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Democracy on the March


Remember when a whole bunch of reactionaries suddenly discovered women’s rights as a club to bash people who opposed the high-cost replacement of a secular dictatorship with a low-capacity quasi-theocracy that would be at the mercy of sectarian militias? Oddly, I don’t think we’re going to be hearing much about the country we forgot about so George Bush could play with his shiny new Iraq toy from these quarters:

ONE MORNING late last year, Setareh’s students found a landmine in their classroom. It was hidden under a bag in the mud-brick building of the first girls school in her rural Afghan village.

The landmine was not, of course, unexpected. The Taliban had posted a note in the village mosque a few weeks earlier, ordering all girls schools to close. And another “night letter” left at a nearby school had warned: “Respected Afghans: Leave the culture and traditions of the Christians and Jews. Do not send your girls to school.” Otherwise, it said, the mujahedin of the Islamic Emirates, the name of the former Taliban government, “will conduct their robust military operations in the daylight.”


Over just four days in December, armed men shot and killed a teacher, a school gatekeeper and a male student in Helmand province. An instructor had been warned to stop teaching girls and boys in the same classroom. In January, armed men in Zabul province beheaded a high school headmaster in front of his children. By March, half of the schools in the province had closed. Afghan education officials say that attacks now average one school a day.

The Taliban is responsible for many of these attacks, but local warlords seeking to further their power and criminal groups (often involved in Afghanistan’s booming narcotics trade) also are targeting schools. Setareh’s village is far from Taliban areas in Wardak province, which is controlled by warlords ostensibly loyal to the government. But a district official told me that it was the local warlord’s thugs who planted the landmine. The official was afraid even to say the warlord’s name out loud. The landmine was safely removed, but Setareh has moved her lessons to a private courtyard, and she asked me not to print her real name.

The Afghan government, which depends on international support, needs a strategy to monitor, prevent and respond to attacks on education. It must sack local commanders hostile to the education of girls, strengthen Afghanistan’s feeble police force and order it to investigate, arrest and prosecute those responsible for threats or attacks.

Sounds like it’s time for some 24-year-old Heritage Foundation hacks to hand out copies of Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Meanwhile, as the Talking Dog notes, we’re also seeing the folly of the Friedman/Leeden “overturn the chess board” theory of randomly invading countries that pose no threat to the United States. Dynamics can, in fact, change for the worse:

The fog of war makes it impossible for me or anyone else to determine whether or not Israel’s war against Hezbollah is succeeding of failing militarily. But it’s painfully obvious that Israel’s attempt to influence Lebanese politics in its favor is an absolute catastrophe right now.

The (second in a decade) attack on Qana that killed scores of civilians has all but cemented the Lebanese public and Hezbollah together.

Cable news reports that 82 percent of Lebanese now support Hezbollah. Prime Minister Fouad Seniora – whatever his real opinion in private – is now closer to openly supporting Hezbollah in public than he has ever been.

The March 14 Movement (the Cedar Revolution) is, at best, in a coma if not outright dead.

Hezbollah was popular while Israel occupied South Lebanon. When Israel left Lebanon it finally became possible for Hezbollah’s power to be strictly relegated to it own little corner because support for the organization evaporated.

Now that Israel is back, Hezbollah’s support is back.

But the next Strat-O-Matic board we flip over will be the charm!

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