Leaving Afghanistan. Finding New Power

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Mr Biden has committed to the US exiting that nation. It was not an easy decision. But after 20 years of occupation, I think it is the right decision to make.

What has made it so hard?

We went there in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. That has been accomplished.

An enormous commitment in manpower and investment in the Afghan people was made to attempt to rebuild that nation, at least the sectors open to it. But the Taliban has proved eminently resourceful and, with the support of Pakistan, has managed to undermine American and NATO allies’ effort.

We have been grieving for a long time the loss of our effectiveness in Afghanistan, grieving that we could not do more for their people.

But we now have to face up to the failure of our ambitions.

We wanted to persuade the potential Taliban supporter that democracy was a better option. We could not do so. For one reason or another, what the Taliban preached was able to prevail and so convert enough Afghans to their side, and thus continue bombing schools and centers of learning and killing their brothers and sisters. The Taliban were willing to sacrifice their lives in praise of their god while seeing us as the devil.

After all these years, Afghans remain a profoundly divided nation, at war with themselves and immersed in a mortal struggle for their identity and their affirmation as a people.

We cannot fight their fight.

Twenty years we were there and failed to fire up in them the drive to counter teachings that restrict the possibilities of human beings.  

Twenty years we were there and failed to impact their culture in a meaningful way.

It was a very ambitious goal to begin with, and maybe it could have been approached differently, but we did the best we could given our own level of development. 

Now we must retrench. Now we must look at ourselves squarely and examine what has gone unattended within.

Maybe we can continue to offer some measure of support and keep the Taliban from overrunning the government that we and our allies, at great cost in blood and treasure, have helped put in place.

I hope so. 

But as we pull out we grieve the limits of our power. 

And as we grieve we must confront the inequality within that has weakened us and lessened our effectiveness abroad. 

Addressing such inequality will make us more effective when we again attempt to help other nations. 

Had we been a fairer nation, had we been known for treating African Americans with respect, we probably would not have been a target for Osama bin Laden.

The Twin Towers were a symbol of White Power in America. 

Had power not been so concentrated in a group perhaps such attack would have never happened.

The image we project as a nation matters. If we project an image that all ethnic groups in our land have a seat at the table when decisions of consequence are made, then the perceptions the world has of us will be different.

And so it is critical that we integrate all of our minorities. As we do, we will project an image that we are a reflection of the world in its entirety. That because groups from all over the earth have a place in our nation, then we are the world.

If all religions and languages, all colors and types can live and prosper in our land and we can still see ourselves as one nation, does that not tell the world that we are them and they are us?

Yes, it does.

And our effectiveness as mediators and resolvers of conflicts would be multiplied twenty-fold.

And we would be seen as a place where transformative choices occur – a laboratory for human interaction – from which others can learn just as we learn from them. 

Are we up for the challenge?

I say we are.

We are because all it takes is courage, intelligence, civility, humanity and the ambition to power it through.

And we have all of it.

Oscar Valdes.   Oscarvaldes.net

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