Saturday, July 31, 2010

Schools not bombs

From a column by Nicholas D. Kristof in yesterday's New York Times:

"CARE, a humanitarian organization, operates 300 schools in
Afghanistan, and not one has been burned by the Taliban. Greg
Mortenson, of 'Three Cups of Tea' fame, has overseen the building of
145 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and operates dozens more in
tents or rented buildings - and he says that not one has been
destroyed by the Taliban either.

Aid groups show that it is quite possible to run schools so long as
there is respectful consultation with tribal elders and buy-in from
them. And my hunch is that CARE and Mr. Mortenson are doing more to
bring peace to Afghanistan than Mr. Obama's surge of troops.

The American military has been eagerly reading 'Three Cups of Tea' but
hasn't absorbed the central lesson: building schools is a better bet
for peace than firing missiles (especially when one cruise missile
costs about as much as building 11 schools).
Mr. Mortenson lamented to me that for the cost of just 246 soldiers
posted for one year, America could pay for a higher education plan for
all Afghanistan. That would help build an Afghan economy, civil
society and future - all for one-quarter of 1 percent of our military
spending in Afghanistan this year.

The latest uproar over Pakistani hand-holding with the Afghan Taliban
underscores that billions of dollars in U.S. military aid just doesn't
buy the loyalty it used to."