Skip to comments.Afghanistan elections bode well for Iraq
Posted on 09/30/2005 11:13:38 AM PDT by knighthawk
Some time ago, the chief correspondent for one of our country's leading newspapers reported: "Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past, the ominous word 'quagmire' has begun to haunt conversations among government officials and students of foreign policy. . . . Is the United States facing another stalemate on the other side of the world? . . . Echoes of Vietnam are unavoidable."
One might at first suspect that the selection comes from a recent article about Iraq. In fact, it was written about Afghanistan -- only a month after war there began and only two weeks before the Taliban was driven from Afghanistan's capital into hiding.
Earlier this month, millions of citizens and thousands of candidates participated in parliamentary and provincial elections that were unprecedented in Afghanistan's history. It follows last year's presidential election, in which 8 million Afghans -- 40 percent of them women -- chose moderation and democracy over extremism and tyranny. This is historic. And it is important to consider the lessons from Afghanistan about the value of perseverance and the appeal of moderation over extremism.
In the first month of military operations in Afghanistan, many commentators and politicians were quick to offer predictions of catastrophe, quagmire and doom: That the mountains would be too daunting; that the population was suspicious of foreigners; that no war plan could prevail over what was called "an elusive and hydra-headed foe"; that the coalition would not succeed in the country where over 150,000 Soviet troops had failed after years of trying and losing thousands of Russian lives, and that even if the Taliban were ousted, anarchy, dictatorship, or civil war would surely follow.
While the outcome was never certain, some of those concerns revealed a misunderstanding of the mission, the enemy and the Afghan people. Others were well-founded, but overcome by the determined perseverance of the coalition and the courage of the Afghan people.
The result, today, is a country where annual economic growth has been above 20 percent since January of 2002, with a stable currency and rising foreign direct investment; more than 4.8 million children are enrolled in school, the largest number in Afghan history; about 95 percent of known heavy weapons have been collected by proper authorities; some 60,000 militia forces are disarmed and demobilized; the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police are growing by the thousands, and President Karzai's "Strengthening Peace" program is reducing the power of warlords and persuading once hostile elements to disarm and join in Afghanistan's political and economic progress.
The most demonstrable sign of progress, perhaps, is that Afghans are voting with their feet. Some 3.6 million refugees have returned to Afghanistan -- possibly the largest repatriation operation in history. Yesterday's refugees are today's citizens -- and voters.
Those voters are demonstrating again today that there exists no conflict between Western values and Muslim values. What exists is a conflict within the Muslim faith -- between majorities in every country who desire freedom, and a lethal minority intent on denying freedom to others and re-establishing a caliphate.
But Afghans have shown a dogged desire for freedom when confronted by attempted intimidation from violent extremists. In one reported instance last year, terrorists stopped a bus, inspected each passenger's belongings, found men who had registered to vote, and killed all but one of them. In another, they murdered women registering voters. For over a year, terrorists have done everything in their power to prevent millions from participating in two free elections in Afghanistan. And today they have failed -- again.
Western skeptics said that Afghans were not ready for freedom, as if some inalienable rights are too precious for those too different from us. Today those same folks question Iraq's potential for democracy -- and call for the coalition to retreat. However, with every vote today, brave Afghans -- like the Iraqi, Lebanese, Kyrgyz, Georgian and Ukrainian voters of the past two years -- are proving that when given the choice, people choose to be free.
To be sure, difficulties in Afghanistan remain. Fighting continues. But in the country where a violent theocracy had bankrupted their nation, brutalized their people and harbored the planners of Sept. 11 -- in the country once infamous for beatings, bombings, and beheadings -- Afghanistan is now a nation that protects women and imprisons terrorists, rather than protecting terrorists and imprisoning women. The source of that success was perseverance. And that is an important lesson in a world where the defense of liberty in America increasingly depends on liberty's advance abroad.
Donald H. Rumsfeld is secretary of defense.
Wonder when free and fair elections will ever come to Philadelphia...
Hey Iraqi's! It's on you now. You better step up to the plate and get it done......for all of us.
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