The Marshall Plan idea has its detractors. Before Bush even started hinting at reconstruction, an editorial in USA Today declared that such a task is bound to fail, that we can‘t bring a society from the “Stone Age” to modernity with money and good intentions. To be sure, no one is suggesting that Herat will be like Mission Viejo or that Afghanistan will be joining NATO anytime soon, but a comprehensive plan certainly might help. The fact is, a hands-off approach will not create the stability that will prevent Afghanistan from again turning into a giant campus for al Qaeda -- it will not, in Rumsfeld’s words, “drain the swamp.”
Bush‘s only material pledge so far, an increase in the humanitarian-aid budget to $320 million, is welcome, but it falls far short. It is not even enough to keep up with Afghanistan’s continuing refugee crisis. The work in Afghanistan will cost several billion -- on top of basic humanitarian resources. If that seems like a lot of money, consider the costs already posted by our neglect of Afghanistan: $40 billion earmarked for domestic relief for the terrorist attacks, with $15 billion more probably on the way. Add to that the estimated $105 billion in economic losses in New York alone resulting from the destruction of the World Trade Center, and the potential cost of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan seems trivial. With these figures in mind, it makes sense to spare funds for a project that offers part of a long-term solution to terrorism while helping millions of people in the process. The power of the original Marshall Plan was its mutual benefit; Marshall recognized that it was not in our interest to let poverty, ignorance, hunger and corruption reign in Europe. Now it‘s time to extend that insight to Afghanistan and the rest of the world.