In sum, Mousseau believes that a market economy can help reverse the alarming trends taking place in Afghanistan today and create a democratic nation that embraces different values and beliefs. “Those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder,” Mousseau points out, “are the most vulnerable to the negative consequences associated with globalization” (2002-2003, p. 19).
Respective international theoretical approaches
Both authors make the point that the United States has consistently failed to understand the situation in Afghanistan, a failure that has led to repeated setbacks despite the enormous amounts of resources that have been devoted to the country and the more than thousand American lives it has cost. On the one hand, Rubin applies an “ugly American”-type of analysis to the situation in Afghanistan to justify his claims that significantly more military and foreign aid resources are required as well as a long-term commitment to prosecute the war on terrorism to succeed. On the other hand, Mousseau argues that the U.S. simply does understand the cultural values and beliefs of the Afghani people to apply the types of foreign policy initiatives than can make them change their minds about America.
Evaluation of the usefulness of the respective theories
The Arab world is currently in major turmoil, and the autocratic rulers of Libya, Algeria and Bahrain are faced with the same eventuality that overtook Egypt recently. In this environment, the United States is faced with some enormously difficult international relations decisions concerning how to best proceed. Based on his analysis, Rubin believes that military might will ultimately make things right in Afghanistan while Mousseau believes that the transition to a market economy will succeed where other efforts have failed. Mousseau believes that creating a market economy in Afghanistan, presumably by sprinkling the country with KFCs and McDonalds, would go a long way to changing the hearts and minds of Afghanis regarding the United States. For instance, Mousseau observes that, “In societies steeped in market values, it is difficult to comprehend how anyone can engage in the mass murder of out-groups, or how anyone can support it” (p. 20). Clearly, Mousseau finds it “difficult to comprehend” but he has ignored the hard lessons of the past.
The people of Afghanistan have been fighting each other for millennia, stopping only long enough to fight foreign invaders. Although Rubins argument is perhaps more useful from a strictly pragmatic perspective because it recognizes the need for a long-term military and foreign aid commitment on the level of the Marshall Plan to address the corruption, crime and failing economy of Afghanistan, neither author presents a completely viable alternative that will truly change the situation in this troubled country.
Complex problems demand complex solutions, and the situation in Afghanistan is certainly no exception. Indeed, the United States has never been faced with a situation quite as complex as exists in Afghanistan today. Clearly, there are no simple solutions available, and in reality, there may be no viable solutions at all short of nuking the country back to the Stone Age and letting them start over. Apparently, no one in the State Department or intelligence agencies in the U.S. foresaw the recent uprisings in the Arab world, and too little is known about what is driving these processes to develop informed and timely responses. This, of course, does not mean that the United States should sit back and wait for Afghanistan to crumble into an Al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold again, but it does mean that unless and until the U.S. better understands what is transpiring in the Arab world in general and in Afghanistan in particular, the knee-jerk reactions that have been used in the past will continue to fail to achieve the desired outcomes.
Mousseau, M. (2002-2003, Winter). Market civilization and its clash with terror. International Security, 27(3), 5-29.
Rubin, B. (2006, December 12). Saving Afghanistan. Foreign Affairs,.