Afghanistan and America. The Similarities

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Dear Mr Biden:

Read your speech on Afghanistan today at the White House.

Thank you for that.

Even though you speak of American support for the Afghan forces, there’s the growing doubt that the army we helped train, does not inspire the confidence they will fight the good fight once we leave.

You have assured us we are doing much to secure the safety of those who worked with us, through the granting of visas to the US or temporary relocation outside of Afghanistan until such visas are granted. 

Thank you for that. 

And yet some people have not chosen such option, instead preferring to stay, at least for now.

Surely they are animated by the desire to stand up for their nation.

I have read elsewhere (the Wall Street Journal) that hundreds of thousands of Afghan nationals, fearing the worst, have already left the country. 

Your anecdote about a schoolgirl saying she wanted to be a doctor and asking America not to leave because otherwise she wouldn’t realize her dreams, was poignant. 

Throughout your speech, there was a tone of inevitability mixed with much hope.

You said we had not gone there to nation build. You are right.

Yes, Afghans have their fate in their hands. They always did.

In the WS Journal article, I read of a woman who is a musician. That is what she loves. And yet to the Taliban her music is un-Islamic. Where will she fit? She won’t.

The article mentions that Kabul has been transformed into a cosmopolitan center where western influence is all around.

And yet to the Taliban that will surely be anathema. 

The clash of cultures is inevitable.

Western influence brought freedom of expression and career opportunities that were quickly taken advantage of by the locals and yet a movement of sufficient strength to resist the Taliban was not formed.

The sharp divide with the culture prevailing in the countryside remained. And the brutality of the Taliban kept growing. Surely there is much envy at the root of such discord. But it was not addressed. 

For one reason or another, a strong leader did not emerge to stand up for all the advantages western influence brought to that country.

A strong leader did not emerge to remind the westernized section, that their gains had to be defended, that discipline and sacrifice would have to be called upon to defend what they were enjoying and helping them prosper. 

I’ve read that tribal leaders in Afghanistan continue to section the country to their advantage but to the detriment of a united front. To date, there has been no willingness to compromise in the interest of national unity.

It is a sad story.

There was Hamid Karzai before and now Ashraf Ghani, but neither was able to stir a spirit of national unity that Afghans were willing to defend. Such struggle never became an essential task.

At a time when here in America we are profoundly divided, we can learn a great deal from the Afghan story. 

We have to talk to each other. It is now a national priority. Right up there with climate change and immigration reform and infrastructure building and better education and healthcare and improved broadband.

The task is sufficiently important to require a cabinet position and your constant attention. 

Talking to each other is key to any enterprise we wish to embark on as a nation.

If we don’t get back to building those bridges to each other, the spirit of collective purpose will keep waning, and the price we will pay for it will grow dearer. 

Afghanistan is a lesson for us today.

Thank you

Oscar Valdes 

What Will Bring Us Together?

The divisions between us have existed all along, but they had been neglected by our leaders.

Trump saw his chance and made the most of it.

Crafty fellow that he is, he assessed the circumstances and thought to himself, ‘I can do something with that. I can stir that pot to my advantage.’ And oh, he did it so well.

One for the record books.

There has been much pain and acrimony from all that the man has put us through, but he may have done us a favor.

The favor of exposing how vulnerable we are to the devices of a demagogue. Demagogue, as in a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims, to gain power (Webster’s).

Yes, he did it.

But we can learn from it.

Ideally, we should start on that process right away.

Biden has made it a chief theme of his campaign. Overcoming our divisions.

It won’t be easy but it’s a journey we should embrace.

It would require a little self reflection, an acknowledging that no one owns the truth, and that in compromise lies the key to a successful resolution of our major differences. Never mind the small ones. There will be time for those later.

Having a leader steering us through the healing process will be essential. Biden is uniquely qualified for the role of Healer in chief. He’s been preparing for the task a lifetime and is willing to invest the years he has left to guide us through the process.

We should take him up on it.

Of course, we can always ignore him, hoping for yet another demagogue to show up down the road – there’s no shortage of demagogues in waiting – but we would be prolonging our pain.

There is, however, another way to come together as a nation. It is cruder and more traumatic but it works too. That is to wait for an outside force to threaten us.

Nazi Germany and the Axis nations united us. We knew that we had better pull together or, eventually, we would end up being their vassals.

There is no prospect for another Nazi Germany today. And Russia is starting a process of renewal.

So which nation could threaten us into uniting? China.

They are rising fast and aim to be the leader of the world. Why not? A divided America only makes it easier for them.

So wouldn’t it be less painful and more productive to go the Biden way?

Settling our differences without an outside threat would be a sign of national maturity.

We can do it. We ought to.

And this is the time

Oscar Valdes is the author of Psychiatrist for A Nation and other books. Available on Amazon.