As you know, I’m a big fan of Zakaria and I agree mostly with his policies about international affairs. He has recently come up with an interesting article about how to deal with the troubles in Afghanistan: we buy off our enemies.
The focus must shift from nation building to dealmaking. The central problem in Afghanistan is that the Pashtuns, who make up 45 percent of the country and almost 100 percent of the Taliban, do not feel empowered. We need to start talking to them, whether they are nominally Taliban or not. Buying, renting, or bribing Pashtun tribes should become the centerpiece of America’s stabilization strategy, as it was Britain’s when it ruled Afghanistan.
Granted, this has worked in the past, but history also shows that another group just gets infuriated from it. We helped out the Afghans in the early 1980s and the result was the Taliban. We helped out Israel and many radical groups form from it. It seems that the answer is to not only educate the country, but to do some extreme nation-building in the surrounding countries which seems like too much work. Thus, we must form stronger allies within the region. The talking to our enemies is something I’ll agree with on Zakaria, but to bribe them seems to bring up more troubles.
However, international politics is much like chess. By bribing the tribes, we’re essentially telling the enemy “your move.” Their next move can be weak (like moving a pawn), deadly (they kill our queen), or successful (we checkmate them). Zakaria defines this as success. I only hope that their other optional moves are weak.