Friday, June 23, 2006

India, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Iran: Sibling rivalry rears its ugly head

While in Afghanistan, I’m trying to get a handle on what’s going on here. “Give it up, Jane. I don’t think even the Afghans themselves have any idea.” BTW, the residents of Afghanistan are called “Afghans”. “Afghanis” is what you call their dollars.

There are a whole bunch of players in this part of the world and they are all competing with each other. It’s like sibling rivalry in a very large (and dysfunctional) family. Iran, India and Pakistan are like the big brothers and sisters, trying to be the bosses and the know-it-alls.

Then we got Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics, who are like the little sisters and brothers. And like little brothers and sisters everywhere, they are tired of being ordered around -- but are not quite big enough to prevent it from happening.

What is happening in this area reminds me of my childhood back in the 1950s, in a very conservative Republican town where divorce was a big no-no. “If you get divorced,” my mother’s lawyer told her, “you will never be invited to parties again!” So my mother and father lived in the same two-bedroom house for ten years and didn’t speak to each other.

My sister was always trying to beat me up. I was always trying to hide, escape or fight back. This area reminds me of that.

But as much as me and my sister fought, the bottom-line cause of our conflicts was always my parents – we were always vying with each other for the love (and power) they had taken away from us.

In this area, the “parents” are definitely represented by the Bush bureaucracy in America, the ultimate parental (read “colonial”) power.

“So now that we’ve made all those analogies and we are all clear on who is the big sister, parent and child,” I asked my Afghan friend, “then can you please explain to me what everyone is getting OUT of all this sibling rivalry? When India, Pakistan and Iran meddle in this area, what exactly is it that THEY want? Power? Influence? Prestige? Money? What?”

“I don’t think even THEY know what they want,” replied my friend. “Plus there are factions within each of these larger countries that are working at cross-purposes too.”

“Do these larger countries WANT Afghanistan to fail?” Did my sister WANT me to fail? Duh, yeah.

“No. I don’t think they want that. They just want to be able to boss Afghanistan around.” Yep, that definitely sounds like MY big sister. “And Afghanistan doesn’t like being bossed around.” And that definitely sounds like me.

“So. What does the Bush bureaucracy want?”

“I don’t think they even know what they want either.” And that sounds like my parents.

We’re screwed.

PS: We talked with the head of the Afghanistan Ministry of Women’s Affairs today. “We need a special budget just for women,” she said. If the Bush bureaucracy is REALLY looking for a way to strengthen Afghanistan – and not just make a profit selling guns – then this is it! Guns and armies have proven again and again to weaken Afghanistan. But when money is donated to strengthen women, civilization and community have been strengthened too.

With a minuscule budget and people often working for free, the Ministry for Women’s Affairs has opened over ONE THOUSAND local women’s councils. If you compare this with the billions of dollars that have been spent on weapons yet have failed to bring stability to the region, you definitely get more bang for your buck.