From Bogota to Kabul

Did you know that in Afghanistan the US government is pushing a poppy-spraying plan that just so happens to be opposed by such trivial figures as Hamid Karzai and "American military and intelligence officials and European diplomats in Afghanistan." Mark Kleiman, a drug policy specialists, notes that not only is this daft national security policymaking, but it's not useful as drug control policy either.

Meanwhile, take note of the broader context. Our first post-war chargé d'affairs in Afghanistan was Ryan Crocker, a diplomat with previous experience in Iran, Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon, and Middle East policy in DC. Next we got Robert Finn who has a PhD. in Near Eastern studies and had worked in Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, and Turkey. Then came Zalmay Khalilzad, also a specialist in the region and, indeed, someone who was born in Afghanistan. Then Ronald Neumann, also a near east specialist with experience all throughout the Muslim world.

Now, though, our man in Kabul is William Wood someone who, though certainly qualified to be an ambassador, has no experience or expertise in the region. Instead, our top political official in the key battleground against al-Qaeda's main qualification seems to be that his previous post was as ambassador to Colombia. Implicitly, then, the decision is being made to view Afghanistan primarily as a drug control problem rather than as a Taliban-and-al-Qaeda problem. That's just crazy.

Of course it would be one thing if our key allies in Afghanistan were telling us that drug eradication is the number one thing they need help with and could we please send them a specialist in the field. Obviously, though, that's not what's happening. The number one thing they need help with is securing the loyalty of southern Afghanistan's population, and they feel that spraying the country with chemicals that kill poppies and other agricultural products alike is going to alienate people and make their problems worse.

Photo by Flickr user ny156uk used under a Creative Commons license

Presented by

Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In