Austin Bay

Eliminate commercial jet transports connecting continents, and the tangled tribal, economic, anarchic and ideological problems vexing Afghanistan become more localized torments afflicting Afghanis and their neighbors.

What? The jets aren't going away? Has Barack Obama failed to apologize for American Airlines, Southwest and United? What an uncomfortable fact: swift jet transportation shrinking oceans to a matter of hours places your home within commuting distance of chaos, murder, mass terror and the kind of blighted men who use deadly anarchy and crime to build their version of earthly Paradise.

Of course the terrorists and tyrants, the blighted men, are the culprits here, not the jumbo jets, and it isn't Americans they slay first, but villagers and developmental assistance providers in range of their Kalashnikovs. Modern transportation technologies do put their sad corners of the planet near your New York and Washington, however. Sept. 11 demonstrated that, as airliners hijacked by tribal fanatics became manned missiles striking targets with global economic and security significance.

Using "peaceful" transport aircraft as weapons was the evil judo of men seeking 12th century goals exploiting 21st century technology. "Witness the destruction that awaits you, America," al-Qaida's apocalyptic killers and their apologists sneered, "the global future lies not in your modernity but in our version of the past renewed."

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That was fall 2001, when al-Qaida claimed divine providence and the Taliban was attempting to impose its "past renewed" on Afghanistan. The war for the terms of modernity had been going on in Afghanistan for years; via jumbo jets New York learned it, too, was on the battlefield.

In fall 2009 the wicked problem presented by Afghanistan differs from that of 2001, and President Barack Obama must understand those differences.

In fall 2001, U.S. and Northern Alliance forces demonstrated that al-Qaida and the Taliban did not have God on their side. Afghan elections in October 2004 were indicative of popular aspirations, when 8 million voted, despite terrorist violence. International observers reported that when the Taliban blew up a bridge near one polling place, the voters forded the stream and kept coming. At Polling Center 217, a poll watcher found a "veritable parade" of women in blue burkas waiting to vote -- OK, still in burkas, but women engaged in an act of political modernization anathema to tribal killers.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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