Everyone used to ridicule the foolish “win hearts and minds” sentimentalism of the liberals who planned and ran the Vietnam War, but our foreign policy establishment never learned a thing from that debacle. (Aside: How do you win “hearts and minds” in a place like South Vietnam circa 1965 or Afghanistan, circa now: you kill the enemy in large numbers.)
Here are a few choice excerpts from a CIA report from 2010 on how to shore up public opinion in Europe to support the NATO participation in our venture that make for ironic reading just now:
After the Dutch government fell on the issue of dutch troops in Afghanistan last month, the CIA became worried that similar events could happen in the countries that post the third and fourth largest troop contingents to the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission. The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women. For Germany it is the fear of the consequences of defeat (drugs, more refugees, terrorism) as well as for Germany’s standing in the NATO. The memo is a recipe for the targeted manipulation of public opinion in two NATO ally countries, written by the CIA. . .
Western European publics might be better prepared to tolerate a spring and summer of greater military and civilian casualties if they perceive clear connections between outcomes in Afghanistan and their own priorities. A consistent and iterative strategic communication program across NATO troop contributors that taps into the key concerns of specific Western European audiences could provide a buffer if today’s apathy becomes tomorrow’s opposition to ISAF, giving politicians greater scope to support deployments to Afghanistan. . .
Conversely, messaging that dramatizes the potential adverse consequences of an ISAF defeat for Afghan civilians could leverage French (and other European) guilt for abandoning them. The prospect of the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress on girls’ education could provoke French indignation, become a rallying point for France’s largely secular public, and give voters a reason to support a good and necessary cause despite casualties. . .
Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.
In other words, justify the mission by appealing to the liberal values of Europeans, rather than because the ideology and action of the enemy deserved defeating. Make sure European liberals feel good about themselves! And thus we get American aid paying for things like this at Kabul University:
MASTER’S PROGRAM IN GENDER AND WOMEN STUDIES
Master’s Program in Gender and Women Studies in the faculty of social sciences which getting started on 2015, can be considered as one of the important steps in the development of academic capacity and training of specialist’s cadre. At the same time, it can be considered as a preferred development in order to increase the quality of social sciences for the scientific community of Afghanistan and especially Kabul University. . .
One of the main purposes of Gender and Women Studies is the oneness (sharing) of experiences and use of power, talents and abilities of men and women in order to bring positive changes in various dimensions of community development. Efforts should be made in this field to review and reveal social and cultural realities of our society in terms of gender by using gender studies and find out that in which part of the social structures, the opportunities for the development of capabilities and talents of women and men are faced with obstacles. The main objective of this field is to overcome obstacles through scientific and research studies in order to create ample social opportunities for both sexes in order to achieve development in its various dimensions.
I’m sure the Taliban will keep this important program going. More from “Cockburn” in The Spectator:
Did ‘gender studies’ lose Afghanistan?
When it comes to Vietnam, partisans debate rules of engagement, bombing strategies, funding levels, and the Tet Offensive. With Afghanistan, the question could be: did gender studies cause America to suffer its most humiliating defeat ever? Cockburn wishes he was joking. . .
America in Afghanistan sought a shortcut, and by “shortcut” Cockburn means “something that takes ten times as long but doesn’t look as nasty for TV cameras.” America hoped that with enough half-baked social engineering in the half of Afghanistan it controlled, it would eventually be rewarded with victory, and Afghanistan would become the Holland of the Hindu Kush. On Ivy League campuses, students are taught to decry “colonialism,” but the Ivy League diplomats who sought to remake Afghanistan in Harvard’s image were among the most ambitious practitioners of it in world history.
So, alongside the billions for bombs went hundreds of millions for gender studies in Afghanistan. According to U.S. government reports, $787 million was spent on gender programs in Afghanistan, but that substantially understates the actual total, since gender goals were folded into practically every undertaking America made in the country.
A recent report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) broke down the difficulties of the project. For starters, in both Dari and Pastho there are no words for “gender.” That makes sense, since the distinction between “sex” and “gender” was only invented by a sexually-abusive child psychiatrist in the 1960s, but evidently Americans were caught off-guard. Things didn’t improve from there. Under the US’s guidance, Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution set a 27 per cent quota for women in the lower house — higher than the actual figure in America! A strategy that sometimes required having women represent provinces they had never actually been to. Remarkably, this experiment in “democracy” created a government few were willing to fight for, let alone die for.
The initiatives piled up one after another. Do-gooders established a “National Masculinity Alliance”, so a few hundred Afghan men could talk about their “gender roles” and “examine male attitudes that are harmful to women.”