The Taliban had banned music and 99% of everything else that is fun. Now, an Afghan version of the "American Idol" called "Afghan Star" has been broadcasted for seven seasons. Millions are watching and voting for their favorite singers by mobile phone. For many this is their first encounter with democracy. A documentary from 2009 follows "the dramatic stories of four contestants as they risk all to become the nation's favorite singer."
As an era ends, Iraqis will grapple with their own security while veterans will adjust to the labor market back at home, argues Caitlin Howarth in this guest article:
On Monday, President Obama gave a joint appearance with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to mark the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In announcing the holiday homecoming, the president has made good on his promise to bring the war to an end. For thousands of families welcoming their loved ones home, it is a time for joy; for the country, it is a time for gratitude.
Now is also a time for healing. Both the people of Iraq and U.S. veterans have wounds to heal and relationships to rebuild. The veterans come home to a still-struggling economy, limited jobs, and complex health issues. Iraqis are still picking up the pieces of an infrastructure shattered by war and complicated by sectarian tension; living in the midst of regional upheaval presents no easy road, either. Five years ago, when I studied the smaller pockets of Iraq's sectarian violence, the ugliness of what can happen in a power vacuum appeared overwhelming. The reality of what happens when some people have plenty of weapons and no accountability remains a major concern - and not just among Iraqis.
Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan after 9/11, talking with citizens and warlords alike. Now, a decade later, he gives a TED Global talk in Edinburgh and asks: Why are Western and coalition forces still fighting there? He criticizes the surreal optimism that every one of the last six years has been described by generals and politicians as the "decisive year" for Afghanistan. For this year, he brings up a slide with a quote from German Foreign Minister Westerwelle. (Reminds me of The Friedman unit coined by Atrios)
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, calls for a doctrine of restoration that "would help the U.S. shore up the economic foundations of its power." He is basically urging more limited foreign policy engagements, which would mean that the US should act more like the European countries.
Haas wants to reduce wars of choice, like the war in Libya. He also blames Obama for turning the war of necessity in Afghanistan into a war of choice, because of targeting the Taliban rather than Al Qaeda. I understand the logic, but wasn't President Bush going after the Taliban as well?
"Aspreading financial crisis has accomplished what tradition, habits of alliance management and shared security concerns could not: It has given Europe a central place in President Obama's view of global affairs," writes Jim Hoagland in The Washington Post:
"There's been a lot of love for the 40th president of the United States these past few days in Europe," writes Robert Zeliger in Foreign Policy. Ronald Reagan got a street named for for him, was honored with statues in Budapest and London and with a Catholic Mass in Krakow.
I remember that there was a short debate in Berlin about a memorial or street for President Reagan, but the leftist government does not like him. It's all politics and ideology. Even a small memorial plaque in the ground at the Brandenburger Gate was rejected, as Majjid Sattar wrote in the German FAZ newspaper in February.
Instead of honoring the US president who urged the General Secretary Gorbachev to "Tear down this wall," the square next to the Brandenburg Gate hosts the The Kennedys Museum, even though President John F. Kennedy acquiesced to the communist construction of the Berlin Wall.
Stop complaining about Europe. Rather focus on Asia. That's the advice from Richard Haas (David), president of the US Council on Foreign Relations, in response to Secretary Gates' speech.
Asia is increasingly the center of gravity of the world economy; the historic question is whether this dynamism can be managed peacefully. The major powers of Europe - Germany, France and Great Britain - have reconciled, and the regional arrangements there are broad and deep. In Asia, however, China, Japan, India, Vietnam, the two Koreas, Indonesia and others eye one another warily. Regional pacts and arrangements, especially in the political and security realms, are thin. Political and economic competition is unavoidable; military conflict cannot be ruled out. Europeans will play a modest role, at best, in influencing these developments.