Tunisia, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria - It's been obvious over the past four weeks that people who really want change will find a way (sometimes at great personal danger and cost) to make their wishes or something close to them happen.
On this; Day 3,421 of America's great adventure in Afghanistan, the movement sweeping much of the Muslim world has quite obviously missed inspiring the Afghans by some distant shot. At the very least it seems fair to ask whether North Americans are on their 9th year of involvement in Afghanistan; or perhaps (painfully it seems) just on the same first year for the ninth time?
Much before the onset of this most recent wave of democratic fervor elsewhere in the Muslim world, the annual report of the Berlin based "Transparency International Foundation" last October had already pegged Afghanistan and Iraq among the top four most corrupt countries in the world. (The other two being Somalia and Myanmar.)
I single-out Afghanistan and Iraq in particular as it is painfully obvious that unlike the several other countries recently overtaken by popular internal movements and uprisings favouring the rule of democracy: Those two nations are precisely where our western culture, either driven or encouraged by the United States, has sought to impose "our" notion of democratic rules and principles.
As "Transparency International" noted in its annual report: Corruption itself is an affront to democracy and unacceptable because it allows too many poor and vulnerable people to suffer its consequences.
Shortly after taking office as President more than two years ago, Mr. Obama gave the green light for an American military surge in Afghanistan along with a somewhat cloudy pledge to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from the war zone in July of this year. Canada's own military commitments, though considerably smaller than America's, are pretty much following the same pattern though the Government of Prime-Minister Stephen Harper has been accused of flip-flopping on a previous commitment for Canada's complete unequivocal withdrawal from Afghanistan by this summer. To be fair: It was the Liberal Governments of Jean Chretien, and later Paul Martin who engaged Canada in the Afghan debacle in the first place.
In a speech delivered to the Asia Society in Washington just a few hours ago; American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton claimed her country is about to embark on a follow-up "diplomatic surge" to end the nine year old war. Mrs. Clinton claims the Taliban's only option will be..."to split from Al-Qaida, accept the Afghan constitution and join peaceful dialogue on the country's future". - Well, it's more eloquent (At least not quite as crude) but it sounds a lot like the American commander in Afghanistan's Hellman province quoted earlier this week in the New York Times: "With the (military) surge are we now beating the Taliban, or will we bargain with the Taliban and then decamp like the bowed British and Russians, confused about how the Stone Age socked modernity?" Either way, surely not the George Bush, Dick Cheney neoconservative vision elaborated in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 2001.
Ultimately while the American, NATO and western alliance's departure from Afghanistan may not be as painful as that of the Vietnam imbroglio; nor hopefully as long lasting as the still unresolved Korean conflict; it bodes increasingly certain that Afghanistan's historic nickname as the "graveyard of empires" will pretty likely remain intact.