07 August 2007

Time to help an ally help themselves

Over at The Corner at NRO, one of their fast disappearing links on items of interest from the Web Briefing box featured was:

Chide the U.S., then demand that we save the day
By Bridget Johnson at the L.A. Daily News 07 AUG 2007.
It is one of those 'must read' deals on the kidnapping of the South Korean christian missionaries that have been kidnapped by the Taliban, and the hand-wringing going on after two were executed. Now to just recap the piece, here is the course of events:

1) The US did not require that Afghanistan follow the Westphalian concept of allowing religious freedom for their citizens. The lovely and civilized idea that Nations can have religions but that it may not force its citizens to follow it and allows them to practice whatever they want to.

2) Last year a couple of thousand South Koreans wanted to hold a christian oriented 'peace festival' in Afghanistan and were told that the Afghanis saw this as proselytizing. The folks at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty put it like this in their article of 03 AUG 2006:

PRAGUE, August 3, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Ali Askar Laly, an adviser for the Afghan Football Federation, told RFE/RL today that complaints from Muslim clerics about proselytizing by the aid group's members turned the "peace festival" into a contentious political issue for the Afghan government.

Charges Of Proselytizing

"According to the information we have received, they wanted to do propaganda for Christianity here," he said.

"Members of the South Korean nongovernmental organization that was bringing the [Korean soccer] team here were expelled from Afghanistan today. For that reason, it was not possible for [the Korean players] to come [and play]."

Officials in Kabul say hundreds of South Korean Christians who arrived for the peace festival were warned not to "preach religion." But the officials say some group members ignored the warnings and were seen trying to convert Muslims -- a serious crime in the Islamic republic.

Kang Sung Han is Central Asia director for the Institute of Asian Culture and Development. He tells RFE/RL that the allegations about evangelistic activities by his group are untrue.

"No," he said. "Not at all. That is wrong information. We have no programs on religious activity nor any Christian rally. No. Not at all. All programs are for medical education and sports. No religious activities. Not at all. That is all wrong rumors. The IACD is shocked by these rumors. So we are very sad. And we regret these rumors."

Kang says the Institute of Asian Culture is aware of Afghanistan's religious sensitivities and Islamic traditions because the group has been running a medical clinic in the northern Afghan town of Sherbergan since January 2002.

A Peaceful Festival?

He told RFE/RL that the idea for the festival was to give ordinary Koreans and Afghans a chance to interact with each other peacefully.

"We have been working in Afghanistan for the past five years," he said. "The IACD has known well about Afghanis and Islamic culture. We [just wanted to] make a sports project, a medical project, and a medical conference. We were to have our own meeting in a gymnasium on contributions to a brighter future for Afghanistan -- because we were bringing a list of 400 men from the United States and from Korea. They want to be involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan."

Afghan officials say some 1,500 group members have entered Afghanistan on tourist visas in recent weeks. They arrived despite warnings from South Korea's Foreign Ministry and Seoul's embassy in Kabul that their presence could be seen as a provocation by conservative Islamists.

Scores of group members who have arrived at Kabul Airport since August 2 have been refused entry visas and turned back by customs officials. Afghan authorities say all group members will be expelled from Afghanistan "as soon as possible" because their safety cannot be guaranteed.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry has confirmed that it gave tourist visas to several hundred South Koreans who said they wanted to spread peace and help with reconstruction.

Foreign Ministry adviser Daud Muradian says group leaders had promised not to preach religion or try to convert anyone.

Clerics Complain

But on August 2, Muslim clerics in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif demonstrated in the streets to call for the expulsions. Among them was cleric Said Hashemi. He explains to RFE/RL the allegations against the Seoul-based group.

"Some Korean students who are Christians came as tourists to Afghanistan," he said. "Some came to Mazar-e Sharif -- and in addition to their tourist activities, they've been spreading Christian propaganda both secretly and overtly.

Some time ago, in the presence of the religious adviser of the Afghan president, there were discussions in which provincial officials presented evidence about Christians spreading propaganda through documents and compact discs. They were seen doing this in one of the districts [of Balkh Province]."

But Sher Jan Durani, a spokesman for the chief of the Afghan National Police in Balkh Province, tells RFE/RL that authorities in the northern province have no evidence that IACD members have tried to convert Muslims to Christianity.

"There has been nothing in Mazar-e Sharif like [what the clerics] have described," he said. "If [Christian preaching and attempts at converting Muslims] is going on, for sure, the police of Mazar-e Sharif will arrest them and put them in jail according to the law."

Religion is a sensitive matter in Afghanistan's strictly Islamic society. In February, thousands of Afghan demonstrators took to the streets to demand the death penalty for an Afghan man who had converted to Christianity. The man, Abdur Rahman, was released from prison and sent to Italy under international pressure.

Recent protests about the desecration of the Koran and Western newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad also have turned violent on the streets of Afghanistan.

