Former President George W. Bush used to talk about the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” He was talking about education in the United States.
But these days, that phrase could easily refer to the U.S. government’s attitudes towards Afghanistan. Just look at the following phrases from American officials this year.
“We never promised Afghans a perfect democracy,” “Afghans have lower expectations in terms of security,” “we have to recognise Afghanistan will always remain a poor, conservative land with a low-level insurgency,” “our goal in Afghanistan is simply to prevent al Qaeda using its territory to attack us.”
All perfectly reasonable in many ways, but hardly a compelling manifesto to win Afghan hearts and minds.
The concern is that there has been such a concerted effort to lower the bar in Afghanistan this year, and to downplay what is achievable, that failure sometimes seems almost inevitable.