Daily Archives: November 18, 2009

Support for the war continues to slide in the US.

Support for the war in Afghanistan has ebbed to a new low in ABC News/Washington Post polls, with concerns over strategy and broad doubts about the reliability of the Afghan government leaving Americans sharply divided on where to go from here.

Just 44 percent now say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, the fewest in a question dating to early 2007. Fifty-two percent instead say the war has not been worth it, up 13 points from its low last December – still well below Iraq levels, but majority negative nonetheless.

Steve Coll asks, what happens if we fail? Among other things,

The Nineties Afghan Civil War on Steroids: Even if the international community gave up on Afghanistan and withdrew, as it did from Somalia during the early nineties, it is inconceivable that the Taliban could triumph in the country completely and provide a regime (however perverse) of stability. About half of Afghanistan’s population is Pashtun, from which the Taliban draw their strength. Much of the country’s non-Pashtun population ardently opposes the Taliban. In the humiliating circumstances that would attend American failure, those in the West who now promote “counterterrorism,” “realist,” and “cost-effective” strategies in the region would probably endorse, in effect, a nineties redux—which would amount to a prescription for more Afghan civil war. A rump “legitimate” Afghan government dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks would find arms and money from India, Iran, and perhaps Russia, Europe and the United States. This would likely produce a long-running civil war between northern, Tajik-dominated ethnic militias and the Pashtun-dominated Taliban. Tens of thousands of Afghans would likely perish in this conflict and from the pervasive poverty it would produce; many more Afghans would return as refugees to Pakistan, contributing to that country’s instability

Also, “momentum for a Taliban revolution in Pakistan”; “increased Islamist violence against India, increasing the likelihood of Indo-Pakistani war”; and “increased Al Qaeda ambitions against Britain and the United States”.

Further reading on the conditions for an opportunity society (see previous post).

At his Senate confirmation hearing in February, Arne Duncan succinctly summarized the Obama administration’s approach to education reform: “We must build upon what works. We must stop doing what doesn’t work.” Since becoming education secretary, Duncan has launched a $4.3 billion federal “Race to the Top” initiative that encourages states to experiment with various accountability reforms. Yet he has ignored one state reform that has proven to work, as well as the education thinker whose ideas inspired it. The state is Massachusetts, and the education thinker is E. D. Hirsch, Jr.

The “Massachusetts miracle,” in which Bay State students’ soaring test scores broke records, was the direct consequence of the state legislature’s passage of the 1993 Education Reform Act, which established knowledge-based standards for all grades and a rigorous testing system linked to the new standards. And those standards, Massachusetts reformers have acknowledged, are Hirsch’s legacy. If the Obama administration truly wants to have a positive impact on American education, it should embrace Hirsch’s ideas and urge other states to do the same.

Clive Crook’s blog

This blog is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

I have been the FT's Washington columnist since April 2007. I moved from Britain to the US in 2005 to write for the Atlantic Monthly and the National Journal after 20 years working at the Economist, most recently as deputy editor. I write mainly about the intersection of politics and economics.

Clive Crook’s blog: A guide

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