(Freshta Jalalazai of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to the this story.)
Yes, death to those who convert from Islam. Well, that IS what you get when you don't require Westphalian concepts of 'freedom of religion' now, isn't it? Now the IACD website is here, and one can peruse it as they wish. Now the folks at Asia News on 02 AUG 2006 give this view:
Korean evangelicals defy bans to march for peace in Kabul

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Around 1,000 South Korean evangelical Christians are currently in Afghanistan to take part in a "peace march" scheduled to be held from 5 to 8 August in Kabul. The event has been organized despite advice to the contrary and concern expressed by the Afghan and Korean governments.

The rally is being organized by the Institute of Asian Culture and Development (IACD), a religious-cultural umbrella organization of 900 Protestant denominations. This is the same group that held the "Jerusalem 2004" march in the holy city to call for "peace through prayer between Israelis and Palestinians".

The Foreign Affairs Minister of Seoul has sought "in all ways" to convince the organizers to drop the rally. His Afghan counterpart even forbade visas to South Koreans asking to enter the country. An official of the Kabul government said: "This is a Muslim nation and the presence of Christian activists could offend many people. We have told the organizers but they are not listening to us."

Refusing visas has not deterred would-be participants. The same source said "many entered from bordering countries but this is irresponsible behaviour."

A representative of the Blue Office [South Korea's presidential cabinet – ed] was more direct: "Afghanistan has told us several times it is unable to guarantee the safety of participants. The state of law and order in Afghanistan is extremely volatile and there is a strong possibility of terrorism. More than 1,100 people have died in the past three months in military operations." One of the members of ICAD has responded to concerns by saying: "This is a cultural not a religious event. The government is overreacting and the rally will proceed according to plan."

In any case, Seoul overnight sent a task force from the Foreign Ministry and the Intelligence Service, to persuade the evangelicals to desist and bring them back and it has put military helicopters on alert in case of an emergency. An urgent meeting of involved parties has been called for this evening.

Around 175 evangelicals who have decided to stop in the city of Kandahar, a stronghold of Taleban militias, are giving especial cause for concern.
Slightly different take, to be sure, and points out the ties of the IACD. Now having a hospital to tend to the sick or a school to teach children of all religions is one thing. Moving to get in a few hundred evangelists who are not there to tend to the sick or teach is something else again. Again, this is a Nation State that does not adhere to Westphalian concepts of Nation State with regards to religion.

3) So, when the IACD tries to sneak in a few folks this year, after the multiple warnings and fuss LAST YEAR, I really do scratch my head a bit. The IACD could try to sponsor talks with Afghanistan to see if they could persuade the Nation to change its laws and remove State enforcement of religion. Maybe get some government backing for trade agreements. All sorts of lovely things, all while respecting the Nation of Afghanistan to be Sovereign no matter HOW MUCH you really want to go in and espouse your religion.

4) What does the US get for trying to remove the awfulness of the Taliban, help stand up the local Afghan population to try and rule itself in a way that is 'culturally sensitive' and yet accountable for its actions? This coming as an excerpt from MWC News on 03 AUG 2007:
Anti-US sentiment

The body of Shim Sung-Min, the second hostage to be killed, arrived at Seoul's Incheon airport on Thursday evening.

In Seoul on Friday, small protests were held outside some mosques, while about 24 Christian clergymen held a prayer service outside the US embassy in the South Korean capital, praying for the aid workers and urging the US to accept the Taliban's demands to secure the hostages release.

While some in South Korea blame the US for the situation, on the other side of a line of riot police a number of demonstrators staged a counter-protest.

"Do not use hostage situation to incite anti-US sentiment," one placard read.
Yes, the Anti-American Left in S. Korea wants to have the US bow to the Taliban and help exchange prisoners for hostages in Afghanistan! Now as you digest that little nugget, lets take a bit of a look at the very unrealistic Amnesty International and their look at the Taliban a bit further up:
Amnesty International said on Friday it had appealed in a phone call to Ahmadi for the South Korean hostages to be freed, warning that holding and killing captives is a war crime.

Irene Khan, secretary-general of the London-based group, said in a statement: "Hostage taking and the killing of hostages are war crimes and their perpetrators must be brought to justice."
Now I have some bad news for Amnesty International: The Taliban are NOT A NATION STATE ANY LONGER. Yes, they are now mere terrorists their Nation having decided NOT to elect them during the last set of elections. That does not stop them from committing war crimes, but if you want to have them held accountable, may I suggest FIELDING AN ARMY to do so? Oh, wait a second, this is one of those lofty NGO's that can only criticize and never, ever, not once get its hands dirty with the real world and do something.

Like hire mercenaries.

So sorry, I thought this was a real organization that could put some backing to its high ideals.

5) Now on to the last bit of the emerging concept. This from a 02 JUN 2007 article at Strategypage:
June 2, 2007: South Korea is increasing its defense spending nearly 20 percent ($8.5 billion) next year. That means a total defense budget of nearly $33 billion. Adjusted for inflation, that more than twice what was spent ten years ago. While South Korea has been practicing very conciliatory diplomacy towards North Korea, it has also been upgrading its military capabilities. This means the South Korean armed forces have equipment that is often several generations ahead of what is used up north. But what has hurt the northerners the most has been a shortage of fuel, and money for spare parts, to allow their troops to train realistically. The North Korean infantry are drilled constantly, but there is little money for ammunition, so few of these troops are very good shots. Morale is very low in the north as well, and there's no money to deal with that either. But South Korea wants to limit its casualties if there is a war, and has spent a lot of money on well protected tanks, smart bombs and protective vests and high tech gear for their infantry.

