For the last two days I’ve been thinking of a new Marshall plan, this time to help Central Asia out of the misery that fosters fanaticism. The original plan was a business plan to increase the ability of European countries to import from the US. And it was a political plan, meant to assure the stability of the region and make sure it would weight with the US in the balance of power against the USSR. Realpolitik doesn’t have to be unethical, while it’s necessary to confront our ideals to the gruesome reality. Realistic and fair solutions can work if they’re sustainable in the long term.
Here’s how started the speech Marshall gave at Harvard University back in 1947:
"I need not tell you, gentlemen, that the world situation is very serious. That must be apparent to all intelligent people. I think one difficulty is that the problem is one of such enormous complexity that the very mass of facts presented to the public by press and radio make it exceedingly difficult for the man in the street to reach a clear appraisement of the situation. Furthermore, the people of this country are distant from the troubled areas of the earth and it is hard for them to comprehend the plight and consequent reactions of the long-suffering peoples, and the effect of those reactions on their governments in connection with our efforts to promote peace in the world."
I dream of a winning proposition, strong but civilized, that we would make to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Sure, we’ll need the soldiers: the enemy is elusive, the terrain is mountainous and the ground is rotten with landmines. But let’s address the disease too, not just its symptoms. A comprehensive package would help these countries relaunch their basic economy, health and education systems, and agriculture (as a positive side-effect, we could lower their opium output).
Terrorism grows out of poverty, fear and ignorance. We won’t suppress the former without alleviating the later. Terrorists don’t have anything to lose, so pain and death (for them, and inflicted upon others) is not a problem anymore. If we get more people to enjoy some of our prosperity, it will be more difficult for fanatics to recruit people willing to give up their life for their cause.
But if we come only to dictate and destroy, we’ll sow more seeds of violence that we’ll have to reap sooner or later. Bringing peace is an eternal task. It takes ambition, vision, and a willingness to commit for the long run.
Update: someone else already came up with that kind of thinking.
Update: Will Pakistan Jump to US Demands?, on double standards: "To the victims of the attack and their relatives one can offer our deep sympathy as one does to people who the US government has victimised. But to accept that somehow an American life is worth more than that of a Rwandan, a Yugoslav, a Vietnamese, a Korean, a Japanese, a Palestinian…that is unacceptable."
09/21/01 update: read Truth or Consequences for what is IMHO muddy analogy-based pseudo-thinking about consequentialism, not to speak of the author’s deep lack of understanding of geopolitics, starting with the way he mentions the situation in former Yugoslavia. Besides, nobody said we had to accept or apologize for terrorist acts. A Slate reader named Dilan Esper came with counter-arguments. There’s a related MeFi thread too.
09/24/01 update: Blaming the victim.
09/24/02 update: at the end of this speech, Al Gore opposes the Marshall plan to what’s (not) been done in Afghanistan so far.
Another comment on what I wrote a year ago. It seems Al Quaida recruited among middle and higher classes. But poor nations that are not even able to police themselves give them the leeway to organize their dirty business, as well as fund it through drug dealing. Seems Afghanistan is still a big heroin exporter.
05/21/03 update: Faux Pax Americana.
11/09/03 update: [Foreign Affairs] What Harry Truman Can Teach George Bush.