War etc

“America must stay”

George Packer of The New Yorker has written an article about a liberal vision for US foreign policy which is so full of good sense that I hope it finds its way onto John Kerry’s nightstand.

Even those whose eyelids feel heavy at the thought of such an article should at least read the opening paragraphs:

In December, 2001, after the fall of the Taliban, President Bush asked Senator Joseph Biden, a Delaware Democrat who was then the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to draft a legislative proposal for winning the minds of young people around the Muslim world. The following month, Biden went to Kabul, where he toured a new school—one that was bitterly cold, with plastic sheeting over the windows and a naked bulb hanging from the ceiling. When the visit was over and Biden started to leave, a young girl stood ramrod straight at her desk and said, “You cannot leave. You cannot leave.”

“I promise I’ll come back,” Biden told her.

“You cannot leave,” the girl insisted. “They will not deny me learning to read. I will read, and I will be a doctor like my mother. I will. America must stay.”

As Biden put it in a recent interview, the Afghan girl was telling him, “Don’t fuck with me, Jack. You got me in here. You said you were going to help me. You better not leave me now.”

Biden did come up with a proposal to build, staff and supply a thousand schools in Afghanistan. But as Packer writes:

The idea went nowhere. Biden’s Democratic colleagues didn’t get behind it, and very soon the Administration moved on. The most important front in the worldwide struggle largely dropped from Washington’s view, and the Senator stopped receiving invitations to the White House.

I won’t even try to summarize the rest of Packer’s piece, but there’s plenty in it to make almost everyone– left and right– uncomfortable. I hate to repeat that dread and overused blog phrase, and I promise not to do so again for a long time, but: read it.