Thursday, February 26, 2009

Re-Thinking Afghanistan

I just watched a short film called "Rethinking Afghanistan". Fortunately, it's available to watch on the internet. It's only about 10 minutes long. I suggest that everyone who is concerned about the war being fought over there should watch this. "Rethinking Afghanistan" is the first film that I've seen that really gets it right.

In Afghanistan, the kinship bonds are stronger than the people's national identity. However, there is a saying in Arabic that (roughly translated) says "Me and my brother against my cousin; Me, my brother and my cousin against all others". The lesson that can be learned from this is that we will never get the people in Afghanistan to be on our side, unless we can become closer to them than the biggest force against them.

That's why the Taliban remains so strong. Even though they may dislike this "cousin", they are still closer to them than the American soldiers who are on their land. The Russians who fought there were closer to them than we are, yet we know how that invasion turned out. Eventually, Russia had to withdraw, but only after losing many soldiers and seriously weakening their military.

I realize that many Americans would like to believe that our military should have no difficulty defeating these people who are no more than dusty, desert dwellers in their eyes. They think that all we need to do is just send in the proper amount of troops and we can end this thing. Obama has already committed to increasing the troop levels over there and there's no shortage of people who are claiming that this is exactly what's needed. However, there are others who think that is one of the worst decisions he could make right now.

There's a good reason why Afghanistan is often referred to as "The Graveyard of Empires". Has any invading force ever conquered this land? Have we been successful over there despite the years and millions of dollars we've spent? Is the taliban spending that kind of money? No, but they are still just as strong as they were before we came. We need to figure out why that is before we send in even more troops and only see the same results as every other nation that invaded this land.

Watch the video in this post and then look at this explanation of Pashtunwali, the code of honor that dictates the behavior for all Pashtuns, from the cradle to the grave:



Lighthouse Prayer Line said...

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Great post, Shonda!

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God bless you,

Mark Seay

Lucie said...

Hi, I'm a long-time lurker who always enjoys your take on things.
I lived in the ME for many years -- the way I most often heard the proverb was "Me, my cousin and my brother against the enemy; me and my brother against my cousin. Me against my brother." I worry that we and our gov't (whichever one) is completely unable to look at the situation beyond the immediate future. Whatever we do will be short-term and aimed wrong. Not that I'm discouraged or anything.

bint alshamsa said...

You know, I did sort of botch it with the proverb. I've heard it your way and I've heard it in reverse (i.e. "Me against my brother; Me and my brother against my cousin; Me, my brother and my cousin against the enemy). I think the context might determine which way people order the parts of this proverb. Hmm...I'm going to have to think on this a bit and remember when I've heard this used. Most of the time, it was in conversations about fights within the ME between Arab groups, which might explain why I seemed to recall it in that way.

Well, I'm glad you were here to fix it for me. I think the point still stands. Do you?

I think there are good reasons for us all to be worried about how this will be handled. You're right about how we have a tendency to be very short-sighted in this country. That's what got us into this mess in the first place:

Supporting Saddam, then supporting sanctions against Saddam.

Supporting bin Ladin and the mujahideen, then deciding that they are terrorists.

Supporting democracy for the Palestinians, then deciding that the democratically-elected government wasn't legitimate.

We are all over the place when it comes to policies towards the ME. Whatever is politically expedient at the time seems to determine what will happen next. I'm not really discouraged at this point. I think I'm kind of resigned, which might be worse. I sometimes feel like there is really no chance that we are going to get this right and it's not because it's impossible to get right. It's just that we won't. There will be reasons and excuses about why we took/take certain actions, but it will all boil down to getting it wrong, again.

Professor Zero said...

Great post!!!