I do not wish to regurgitate many of the diatribes that have been touted in the press and across blogs and discussion forums the world round here. Nor do I intend to give a historical back ground to the circumstance as it exists, as these are all too readily available. Nor am I going to reiterate the many vested interests that abide within the state of Afghanistan, for they are many and varied, some hidden some more obvious, and although of import tactically within a strategic plan are not the basis upon which a strategic plan should be formulated. What I do intend to connect to in this short piece are the basic principles upon which any desirable strategic action can be made in relation to Afghanistan, in the hope that through principle, Strategic planning might find its proper grounding, and that tactics be constructed to implement this over arching strategy, formulated upon a firm principled base, rather than being reactively blown from pillar to post by the multifarious vested interests in that part of the world.
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, whatever that happiness may mean on a personal, social and cultural basis. These are the base tenets of the major player in the theatre that is Afghanistan. It cannot be ignored that the brutal and medieval manipulation and man handling of the Afghani peoples, mostly Pashtun, by the excessively violent, and radically doctrinaire Governance of the Taliban, who were driven by an interpretation of Sharia law that emphasised a brutal oppression and mistrust of the people was at the heart of the demise of that short spell of Governance. At its worst, this interpretation enacted atrocities and oppressions that undermined the very tenets of peace and compassion, the very principles upon which Sharia law was constructed. Sharia simply means, 'the way' ..... or more literally, "path to the water source".... where in Arabic culture, water simply WAS life. The principles upon which the pathway was constructed were basic and simple in their inception, and should have remained so in their strategic implementation. Sadly, the mistrust, and suspicion, the human need for control and desire for power, manipulated the minds of scholars and Imams alike within this cultish off-spring of Radical Islam. It taught that people are basically evil, and that they cannot be trusted to know what is good without being told what is good through their interpretation of the way. This is wrong.
Sharia, or the "path to the water source".... has three main principles upon which it is constructed. Faith, Peace, and Compassion. In the Golden age of enlightened Muslim law it was heralded as the bastion of tolerance and enlightened legal practice, that allowed for trust in and of the people. Whilst the rest of Europe was suffering the excesses of less enlightened medieval tortures and depravities at the hands of despicable despots who sought to deprive personal power in order to maximise their own peculiar brand of justice. Strange then that the Process has turned upon itself with the excesses of the Taliban, especially in their outrageous mistreatment of women, But even the Taliban are not above change, and given the possibility for that change in the light of higher principle, principle that is grounded in the three major tenets of Sharia, Peace, Compassion, and Faith, could it be possible to alter the course upon which these modern day extremist views have manifested?
Mahatma Ghandi once famously said, "Human nature will find itself, only when it realises that to be human, it has to cease to be beastly or brutal". How is it that we are to offer an alternative then to radical forms of Islam, or brutal dictatorships and despotic regimes? when we use the very mechanism's of oppression to hary innocents and force our idea's upon those that oppose us down the barrel of a gun?.....what have these other's learnt through such means? The answer to this is simple. They have learnt that he who wields the biggest gun succeeds in propagating his will. But is this true?
In Afghanistan for instance, many of the Pashtun area's and southern Afghani provinces now find themselves embroiled in a form of civil war, a civil strife that cuts into the lives of every family and every innocent. It is a civil war, because almost every family has at least one member of its family, be they brother, father, cousin, uncle, or in-laws, fighting on one or other side. How can one kill someone's brother, and believe that this will not affect the family entire? The situation escalates because two external enterties, the Taliban from the Madrases and mountains of northern Pakistan, and the Nato expeditionary force, are using this battle of wills, this civil strife to play out a bloody campaign of wills that seemingly has no end. Ideas cannot be extinguished down the barrel of a gun, only bodies can.
What is being waged is a battle of wills, between competing ideas. One might be led to believe that the battlefield is the material plane of existence, but this is merely the manifestation, the physical actualisation of a much deeper conflict. The conflict of ideas. This is a war for hearts and minds, as much as it is for mountain passes and community backyards. How one chooses to present ones arguments in this conflict is to a degree dictated by historical precedent, strategic effectiveness, and more importantly principle action or the action based upon the principle you hold closest to your heart.
For no action is devoid of principle. All actions rest upon the principles upon which they issue. It is said, where the heart abides, the head will follow, and soon after the body. So the question must be asked in any strategic plan where ones heart abides, how does the action I manifest most generously express the principles I adhere to?
In Afghanistan, the action that was taken to rid the Taliban from its position of power, could be considered a 'police action' where what was being policed was the maintenance of world peace and justice not based upon Terrorism but Justice through legal means. It is somewhat telling then, and also unfortunate to realise that we do not as yet have a Global Judiciary or World Court. However, It Happened, not just because of the forces of Terror that were organised and trained by covert CIA operatives in the dark days of Soviet occupation had assumed the country was a safe haven from where to train Jihadists in large camps, so as to further their own bloody cause globally. Nor because of the oppressive regime had adopted an extreme form of Islamic law that subjected at least half the population to desperate forms of bestiality, mere concubines to pleasure rampant male ego's gone insane with the power of their rule and therefore so full of their own pride that humility to there fellow humanity was beyond them. Nor because they had allowed a terrorist group called Al Qaeda and its leadership to operate with impunity from its national borders, fatefully manifesting finally in the tragedy of Sept 11 2001. Nor because certain Petro chemical corporations wished to run a Pipeline through Afghanistan and through Pakistan, and were unable to barter a deal with the ruling Government, namely the Taliban. No, it was not just for these reasons that the action to remove the Taliban was forth coming, although any one of them might have sparked a response. The reason was deeper, it was more fundamental than mere avarice or physicality. For what was at stake, was a vision of the future, based upon supposedly divergent principles.
