Sometimes the precious paternalism of the Democrats breaks through into the open, even when few notice. Yesterday in Las Cruces, Barack Obama delivered such a moment on Afghanistan, repeating a mantra that should have long ago been discarded. He told his supporters that he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, but he also wants to send a couple of agricultural experts to “teach” Afghan farmers to grow something besides poppies:
The problem in Afghanistan isn’t agricultural ignorance; Afghan farmers know how to grow other crops. The reason that they grow poppies for opium instead is twofold — a lack of infrastructure and a debt load to drug cartels.
The Afghans lack basic infrastructure like reliable roads, electricity, irrigation, and refrigeration. They simply cannot move perishable goods to market quickly and reliably to ensure payment. Fruits and vegetables would mostly spoil before they could sell them during the season, and they cannot store surpluses for out-of-season income. They have to grow crops that they can store without electricity and refrigeration until those infrastructural needs are addressed.
They could grow less perishable crops, such as wheat, as Afghanistan builds that infrastructure. However, many of the poorer farmers took out loans on crop futures that assumed poppy crops rather than food. Indeed, some of these farmers have been forced to sell their daughters into marriage in order to satisfy the loansharks operating in Afghanistan.
Any solutions to the problem of opium farming has to address both conditions, and any effective solutions require long-term investment in Afghanistan. That goes far beyond sending “a couple of agricultural specialists” to lecture Afghan farmers on the joys of growing citrus fruit while gangsters rape their daughters and kill their sons. If that’s the depth of Obama’s understanding of the issues in Afghanistan, perhaps he needs to start holding hearings of his subcommittee and learn a few things before running for President.