Afghanistan Good Enough: If All Else Fails, Lower Your Standards
If all else fails, lower your standards.
This has been my philosophy for years. My wife likes to joke it’s how she picked me; instead of prince charming, I’m “prince somewhat-charming.” So you can imagine how delighted I am that the United States of America and its NATO military allies have decided to apply that philosophy to US foreign policy in Afghanistan.
They're calling their version “Afghanistan Good Enough.”
The notion of lowering ones standards to get out of a human mess is, of course, not my idea. The idea resides in the Pragmatic wing of philosophy and shares something with the Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer, which is attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr, who stole it from the Greek slave and stoic philosopher Epictetus, who probably borrowed it from some poor slob in chains breaking stones in a quarry in Asia Minor.
Here’s how Alcoholics Anonymous phrased the idea:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
The point is, if you’re struggling with a monkey on your back -- whether it’s an addiction to booze or keeping up with the Myth of American Exceptionalism -- your life will be more serene and you will be more content with yourself if you drop the unrealistic expectations you’ve set for yourself or that someone else has set for you.
So after ten years of trying to control Afghanistan militarily, US/NATO war planners have lowered their standards and, with the help of their top-of-the-line, multi-billion-dollar public relations wing, they came up with the stirring slogan “Afghanistan Good Enough.”
On one hand, this is a good thing. After running a macho campaign on war in Afghanistan to cover its right flank and get elected, the Obama administration has realized the can-do enterprising attitude that defines American Exceptionalism can’t turn Afghanistan into a Jeffersonian democracy. It may have sounded good for a while, but it just isn’t working.
There’s the rugged terrain that makes centralized government impossible, and there's the deep-rooted corruption. There’s also the deep-rooted corruption of the United States to recognize and the need to focus on the economic debacle at home, a disaster fed by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and a debauch of deregulation. In a word, Plutocracy.
The problem with “Afghanistan Good Enough” is that it suggests the United States is finally leaving Afghanistan. One can be forgiven for thinking this because that’s exactly what was projected out of the NATO conference in Chicago. And in some sense it’s true. But we live in an incredibly complex society whose leadership is still caught in the headlights of 9/11, and every day seems to reveal more and more compromises with liberty attributable to four current obsessions: Security, Secrecy, Surveillance and Subterfuge. It’s a runaway train on which the average citizen doesn’t stand a chance.