The reality is, that the actual principled base of both sides is much the same. All that is at issue is how to achieve it, and who assumes the mantle of control. So rather than being a war of divergence, this is actually a war of perspective. One in which the differences are heralded and the similarities are minimised, in order to maintain bloody combat, The winner of which seem only to be those who profit from the sale of arms and misery.
Peace, Prosperity, Compassion, and Justice. These are tenets and principles that both sides adhere to, and form the core beliefs of both sides. How is it then that from these principles should issue forth such actions that wantonly disregard these principles, and instead manifest principles of War, injustice, ruthlessness, and depraved hopelessness?...it can only be due to the physical manifestations, brought out in the reality of action, that these counter principles are actualised. Both sides tout the idea that they are acting from principles that promote beneficent ends, yet the means they employ, destroy and undercut those ends from the very start. Both speak of peace, but rather than using the tools of peace, they employ the means of war, and by so doing, teach that only through death, terror, mayhem, and war can ones goals and principles be achieved. Is this an enlightened viewpoint?, does this course actually lead to a lasting peace, where prosperity and flourishing, ' a path to the water source' can actually be found?, where justice, Compassion, mercy, and every other principle of virtue that a civilised society wishes to construct its functional organelles arise? Who can trust such means? Is it not the case that by such means, the illusion of peace alone is created, until the next fanatic, power crazed megalomaniac, or terrorist, whether that be governmental or individual arises to use the very means that put the last regime in power, so as to champion their cause in the historically precedential manner.
Are we not charged with finding a higher path? Seeking a lasting peace constructed in the light of Truth, from which the bridge of trust that spans Ones faith and that truth, can be built, strong and sure to last. Abraham Lincoln wisely said 'I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.', could it be that the path to these principled fruits, that both sides tout as their core principles is to be reached not by war, but through the exercise of Merciful action?
When the Taliban was removed by over-whelming force in the campaign of 2001-2002. There was a window of opportunity in which the allied forces should have employed this principle of action. Action that should have rebuilt not only Afghanistan, but sought to reform the Madrases in Pakistan, not by force of body, but by the impelling force of righteousness made manifest through good works. Works that should have entailed, rebuilding, reconstruction, creative peaceful action, investment in infrastructure, agriculture, housing, employment, medicinal care, funding of alternate education, the irradiation of poverty, the investment in charitable and humanitarian needs, to name but a few of the kinds of actions that issue forth from the principles upon which they supposedly functioned. What was required was not just the will of the people to rebuild that war ravaged land and its people, who had suffered the excesses of invasive forces for generations, and the machinations of ALL of the world powers for as long, but the actual real world Investment, so as to make Afghanistan a shining beacon of the kind of principles upon which the nations of the developed world stood. An example to all, of what the developed nations stood for, what principles it heralded. Sadly that window of opportunity closed dramatically with the invasion of Iraq. Under resourced for 9 years, the champions of the alternate proposition have managed to forge a new will, based in no small part upon the failures, and militancy of the counter proposition.
So where to from here?....is security in Afghanistan really possible, when what is actually occurring is two external opposing forces are using the land of Afghanistan to wage a war of ideals, whilst thrusting the Afghani peoples themselves ever deeper into a created and manufactured Civil war, that cannot be won by bullets and bombs, and in fact the more they employ those means to win the war the more adherents to the ranks of the opposition they create. It is in fact an unwinable, and untenable battleground, that creates an escalating disaster that undercuts both principles by the implementation of such means. It is unwinable, aside from an almost mass genocide, the like of which is almost apocalyptic in scope, or not found since the darkened days of the inquisition. The destabilisation of Pakistan, a nuclear armed state, by the escalation of violence is almost an unthinkable proposition. Paving the way for nuclear confrontation over Kashmir with India, or worse an entire middle eastern eruption.
The war must end. When it ends, and how it ends, is all that is in our hands strategically.
Could it be that by withdrawing strategically Nato Forces from Afghanistan, Yet maintaining a security presence by the training of an Afghani National security force, offering Logistical, remote, and aerial support, allied with a newly regional wide 'neighbourhood watch' program; whilst at the same time working in Conjunction with a Pakistan Government to Increase the welfare of the peoples in the tribal areas, and encouraging development, peace, education, health, prosperity, and employment, one could overwhelm the hateful messages of the Madrases run by the Taliban insurgents, and undercut the principles upon which the present Taliban organisation operate and recruit its adherents? Could it be that by investing in the peaceful principles that underlie the foundations of liberty and justice that are enjoyed by those in the developing world, and encouraging them by way of GIFT and GRACE within the Northern Pakistan states, and in fact within Afghanistan itself, one could ensure that the real battle, that for the hearts and minds of the people, who are the ultimate arbiters of right and wrong can be decisively won. Not won for the vested interests of power hungry elites, but won for the principles upon which our civilisation rests, Won for Peace, Won for Faith, Won for Compassion, mercy, tolerance, and Justice. In so doing all win. All who adhere to the merciful kindness of god, and follow the true 'path to the water source' win in a mutual peace won through Just means for a compassionate and peaceful ends.
There will be setbacks, there will be deaths, there will be blockages and tragedies along the way, but surely it is better to be walking together towards an enlightened path, than running away from eachother, our principles, and heart felt convictions, down a road of bloodshed and intolerance that leads away from the water source into the desert of despair into which we are currently heading.
No More War. The time has come to choose the path of peace, and if one is to choose this path, then the means and principled actions of peace must be employed at all times, in all creative ways, so as to win for all people the liberation that comes from true Faith, Peace, and Compassion.
email: Richard Michael Parker