May 27, 2002
No Taxpayer Funds
for Nation-Building in Afghanistan
Whenever I discuss the issue of foreign aid with my colleagues, I always remind them that in all my years serving in Congress, Iíve never once had a constituent ask me to send more money overseas. Most Americans instinctively understand what the Constitution makes clear: Congress has no business sending tax dollars outside the country. Yet once again Congress has ignored the Constitution, this time voting to send $1.2 billion of your tax dollars to Afghanistan- even as our own troops engage in ongoing combat with hostile Taliban forces that many Afghans still support. Itís frankly almost schizophrenic to send billions in aid to the same country that harbors some of our most virulent enemies.
Perhaps the legislation Congress passed last week should have been named the "Afghanistan Territorial Expansion Act," because it essentially treats that troubled nation like a new American territory. In fact, I doubt we give Guam, Puerto Rico, or other American territories anywhere near $1.2 billion every few years, so maybe we should consider full statehood for Afghanistan. This new State of Afghanistan even comes complete with an American governor, which the bill charitably calls a "coordinator." This coordinator essentially has the task of making sure the new Afghan government meets with our approval; never mind what ordinary Afghan wants. We say we want the Afghans to freely and democratically elect their own leaders, but only if we approve of the choices. In effect, we want to install a new government of our choosing.
The President promised that we would not engage in nation-building in Afghanistan, and he did not sponsor or seek support for the bill passed by Congress. Yet when we fill a nationís empty treasury, when we fund and train its military, when we arm it with our weapons, when we try to impose our standards and values within it, indeed when we attempt to impose a government and civil society of our own making upon it, we are nation building. There is no other term for it. Whether Congress wants to recognize it or not, this is neo-colonialism. Afghanistan will be unable to sustain itself economically for a very long time to come, and American taxpayers will pay the bills. This sad reality was inevitable from the moment we decided to invade it and replace its government, rather than use covert forces to eliminate the individuals truly responsible for September 11th. Perhaps the saddest truth is that Bin Laden remains alive and free even as we begin to sweep up the rubble from our bombs.
The Russians must be laughing at the irony. Their problem has become our problem. For years they sought to dominate Afghanistan and impose their will upon it, at a cost of millions of dollars and thousands of lives- Russian and Afghan lives. We propped up the Afghan resistance with our weapons, money, and training, planting the seeds of the Taliban in the process. Now the former Soviet Union is gone, its armies long withdrawn from Afghanistan, and weíre left cleaning up the mess- yet we wonít be loved for it. No, we wonít get respect or allegiance from the Afghans, especially now that our bombs have rained down upon them. We will pay the bills, however. Afghanistan will become a tragic ward of the American state, another example of an interventionist foreign policy that is supposed to serve our national interests and gain allies, yet which does neither.