What Humanity and the US Can Learn from Afghanistan


Beliefs are More Powerful than Military Force —  

 As the adage says, when your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  And so the US military often sees kinetic force as the solution to complex problems, leading to miscalculations based on confirmation biases rather than objective assessments.  These perspectives are supported by the underlying influence of neo-conservative advocates and a powerful industrial military complex that US president Eisenhower warned Americans about over 60 years ago.  Sadly, this is not the first-time brave service men and women have been used or the US taxpayer misled, to fund the global military industry that thrives on threat and conflict.

What began after 9/11, twenty years ago as a legitimate military intervention targeting Al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan, eventually turned into a long-term drain on the US economy steering resources away from needed domestic investments to the delight of Islamic terrorists and into the hands of military contractors.  While there is no doubt that military force is sometimes needed to neutralize immediate threats in our chaotic world, it is not the solution to long term efforts such as nation building or lasting peace.

It is infantile to think in the modern age that one society can impose its culture onto another by military might alone. Sociologists, psychologists, theologians, etc. could have easily predicted the immense effort and time it would take to bring a 12th century culture based on an extreme interpretation of an ancient book into the 21st century. It’s not easy, if not impossible, to take a 50-year-old tribal leader whose fundamental Islamic beliefs have been embedded since childhood and expect him to rewire his brain’s thought patterns to accept women’s rights that took more than 100 years for even American women to achieve in a more tolerant western culture, with more work still left to be done.

A change in beliefs in any culture begins with a few, brave, progressive visionaries and must be passed on to the open minds of children as they together slowly change society over time.  Adults can also be   persuaded to uplift their beliefs, but they must first be open to the possibility.  It cannot be forced because of each person’s irrevocable power of free will to personally choose what to think and therefore believe.

Hopefully, the effort by the US and its western allies was not totally wasted.  For beyond some of the useful investments made in schools, hospitals, public infrastructure, etc., if the bright seeds of liberty have been planted in enough of the Afghan population, it will start an irreversible trend towards honoring women’s rights and joining the modern, global community over the coming years.  The Afghan people would become part of the on-going global shift from the old patriarchal controlled societies to those with a healthy and equal balance between the male and female members of society.

Otherwise, Afghan could temporarily regress backwards into a ruthless theocracy, joining other radical fundamentalists found in all religions who use their distorted religious beliefs to justify violence, control women and restrict individual liberties.  But even then, like all prior societies based on force, it will inevitably crumble as the inspired human spirit seeks to be free.   For once again, the world will see that life enhancing beliefs based on love, freedom and equality are more powerful than any self-destructing beliefs that depend upon fear and physical force to exist.

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