Another problem confronts the faith of those who believe staunchly in the "Afghanization" of the military effort to secure the country that has been underway for several years now. A deconstructionist view of this effort would point to the 31 battalions created thus far, and note that only one of them is capable of independent action. So-called insider attacks on allied forces training them would raise deconstructionist eyebrows as well. The overall conclusion Derrida or de Man might reach would be that the whole process is turning Afghans, some of the world's best natural warriors, into some of the world's worst soldiers.
There are inherent contradictions in the development process as well. Take, for example, the routine "flipping" of construction contracts -- i.e., the winning bidder on a particular project sometimes simply takes a cut off the top and passes on what's left to a party willing to do the job for less. There are known cases of several flips on a single contract, leading to the paving of roads that wash away with the first hard rain. And when projects are completed and things actually do work, as with electrification efforts and improved cell phone connectivity, the dams and towers that provide these social goods are often held hostage and "taxed" by the Taliban. "Pay up or we'll blow them up."
Deconstructing Afghanistan in this fashion performs the kind of service that Derrida sought to provide with his concept: it improves the clarity of vision and deepens understanding of the daunting challenges that bedevil almost all meaningful endeavors. In this instance, the deconstruction process should lead to a willingness to question and debate the strategy to be pursued as the Afghan endgame unfolds.
Just how might strategy change? Recognition that the democracy project in Afghanistan has fallen prey to cronyism and corruption might lead to an extra effort to ensure the integrity of elections in 2014 -- and to abide by their honestly derived results. Understanding that centralized power will be resisted might lead to a willingness to rely more heavily upon provincial actors around the country to provide security -- much as was the case during the peaceful 40-year "rule" of Zahir Shah, Afghanistan's revered last king. Indeed, his fall ushered in the current 40 years of political strife and war that have been visited upon Afghanistan. At the great jirga of 2002, after the Taliban were driven from power, leaders from around the country called for the return of Zahir Shah -- but we insisted on democracy, not monarchy.
In terms of the final strategic military question the West faces -- how many troops, if any, to leave behind after 2014 -- deconstructionist thought would almost certainly embrace the point that "surges" of soldiers have done little to improve the situation. Paradoxically, a small military presence, closely linked to Afghan tribal forces operating from the edges, will likely do far better than the big battalions.
Were Jacques Derrida still with us, he would no doubt find Afghanistan a fertile vineyard in which deconstructionists could toil. For those of us who see the value of analyzing matters using his methods, there is even more: a chance to correct costly errors and avert a looming debacle. But this will only happen with the emergence of a willingness to see the many fatal contradictions in our core beliefs about Afghanistan -- and about the Western role there as well.