Writing in The Washington Post, Craig Charney and James Dobbins cite recent polling data.
…Afghans in general are much more optimistic about their future than we Americans are about ours. Fully 59 percent of Afghans think their country is moving in the right direction, the most recent published poll found in November, vs. 28 percent of Americans who feel that way now about the United States. Asked a version of Ronald Reagan’s classic question — Are you better off today than five years ago? — 63 percent of Afghans say yes. In America, consumer confidence has edged up in recent months but is still down 40 points since 2007.
Afghan support for American forces had fallen a bit over the past year but was still at 62 percent, much better than the 31 percent of Americans who support troop commitment. The Taliban, by contrast, was viewed unfavorably by nine in 10 Afghans — while eight of 10 Afghans expressed confidence in the Afghan National Army.
How to explain this surprising (to Americans) optimism on the part of the Afghan population? One merely has to look at some of the underlying realities.
Since 2001, when U.S. troops overthrew the Taliban, Afghanistan’s gross domestic product has tripled. This puts Afghanistan on a par with China in its double-digit economic growth rate, though from a much lower base.
In 2001 there were 1 million Afghan children in school — almost all boys. This year more than 8 million children will attend school — a third of them girls. Afghanistan’s dismal literacy rate will triple over the next decade as these children complete their education.
Now, 80 percent of Afghans have access to basic health-care facilities, almost twice as many as in 2005. Infant mortality has dropped by a third, and adult longevity is rising.
Perhaps most remarkable, half of Afghan families now have telephones, thanks to the cellphone explosion since 2001. Almost no one had a phone a decade ago.
If Afghans are more optimistic about the future than Americans are, it is because they make their judgments the same way Americans do, by comparing their present circumstances to their past and projecting that trend forward. The difference is that most Afghans are better off now than in the recent past, while most Americans are not.
Update: But this is ugly and awful.
Further update: Due to certain people abusing their comment privileges, this thread has been closed.