Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Ten Thousand Village War

Detail from Asterix in Corsica.

So in the recent Afghan parliamentary elections, widely derided in NATO, there were to the nearest order of magnitude, about 10,000 polling stations. There are about 30million people in Afghanistan, and about 10 million registered voters, again, roughly, which works out to about 1,000 Afghans per polling station. It seems about right. This of course takes no account of similar villages in Pakistan.

As I understand Greg Mortenson, the key to assisting people in central Asia is to provide what they ask for, which often turns out to be for schools, for girls also, and that the village elders are the people to request the help and make it all happen. As I understand Mortenson's operating methods, there are three main rules:

1. Provide the help that's asked for;

2. Never accept money from the military;

3. Always travel unarmed.

All that remains is for NATO to leave in some organized way that minimizes suffering and loss of life. It doesn't have to be overnight, and there will be many in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran who will provide very genuine, helpful advice. The UN can organize the meetings. The crucial factors are that NATO soldiers have to leave, and the UN has to make it clear the Afghans are not being abandoned. Well-meaning white people don't have to organize anything except themselves.