Two cheers for bribery

My post about recent success by U.S. forces in Helmand Province, Afghanistan prompted a skeptical Diana West to point me to her article about the extent to which our success, or the appearance thereof, is driven by sheer bribery. I read Diana’s piece and you shoud too.
The designers of our counterinsurgency policy would deny that they are engaging in bribery. They would characterize our policy as undertaking projects to improve life for the Afghan people, thereby reducing the desperation that helps cause some of them to side with the Taliban. But I assume there’s an element of bribery in the old-fashioned sense, as we try in some cases to steer contracts for these projects to the people we think it’s most important to have on our side. At least I hope we’re doing some of that.
I would be less sanguine about bribery in this context if I thought that bribes are required for the Afghans to prefer what we’re pushing to what the Taliban would impose. But I doubt that this is the case. It seems more likely that bribery is being used to offset Afghan reluctance to take the risks associated with casting their lot with the U.S. at a time when we have steadily been losing ground. If we’re able to make up ground, perhaps we’ll have less need to resort to bribery.

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