As the popular song of the ‘60s said, “When will they ever learn?”
The United States yet again failed to learn that the rest of the world is different, and that we cannot impose our systems, ethics and political processes on others.
In short, we cannot change cultures.
Chairing a government advisory panel in Dubai about 12 years ago, I asked my Emerati hosts, some visiting Iraqis, and an Afghan what they thought would happen if we left Afghanistan immediately.
They all replied: “The government will fail and it will devolve to civil war.”
“And,” I then asked, “what if we leave in five or even 10 years?”
With a population that is 65% illiterate; with a centuries-old tribal-centered culture; with a long legacy of bribery and corruption; with no sense of a modern state; with deep seated religious differences and values — it was beyond foolhardy to think of establishing any semblance of a Western democratic government.
We finally left.
The Afghan president fled his own country. Their soldiers gave up their arms for a few dollars and went home. Their military collapsed like a punctured balloon.
It was a war that should have ended 19 years ago. We could have lodged a punitive expeditionary force after 9/11, to punish them for their support of Bin Laden, then left and said, “If you do it again, we’ll be back!”
But, no, we took to naïve nation building.
“When will they ever learn?”