Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The story of the boat, or, a tale of the Afghan winter

One of the arguments against going into Afghanistan given before the war started was that many people in Afghanistan were dependant on foreign aid relief and that the winter that year was predicted to be extra hard. If war was going on the foreign aid workers would not be able to get in and the potential would be there for many, many people to die. Well, it turns out that the winter wasn't as hard as was predicted and that there wasn't an extreme humanitarian crisis caused by the winter. So it was an overblown concern, something that people on the left exagerrated in order to try to stop the war from starting, or so you'd think from reading people who pointed out the disparity. The scenario reminds me of one that a philosophy professor outlined in a class I was in a while ago.

Say you have a boat, or even better a steamboat. This boat has been cited by inspectors as being a wreck, with enough problems that there's a significant chance of it going under. It's also a passenger boat. By the way, for purposes of anticipating possible objections, the opinion wasn't based on faulty intelligence. Now, the captain of the boat has declared that he knows it's seaworthy because God has told him it was and that since this information is coming from a higher source people shouldn't worry about it. He somehow convinces the authorities that it might really be safe and takes a load of passengers along his regular route, which goes from one side of a lake to another. It makes it without any problems.

Now, the question is this: does the success of the voyage retroactively mean that the people who declared the boat unsafe were wrong? Would they have been in the wrong to stop him from making the voyage with all those people?

I think that this scenario echoes what happened in Afghanistan after the invasion, in relation to the potential humanitarian crisis which could have been created by the interruption of aid. Putting the greater questions of the invasion of Afghanistan aside for a second, is it right to invade a country knowing that one of the consequences of the invasion might be a mass starvation brought on by a harsh winter and an interruption of humanitarian aid?


In other Afghanistan news, it was pointed out that in a poll taken in Afghanistan an overwhelming number of people said that the U.S. presence there was a good thing. Let me put another scenario in front of you: a group of people driving cars, albeit in native dress, randomly pull up to a house. This is how the polling in that poll was done. They ask to speak with a random number of people in the household, trying to get a mix between men and women. Once they have people who are willing to participate they then ask, albeit in these people's own languages, as the polling people note, whether or not they like the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. How much do you want to bet that these people thought that there'd be extreme consequences for them if they didn't say "Yes, we approve of the presence of the U.S. in Afghanistan"?

From ABC News

"Yet despite these and other deprivations, 77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction -- compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably.

Progress fuels these views: Despite the country's continued problems, 85 percent of Afghans say living conditions there are better now than they were under the Taliban. Eighty percent cite improved freedom to express political views. And 75 percent say their security from crime and violence has improved as well. After decades of oppression and war, many Afghans see a better life."


""Yet despite these and other deprivations, 77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction -- compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States."

Could that be because they were afraid they'd be killed or otherwise hurt if they answered in a way that they thought wouldn't please the questioners?

The implication is that we in the U.S. are 'ole puddin' heads about our country where the Afghans, who lived under the Taliban, are more in touch with reality.

When I see 77%, 80%, and 75% I think of election polls in countries with one party states.

Another poll given by the same people, who conveniently put the results under a picture of a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan playing with Afghan children, has this:

"Nine out of ten Afghans (90%) rate President Karzai positively. Attitudes toward the foreign troops in Afghanistan are also positive: 75 percent have a favorable view of US forces and 77 percent describe NATO forces as effective."

90%, eh? One party state....military occupation...asking questions about what people think of the military occupation.

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