Comments on: Little America: An Afghan town, an American dream and the folly of for-profit war Fri, 31 Jul 2015 03:37:49 +0000 hourly 1 By: akaRAV Mon, 04 Nov 2013 03:41:27 +0000 USAID lacks vision, clarity and understanding of the organized crime control Hekmand valley. USAID trying to convince a population of farmers to grow subsistence crops instead of Opium and Marijuana. The growers have no control over what they produce. The power is held buy the buyers and the foreign influence extended under the guise of the Taliban but in reality it is drug traffickers from Pakistan who control the area.

To use an analogy it would be going into Columbia and trying to convince the local farmers to grow more coffee instead of coca leaves for the cartels. That is completely unreasonable to expect any success. For that to succeed we’d first have to destroy the Cartels.

Well if you want the farmers of Helmand to grow more pomegranets then you need to destroy the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because they hold the gun to the growers head.

For USAID to expect success is a foolish waste of the tax-payers money.

By: BrianX Tue, 12 Jun 2012 10:22:30 +0000 one suggested correction:
the USA’s greatest asset vis-a-vis Afghanistan is the 400,000 Afghan-Americans.
While the heroes in your story have done their best, their accomplishments are pitiful, if any last a week after they depart.
But the Bush Administration was stuck on expanding Greater Israel to the Hindu Kush, or something, and would only trust fellow neocons in positions of influence.
And Obama is afraid of having his ignorance in military and foreign policy exposed, so he doubles down on stupid.

We do not exploit our greatest asset because they are Muslim, and Americans believe that all Muslims are traitors and terrorists. Our nation accordingly suffers from our moral shortcomings.

By: Thalya Mon, 04 Jun 2012 18:45:20 +0000 Jury-rigged. “Jerry-rigged” is just something people started writing when they heard “Jury-rigged” for the first time rather than reading it. Later apologists tried to connect the error to the WW2 practice of referring to German soldiers as “Jerry” without success.

By: PseudoTurtle Sun, 03 Jun 2012 22:00:47 +0000 These two passages are emblematic of US policy failures in general in attempting to “win the hearts and minds” (or whatever phrase is in vogue these days) of the local population.

This pattern first emerged in Vietnam — not counting Japan after WWII, which is now falling apart, as well, as US geopolitical power in the region declines — and has been US political/military policy since.

It is a policy with “fatal flaws”, primarily because we try to change local customs by “Americanizing” them, instead of attempting to understand what is important TO THEM IN THEIR CULTURE.


“A clear pattern emerged. When massive international efforts were made, real progress emerged. The provincial capital and other large towns in central Helmand grew more secure and thrived economically, and narcotics cultivation dropped by one-third.

In June 2004, accompanied by eight Afghan security guards, I drove into Lashkar Gah with Grader and found a bustling town of 100,000 people filled with shops and open-air markets. But the prosperity was illusory. The boom was largely fueled by Helmand’s opium trade, which by then had been spreading across the province for two and a half years since the fall of the Taliban.”


I wonder how many Afghans would agree with you that their prosperity is “illusory”?

Your article IS a tragedy, but not only for the reasons you state, but for the fact that the US has learned NOTHING since Vietnam.

By: paintcan Sun, 03 Jun 2012 17:15:11 +0000 I should have said – “because of industrial scaled production and super scaled distribution”

I want to add – the Afghans don’t have extensive educations or even general literacy and yet to adapt to modern techniques we expect them to become college educated with years of office or factory floor experience almost overnight?

By: paintcan Sun, 03 Jun 2012 17:06:41 +0000 This was a good article and a lot of us already suspected this.

I don’t understand why The USA insists on building North American housing types that are more suitable for countries with vast timber resources than they are for Middle Eastern countries that don’t have them.

The Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy, wrote some excellent books on the advisability of adapting local materials and traditional skills to create affordable, well designed communities with limited need for modern building materials. The importation of building materials
is expensive for developing countries and ignores the resources they already have. It also harms their ability to create local support industries to meet their own employment needs, without going deep into debt, or having to construct large industrial facilities simply to provide homes and businesses for themselves.

The American way of life is more suitable for north America. And it is not at all sustainable. Americans no longer build with local materials and it is a pity. House type and construction techniques across the country could exist anywhere in the country and tend always to look alike. But the very thing that attracts visitors to historic areas is their tendency to reflect local materials, techniques and design motifs. All of that regional flavor became very expensive because of industrial scaled production and super scaled production.

Afghanistan has been building masonry structures for thousands of years and in a hot climate they make sense. It keeps the interior cool. American tract house development tends to ignore climate and substitutes mechanical HVAC equipment to the same job that narrow streets shaded by high wall building frontage, narrow alleys, limited window opens, shaded pergolas or arcades and layered spaces can do without the need for massive amounts of electrical power.

The USA has one of the most wasteful and bone headed ways of life on the planet. And we persist in exporting our very provincial notions to far older societies when, in fact, their traditional building techniques tend to represent the more sensible approach. Plumbing and modern sewerage systems would be an improvement in many places, no doubt, but the older societies could be encouraged to continue the use of craft traditions they already have and even to start to develop those for export too. It is always expensive to do any handwork in this country because machine production undercuts all of it and the buildings are becoming down right boring.

There are numerous ways to build decent and even beautiful buildings and homes that don’t automatically required 2×4’s or even poured reinforced concrete. Steel rebar is very expensive. They shouldn’t even be looking at industrial building products except for limited home grown applications.

I am very surprised the Bolivian cobblestone idea didn’t catch on unless it was a matter of trying to do that for major long distance roads? That is a very expensive surface treatment in this country and isn’t used except for high-end development projects. But they last forever and the blocks are always interchangeable and reusable.
It’s more suitable for older types of dense urban fabric.

It sounds very like the billions spend on Afghanistan was wasted as a inappropriate tour de force and as soon as the funding dries up, it will all wither and die.

By: running Sat, 02 Jun 2012 20:42:40 +0000 this story is the same as the one when the thirteen colonies were called little America and the American Indian was relocated to make way for big America

By: majkmushrm Sat, 02 Jun 2012 17:38:18 +0000 Impressively good read. Having knocked around the world a bit (including the Middle East), my observation of people and places is that the people who live someplace have a good idea of what they want and don’t want. Frequently what they don’t want is someone who neither understands their culture or customs to tell them what to do (regardless of what they say to your face). This story really documents American insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We take it upon ourselves to bring the “benefits” of what currently passes for civilization to poor benighted peoples who were generally fairly happy before we showed up. All of the wondrous things we do eventually fall to decay and neglect because (a) there wasn’t that much support for them from the population and (b) the local population lacked the technical skill and understanding to sustain them on their own.

Yet we continue to insist on doing things FOR these populations instead of letting them do things for themselves.

By: JamesDAllen Sat, 02 Jun 2012 17:12:44 +0000 “In 2004, 60 Americans managed roughly $500 million, or $80 million each.

By: maitai Sat, 02 Jun 2012 14:12:11 +0000 It is not just the USAID federal agencythat has failed th american people is carrying out its mission.. it is happening at every federal agency, not just thoes involved in overseas operatins. … I work in a HUD field office and all I see now are managers more concerned about impressing their bosses back in Washington with embellished reports than than making a difference in the communities where the federal dollars are spent..

There has been a cultural change from the top down for the worse in ALL of the well meaning federal programs..