Hitler and Hamas
Sir-- On 'Hamas's albatross' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 12-18 February), as a European citizen, I do indeed recognise that countries have the right to resist occupation, using armed resistance, but I am not sure the analogy with Hitler in Europe in World War II holds good. Hitler wanted to take over all of Europe by force. When were the Israeli armed forces invading and occupying Gaza (before the recent war) which justified the rockets launched by Hamas?
Does the author mean that we should accept the Iran- backed Hamas view that all of Israel is illegally occupied? This is a dead end. No way forward can be found without acknowledging Israel's right to exist.
Of course, the illegal Israeli settlements (by civilians) should be dismantled at once but would that satisfy Hamas? I think not. Nor is it clear who the deal brokers should deal with while divisions between Fatah and Hamas remain so bitter.
It does not help Hamas's case here in Europe when regular reports surface from Gaza of Hamas killing Fatah members or punishing them by withholding aid, food and other essential supplies. The EU states, who pour a lot of aid into Gaza, are horrified by this brutality. Blocking the tunnels would reduce Hamas's ability to control supplies in this way.
Maybe the next step is talks with Iran. Note that Iran is not currently firing rockets into Israel. It is being careful to fight its battles by proxy.
Sir-- The GDP of Afghanistan in 2006 was something under $40 billion ('Triangulation or strangulation?' Al-Ahram Weekly 12-18 February). Over half the GDP of Afghanistan is tied up in poppy production in some way, and is controlled by rogue warlords who channel profits directly to the Taliban -- some $100 million a year. This is an extremely lucrative business while growing food is uneconomic for the average Afghan farmer.
Instead of fighting the Afghan farmer, who is caught in an impossible position, we should buy the crop -- all of it -- from him. This would end 60 per cent of Taliban's income immediately, put us on the side of the Afghan farmer instead of making us just one of his several enemies, put a serious dent in the heroin trade -- a concern also for Russia and Europe, who blame us for the escalation of their drug problem, and allow us to influence the Afghanistan people by becoming their respectful partner instead of their bullying enemy (there is something extremely unseemly about a country of our size, might, and moral stature, going around burning fields and dropping bombs on subsistence farmers in a desperately poor country. Obama may recognise this intuitively, but mollifying words have to be backed up with concrete action).
Eventually, we need to encourage Afghans to grow food instead of poppy plants. We should pay a 10 per cent premium over the market price for poppy, for food staples. By finally establishing a middle class of farmers, shopkeepers, and other distributors, supported by micro loans, we would cut the Taliban off at the knees. And by supplying a profit motive, the new middle class would be encouraged to form militias or to finally build up the Afghan army to protect themselves against the Taliban who, despite popular perception, are largely loathed by the average Afghan citizen.
As President Obama has publicly stated, you build a democracy from the bottom up, not from the top down. We have a chance to do this in a way that is cheaper, far less violent, and far more effective than the shoot-and-burn approach we've tried thus far.
In a game of attrition, history shows that those who try to forcefully bend Afghanistan to their will, eventually lose.
Mission not possible
Sir-- In 'Triangulation or strangulation?' ( Al-Ahram Weekly 12-18 February), I loved the bit about professor Kaiser worrying about NATO being shown up as a paper tiger, as if the Georgia fiasco hadn't already done that. Were US plutocrats that diabolic to have (s)elected a black man for an impossible mission: obtain quick prosperity in the US and peace in his first term in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, and Iran? Or will he be rated as the worst president ever, while retaining the actual foreign policy setters who are mainly responsible for the impossibility of the various missions?