The situation in Afghanistan at this moment is terrible, regrettable, and completely anticipated by everyone except the people who were trying to change Afghanistan. The region has been held by people, mostly men, who are uncomfortable and unwilling to change and allow women the freedom that all women everywhere deserve.
There will be many people, who are much smarter than I am, who say different things, and make better arguments. So, I will just rely on the truth, and there are several;
First, you can train, arm, and equip people all you want. It doesn’t make them willing to fight. The Afghan security forces we have all heard so much about lacked one important, and irreplaceable, trait’ the willingness to stand up to the Taliban.
Why? The reasons are many, varied, and come down to one thing. Deep down, the culture of Afghanistan has changed little and the religious lunatics in the Taliban want to keep it that way. Lunatics, leaders, today the terms appear to be interchangeable, especially here in the United States. Whoever is in charge has an agenda, and they have deluded themselves into thinking they can advance their agenda over the backs of half the population.
The second truth is one that many people don’t want to hear; Afghan men can’t function without the support of Afghan women. There are many people who believe that men are supposed to control women, and religious leaders are supposed to control everyone. We sell the same idea here to keep people in line. The idea is simple, “If you don’t get in line and conform to what we believe, you’ll not only suffer in this life but you will suffer in the next life, too.” The religious conservatives here are very little different than the Taliban in this respect. They’re selling the same fear-based bullshit designed to make people afraid for themselves, their loved ones, and what might happen after they die! It’s psychological warfare, pure and simple.
But if you were an Afghan mother with two boys and two girls, what would you do? Tell them to “Go outside and stand up to the guys with the AK-47s?” No, you want them safe, which is what most of the security forces we’ve been training decided they wanted, too.
I might advocate that Afghan women start putting a little soap or rat poison in the food they fix. I definitely advocate for civil disobedience, but not on a grand scale. The way to help Afghan people is the same way we can help ourselves here; break rules.
Small rules, big rules, rules in between. The Taliban will find out that it’s easier to take control by force than it is to keep control by any means. Governing is a tough job. Make it tougher. You don’t have to resist in dramatic ways that make you a martyr. But in small ways, over a long period of time, slowly eating away at the control and the authority of the Taliban, that will work. It always does.
The real truth about Afghanistan is this; the Taliban have been there since the Soviets left, they will be there because more people want them than don’t want them, and while we may find this terrible, it is their reality. Change doesn’t happen because people suddenly see injustice and make a correction. Change happens when we are convinced that staying the same no longer works.
Did we waste time in Afghanistan? Surely. Without a doubt. But the real lesson from Afghanistan is the same lesson everywhere, and a very important one here for us in the U.S. We have to decide to do the right thing for us, and face the fear of the consequences when we refuse to do the wrong thing just because the guy with the gun says so.
This is not only a lesson for Afghanistan, it is a lesson we Americans had better learn, and quickly. In case you haven’t noticed, the world is on fire, and it’s not waiting for us to decide what to do. The rules no longer work. Break as many of them as you can.