Afghanistan's WTF moment

by phil on Sunday Sep 12, 2010 8:12 PM

Failed "science cities" in Russia and elsewhere

Interesting post by Vivek Wadhwa about failed "science cities:"

A few months ago, I wrote about why I believed that Russia's planned "science city" was destined for failure, in my BusinessWeek column. I predicted that it would follow the path of the hundreds of cluster development projects before it. Political leaders would hold press conferences to claim credit for advancing science and technology; management consultants would earn hefty fees; real-estate barons would reap fortunes; and as always happens, taxpayers would be left holding the bag. You don't read about the failures of tech clusters all over the world, in countries like Japan, Egypt, Malaysia, and in many regions of the United States. That's because they die slow, silent deaths. And that is the way nearly all government-sponsored innovation efforts go.
I think the best thing that central planning can do is to take an emergent phenomena and fan the flames of it. Austin didn't invent its live music scene (Willie Nelson did), but as soon as it saw it was growing, it went whole-hog and sponsored the hell out of it. Austin's tourism board called the city the Live Music Capital of the world, and supported live music events all over Austin. Same with Austin's video game industry. It was just a matter of luck that Origin, one of the largest early pioneers in video game design, was founded in Austin. When it broke up, a lot of ex-Origin employees formed other game companies in Austin. Since then, Austin has created incentives for people to build more games in Austin. The proper idea is to accelerate a good idea, not try to conjure one out of thin air.

The anti-anti-Muslim sentiment

I've been floating this theory that in Obama and Petraeus's mind, the War in Afghanistan is already over, and that this surge is just to appease Republicans. I believe this because the strategy in Afghanistan since Obama's West Point speech nine months ago, has been about reconciliation. In other words, the War in Afghanistan is not a war at all, but a slowly evolving truce, which the Obama Administration hopes will break in its favor.

Having said that, there's this interesting counter-narrative to the Mosque controversy Everybody of any official importance is saying how Americans should denounce Koran-burnings because it threatens the safety of American troops abroad. Which reveals further the true colors of this so-called war. It's not a war if we're trying extra careful to be sensitive to our so-called enemies. We're trying to nation-build with pro-American Afghans, and so the effort in Afghanistan is more like an exercise in military partnership. The Afghanistan government is essentially our ally in our attempt to root out violence in their neighborhood.

When you have real enemies, you want to demonize them. Did the US quash any efforts to ridicule Germans or the Viet Cong? No, we wanted Americans to be fired up. In the Afghanistan effort, we want Americans to support the troops, sort of, without extensive flag-waving or jingoism. It's understandable that such nuance is lost on some uneducated hicks protesting the mosque, which is just a YMCA with a Sufi-Muslim prayer room, built next to some porn shops and a McDonald's, which so happens to be a few blocks from Ground Zero.

In other words, you can't perfectly have it both ways. You can't be calling it a war without getting some Americans fired up in some generalized-hatey-feelings for the enemy.

Westboro Church burns the Koran and..

I really like the turn of events on this Koran-burning issue. While the originally planned Koran-burners suspended their plan, I love how the Westboro Baptist Church picked up the mantle burned the Koran AND the American Flag. That's like the most politically balanced thing I've ever seen them do. Instead of inspiring anti-American protests in Afghanistan, the Westboro Church has inspired a educational WTF moment. "Yo Ahmed, did you read this? Check it out, they're still burning Kora--wait, um, and their own flags, too?--those Americans are weird."

Which can probably be used as a symbol for the whole war effort.

Creative Commons License