When United Nations announced its plan for Syria, many of us might have remembered the countries for which United Nations or Western powers had had plans. Afghanistan is one of those countries for which West, mainly United States, had a plan of a 'good governance' that would entail a stable country. Was the plan successful? It is doubtful. Firstly, it is better to comprehend why there was a need for Afghanistan, to understand why the outcome was doubtful.
As it is known, Afghanistan was ruled by the totalitarian government - Taliban - between 1996 and 2001. During those years, the country had no instutitions which are the core elements of a state. It was when the Western powers decided to have a good governance in the country that would be called post-Taliban government later.
Between 2001 and 2008, there were several conferences such as Bonn Conference, Afghanistan Compact or Afghanistan National Development Strategies. Throughout the process, the main goals were 'state-building' including improving human rights and developing characteristics of good governance - rule of law and transparency.
In spite of the all struggles made, the outcome was in contrast to a stable country. Despite Afghanistan had an elected government in 2004, Western countries could not achieve what they aimed. What were the reasons? What was wrong that Afghanistan could not have a stable, a democratic government?
According to several scholars, it was not successful because of the wrong policy - a centralized government - that the West adopted. Basically, Western countries desired to implement a policy to which Afghanistan was not familiar. The policy of a centralized government was totally contrary to the regime that Afghanistan has had. Afghanistan has always been a fragile state with armed conflicts, political instability and weak economy apart from having an ethnically divided population. The latter was the one of the most important feature of the country as Afghanistan was divided into provinces which once had local governments.
Afghanistan divided into provinces which differ ethnically and socially from each other
All in all, Western countries were wrong as they neglected the regions and could not think of a decentralized government. Many scholars have claimed that the weak centralized government not only led to failure in government authorities in provinces but also to inequities in terms of resources.
Consequently, the most significant feature of the country - center-periphery relation - was missing. The Western powers have been unsuccessful due to their lack of knowledge about the land the culture of the country they would like to 'straighten'.
Is there a possibility that it might happen with Syria as well? As it is a country divided religiously and ethnically, has the plan for Syria the same risk? Does West have the enough knowledge concerning the country, and the whole region that would not end up with a failure like Afghanistan? Unfortunately, we can not know it until it is tried.