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At least there’s one good nation-builder for Afghanistan

As readers of this blog know, I am deeply opposed to the military escalation and deluded attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan. Yet some individuals can do good even in the middle of an overall bad policy, and if there is any one such individual from the outside I would bet on, it would probably be Clare Lockhart.


The current issue of Esquire has a good cheat sheet on Clare. Amidst the usual Esquire fare of scantily-clad, objectified-for-maximizing-male-readership 22-year-old “women we love,” here’s a serious intellectual who clocked in at #20 on the Foreign Policy Top Global Thinkers.

Clare also passed with flying colors the highly unscientific gut-feelings-check during a fascinating lunch discussion a couple months ago.

Clare insists on such common sense as: keep large foreign bureaucracies out of Kabul, and give aid and the power it coveys directly to local villagers. It’s too late for her good insights on not cutting corners to reduce election fraud, which disastrously happened after her advice was disregarded. Maybe that will teach them a lesson to listen to Clare more this time around: we can desperately hope.

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  1. zulusafari wrote:

    What a great photo of Clare! This little blurb is a shot in the arm for me in E Africa.

    Any way we can get in touch with her or watch what she’s doing via a personal web site, twitter, etc?

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 12:21 pm | Permalink
  2. Word_Bandit wrote:

    So you were only interested in Ms. Lockhart’s entry, I’m assuming.

    Good entry. TY

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink
  3. William Easterly wrote:

    Word_Bandit: say what? Do not understand

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  4. I have never understood why the US military does not have a much larger effort to burn the poppy fields in Afghanistan. This would eliiminate one of the two major sources of funding for the Taliban (My understanding is the two major sources for funding the Taliban and Al Queda are the drug trade and money from the MidEast). You could tell the people this winter that the military are going to burn the poppy fields so that they can plant alternative crops. It takes money to conduct a war even for Al Queda and the Taliban. It is easier to find the poppy fields than people who are hiding.

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink
  5. Word_Bandit wrote:

    This time, it was my poor attempt at humor.

    Like men who have Playboy around for the articles . . . you had this issue of Esquire available for Ms. Lockhart alone, but was tongue in cheek.

    BTW, did you see this: Hope link works.

    Enjoy Sunday afternoon!

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  6. William Easterly wrote:

    Word_Bandit: good joke, once I got it!

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Permalink
  7. TDM wrote:

    No matter how well-intentioned, I can’t really get past the striking arrogance of the subtitle. She’s “charged with rebuilding Afghanistan”??? Wow

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 3:11 pm | Permalink
  8. William Easterly wrote:

    One anon suggestion for giving to Afghan projects:

    Posted December 6, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  9. Dear Professor Easterly,

    As a young individual (who agrees with many of your critiques) getting my feet wet in international development, I would be interested on your commentary on the NSP program in Afghanistan. In brief, the NSP is an Afghan-government partnership with local NGO’s that sets up community councils which oversee and drive development at the local level. These representative bodies identify priorities, manage funds and ultimately are responsible to their peers for the outcomes. Several weeks ago the NSP was featured in an NY Times piece, but I first heard about it when doing research for my own organization, which is currently adopting a similar methodology for a country in Southern Africa.

    Thank you in advance for your insight.

    Posted December 7, 2009 at 5:22 am | Permalink
  10. fundamentalist wrote:

    While I agree with Ms Lockhart’s pessimism regarding foreign bureaucracies, she seems a bit naive to say just give them the money and get out of the way. Maybe I’m oversimplifying here attitude. I will read her book. My experiences in the region suggest that giving the existing institutions and leaders the money and leaving would result in enormous theft because corruption is so bad. Check out the corruption file at

    Posted December 8, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink
  11. fundamentalist wrote:

    Paul Rigterink: I have never understood why the US military does not have a much larger effort to burn the poppy fields in Afghanistan.”

    Consider how devastating that would be to farmers. Why not a program like the US used to have that paid farmers not to grow things. We could pay them not to grow poppies, then let them have any money they made from growing food on the same land.

    Posted December 8, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Permalink
  12. Dear fundamentalist,
    Paying people not to break the law does not work in my opinion. Can you give me examples where this idea of paying people not to break the law has been very effective? I am sure President Uribe would like to hear your ideas on improving security in Colombia. I have a project in the Department of Cordoba Colombia (called Mas Dinero) and President Uribe just had a conference in Monteria (Cordoba) Colombia on improving security in the region. (see and I think the people of Cordoba (including those at the BOP) are going to make a great deal of money growing moringa and tropical fruit trees.
    Also, my friend, Mike Abkin, helped start the ARISE project in Afghanistan and he would like to hear your ideas on improving security in Afghanistan

    Posted December 9, 2009 at 9:56 am | Permalink
  13. fundamentalist wrote:

    Paul, so make it legal! Then pay them.

    Posted December 9, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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