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Argument: Success in Afgh. aided by history of statehood/civil-society

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Peter Bergen. "Winning the good war. Why Afghanistan is not Obama's Vietnam". Washington Monthly. July/August 2009: "An assertion that deserves a similarly hard look is the argument that nation building in Afghanistan is doomed because the country isn’t a nation-state, but rather a jury-rigged patchwork of competing tribal groupings. In fact, Afghanistan is a much older nation-state than, say, Italy or Germany, both of which were only unified in the late nineteenth century. Modern Afghanistan is considered to have emerged with the first Afghan empire under Ahmad Shah Durrani in 1747, and so has been a nation for decades longer than the United States. Accordingly, Afghans have a strong sense of nationhood.

What they have had just as long, however, is a weak central state. The last king of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah, who reigned from 1933 to 1973, presided lightly over a country in a time that Afghans recall with great nostalgia as one of relative peace and prosperity. Today President Hamid Karzai similarly presides over a weak central government. Critics contend that President Karzai is unable or unwilling to fight the epic corruption in his government, and joke that he is only the "mayor of Kabul." This criticism is largely accurate, but misses the fact that Karzai is still a somewhat popular leader in Afghanistan. Fifty-two percent of Afghans say that the president is doing a good job, only 15 percent less than the number of Americans who say the same thing about Obama—and that is eight years after Karzai assumed the leadership of a country in which any honeymoon period has long since evaporated. Afghans are also wildly enthusiastic about participating in real politics. In the 2004 presidential election, more than 80 percent of them turned out to vote, an accomplishment Americans haven’t been able to claim since the late nineteenth century."


David Brooks. "The Afghan Imperative". New York Times. September 24, 2009: "while many Afghan institutions are now dysfunctional, there is a base on which to build. The Afghan Army is a successful institution. Local villages have their own centuries-old civic institutions. The National Solidarity Program was able to build development councils in 23,000 villages precisely because the remnants of civil society still exist."

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