books of Joseph Conrad very well.

I am currently reading A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, about mountain climbing in Afghanistan before all the recent wars. I am also reading Round Ireland in Low Gear, which is the perfect complement for any of Dervla Murphy‘s bicycling books.  Slowly Down the Ganges is his account of exploration in India. He also wrote about war in Italy in 1943 in Love and War in the Apennines and travelling around the Mediterranean Sea starting in Naples and travelling clockwise in On the Shores of the Mediterranean.