But there's another reason for the heavy investments in defense. South Korea is trying to develop a domestic arms industry that can become another source of lucrative exports. After two decades of efforts, South Korea has acquired the skills, but it having a hard time competing in the crowded international arms market.
Not that worried about NoKo, huh? Well protected tanks, troops, artillery and such like?

Ok, before I do the dot connecting a quickie recap!

1) US did not do the arm twisting to get a Westphalian Nation State in Afghanistan back in 2001-2.

2) S. Korean Christian religious folks with their IACD tried to hold a 'Peace Meeting' in Afghanistan and were warned not to do so, were not given visas, and then some without visas still came in during 2006.

3) IACD repeats this year, save about trying to get official sanction and sneaks folks into Afghanistan and they get kidnapped by the Taliban.

4) US asked to help and gets Leftist criticism from S. Korea.

5) S. Korea has a very capable military organization and one of the larger armies on the planet.

What does that get you?

In any sane and rational world S. Korea would get help from the US to get its OWN TROOPS into Afghanistan to RESCUE their OWN PEOPLE. I am damned sure we could help with the orientation, logistics and a few air strikes, to boot.

But will that happen?


We can expect the Leftists to sit on their butts and do not one damned thing save gripe, bitch, complain and criticize.

Ok, to the Lefties out there: the #1 criticism is that the US did NOT make sure that freedom of religion was ensured in Afghanistan, thus making it a relatively intolerant Muslim Nation that is there now. This was done to appease those on the Left who did NOT want the US to 'impose outside values' on Afghanistan. You know that lovely PC business? 'Cultural Imperialism'?

If you gripe, moan and complain about 'Cultural Imperialism' and yet the Westphalian Nation State is something you like, then you have an extreme problem as that IS a cultural value of the West. You cannot complain about the intolerant Nation State stood up *now* when it is YOUR VOICE that could have called for a Westphalian State with freedom of religion as its basis in 2001-2, and lobbied hard for same. If you were sitting around criticizing the war effort and going after terrorists and IGNORED THIS then you are equally culpable for time based relativism of criticism. Because this was as important if not MORE SO than getting Osama.

This means that you do NOT get to criticize Tora Bora AND criticize the US *now* if you were silent on this issue *then*.

Because that is playing 'cultural relativism', the very thing you decry when you complain about 'Cultural Imperialism'. Suck it up, choose a path and stick to it with a bit of consistancy: blaming the US for everything is asinine if you have nothing better to offer beyond criticism. You had your choices, played your cards now you got a raw deal as a lovely, multi-culti Afghanistan did *not* result from a lack of 'Cultural Imperialism'.

So sorry! You got what you wanted.

Now those on the Right who are bemoaning the hostage taking: where the hell were YOU when getting a Westphalian Nation State stood up in Afghanistan should have been the entire *point* for operations to bring down the Taliban? The US does not like to venture to someplace *twice* to fix a problem that should have been fixed the first time, and it seems to me that those on the Right could have easily plastered this Administration for sowing a problem that was going to take more than a generation to fix in Afghanistan when a bit of arm-twisting right after major operations started to wind down could have solved this problem. It might have made getting a government up a bit of a longer concept, but it would have the essential freedom of religion as its basis.

Faced with the NASA decision of: faster, better, cheaper... choose 2 out of 3; the Administration chose faster and cheaper. You want a different mix? The time to speak up was in 2001-2, just like the Left. If you wanted something *better* then lobbying hard for it and putting a bit of investment to stand up that long-term change was necessary... better and faster is not cheaper. Or you could do it better and cheaper, but the wrangling to get a government up and running would have taken another year or two there. Where were YOU when the need for a Westphalian Nation State in the center of Asia could have been done? Suck it up, for if you did not lobby hard *then* you do not get to complain about hostage takings *now* as a result. A nice Westphalian State would have *other* problems, but religious folks sneaking in to 'spread the word' would not be one of them. They might still get taken hostage and on a more regular basis, but that is the *cost* of that path.

So sorry! You got what you wanted.

That sums up my disgust with the Left and Right of today and the major problem for the United States as a whole: We have no goals and, from that, have no real idea of what the hell we are doing.

And as for the hostages?

S. Korea can come and get them and damned well HELP instead of sitting on its butt and asking for same. If they feel more than prepared to handle NoKo, that means there are extra forces to spare. Shouldn't take more than a hundred or so Special Ops folks to do this. And expend a little energy to protect their own people, instead of depending upon Uncle Sam for everything. And maybe start some serious talks with Afghanistan on this 'freedom of religion' concept.

Someone had better start that as the US certainly isn't up to that job anymore.

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