Archive for March, 2003

The Afghan Model

Wednesday, March 19th, 2003

We are preparing to go to war in Iraq under the assumption that making the peace will be harder than winning the conflict. Many commentators have offered more or less sloppy analogies with the situation in Afghanistan, most of which have little value. But if there is anything to apply from one reconstruction effort to another, it is the importance of learning how the society in question is organized and how power has traditionally functioned within it. This is just what we have failed to ascertain in Afghanistan.


By now, Americans are familiar with the standard themes of articles on Afghan politics. We have read arguments for and against strong central government, the ethnic composition of the current government, the role of the “warlords,” and various approaches to reconstruction. We have come to realize that Hamid Karzai has a great deal more power in Kabul than outside. We have, lately, seen a lot of articles lamenting the slow pace of rebuilding, the continued stagnation of the economy, the difficulties with forming a national army and disarming “warlords” and the fact that in material terms little has changed for the better in many Afghans’ lives. (more…)

As human as you and I

Wednesday, March 12th, 2003

As human as you and I
A proposed ban on reproductive cloning demonstrates our irrational fear of the unknown, not the vagaries of science.

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By Ann Marlowe

“Images of a divided existence — of Doppelgangers and Doubles — become most compelling when family relationships are most upset.”

That line from cultural critic Hillel Schwartz comes from his 1994 book, “The Culture of the Copy,” but it speaks directly to the current controversy over human cloning. Late last month, the House of Representatives passed a bill that bans human cloning for both reproduction and stem-cell research. So irrational was the panic over cloning that an exception to the cloning bill for stem-cell research was also defeated. The bill is not likely to gather the necessary 60 Senate votes, largely because stem-cell research has many and eloquent defenders. But human reproductive cloning, currently ineligible for government funding, is likely to be banned in the near future.

This prospect, though expected, should not pass unremarked. As Schwartz implies, there is a large irrational element in our feelings about doubles and clones, and I would argue that the severity of the House bill — those who defy the ban would be liable for a fine of $1 million and up to 10 years in prison — has more to do with our fears than with public-policy objectives or science. (more…)