Why Afghanistan Is a 'Fool's Errand'
We cannot export democracy, just support democratic institutions
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2012 10:28 AM CDT
Former Taliban fighters walk with their weapons after they joined Afghanistan's government forces during a ceremony in Herat province on March 31, 2012.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – It's no surprise that US policies are failing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and around the region—they're completely missing what makes countries succeed, writes Thomas Friedman in the New York Times. The key, according to a new book, Why Nations Fail, is developing "inclusive" economic and political institutions. Inclusive systems make the people as a whole feel involved and inspire them to innovate and invest, whereas exclusive systems concentrate power on a small oligarchy.

Trying to push democracy onto the Middle East is doomed to fail without more inclusive support. "We can only be a force multiplier," Friedman warns. So the United States should be turning its aid from military regimes to more grass-roots institutions. "Right now, I’d argue, our foreign aid to Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan is really a ransom we pay their elites not to engage in bad behavior. We need to turn it into bait," he writes. Friedman also says this theory of inclusion should be a warning to China about the limits of its current system—and to the United States, where economic inequality is leading to political inequality. Click for Friedman's full column.