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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

Learning from Afghanistan

President George W. Bush suggested Wednesday a democratic Iraq would bring many benefits to the Mideast region, including the introduction of a regional peacemaker. But before any fighting begins in Iraq, the American people should be presented with an honest assessment of the long-term expectations of U.S. military personnel and taxpayers for removing Saddam Hussein, rebuilding Iraq and transforming the fractured country into a functioning democracy. As it stands, the Bush administration has yet to communicate these important issues to Americans.

If one looks at post-Taliban Afghanistan to get a sense of what awaits us in a post-Hussein Iraq, the challenges facing the United States seem daunting. Fighting between U.S. forces and remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaida remains fierce in some areas. International aid agencies report they have been threatened with kidnappings and violence. And the United Nations has made contingency plans to withdraw its agencies from certain areas because of poor security. Many of these problems and a host of others could be confronted in post-Taliban Afghanistan by better funding Afghani security forces and economic development projects.

Unfortunately, the world’s economic powers have been unwilling to invest significant resources in Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s interim president, has warned it would be unwise to underfund the development of Afghanistan, given the terrorist activity that endures in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Will Iraq also receive a paucity of development funds after a war? Preliminary supplementary budget figures reveal that at least $60 billion would be needed if a war is waged in Iraq. This includes having several hundred thousand troops on the ground and another $30 billion going to potential allies and postwar reconstruction. The administration does not plan to present its budget request to Congress until the president has made a decision to go to war.

Skeptics – from the State Department to Europe and the Middle East – rightly worry an American invasion of Iraq would produce the exact opposite of the scenario outlined in Bush’s speech. Before committing precious lives and resources in the name of creating a democratic Iraq, the United States would do well to focus on the nuts and bolts of reconstruction in Afghanistan and applying the lessons learned there to Iraq.

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