A Point of View © 1996
Taligo or Talicome, no difference if you ask me.
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD, MBA, ICCP.
This article is dedicated to the many brave men and women in the military, including Afghani nationals, who gave their lives in Afghanistan protecting us.
I would like to reset my clock back twenty years or so. No, I am not trying to look younger or sexier. Those of you, who are still around and read my columns then, may remember the few I wrote when the United States was considering an invasion to Iraq because Saddam Hussein was suspected of harboring the so-called “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”
I developed a theory, and it was only a theory that later turned out to be true, that the infamous dictator was actually using what I called “Weapons of Mass Deception,” and his goal was not to drop them in my own neighborhood, but to scare the bedevils out of his nervous neighbors and fearful local enemies. I even compared his personality with another ruffian who was going around in Cuba at the time named Fidel Castro and I had met accidentally at a game changer opportunity that sent me and my family to the airport pronto. Both had the narcissistic nature of most dictators and the innate and cultivated nature of lying.
My American patriotism was placed in doubt, my concern for lives lost or the wounded taken for weakness, my intelligence questioned; but it wasn’t until we found ourselves trying to dig ourselves out of the Bagdad hole without the Weapons of Mass Destruction goods that my critics turned around, offered me a drink and asked me respectfully: what is next? At that time no one could figure out what next meant, until we decided to skip town and land in Afghanistan. Next had arrived.
The wars in that piece of mountainous land are like many diseases, chronic. We make a mistake when we call Afghanistan a country. It is really a quilt of independent tribes who would not recognize a central government if their lives depended on it. What has been most interesting is that there have been many empires hoping to glue them together for centuries without success.
We have to consider how people band together in tribes and how they look at authority. There are some tribes that look over the horizon to a central place where all the decisions are made and are willing to fight for that place. Think the American and Spanish colonies looking for directions from Great Britain and Spain for centuries before they rebelled. Still, there are some tribes that will not or cannot look beyond the horizon for directions. They are perfectly happy making their own decisions and are also willing to die for that independence. Think the American and the Central and South American revolutions that made them independent.
The most interesting periods in the lives of those tribes is when they shift from one model to the other. There is usually a lot of bloodshed in the process. Afghanistan was and is a version of the latter; naughty on us that we missed their nature and paid heavily for that mistake.
On October 14, 1892, a British named Arthur Conan Doyle began to write a series of successful detective stories about a Londoner named Sherlock Holmes. Many of you have probably enjoyed those fictional tales of crime. Of one particular interest for this article was the fact that in the first issue of the series, Holmes received the visit of a friend named John Watson, a doctor, who had recently returned wounded from the Afghanistan war and needed healing. Doctor Watson moved with the detective and the now famous association of both men trying to fight crime began.
Remember, this was 1892. It was fiction then, but it was based on an important war that had been keeping the British Empire busy trying to group the isolated Afghan tribes into a coherent society without success between 1839 to 1842 first, 1878 to 1880 next, and then 1919. They were not the first. Alexander the Great had attempted it in the year 331; that was 1,609 years ago. The Ghurid Empire tried it in 1191; that was 830 years ago. And we remember that more recently the Soviets tried to make a communist puppet out of the Afghanis between 1979 and 1989, and were kicked out by the famous mujahidin associated with the well-known nine eleven terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Enter the United States and its coalition partners trying to succeed in twenty years what others tried and failed in sixteen hundred. I suppose hope is eternal.
This article is not about fictional detectives. It is about the fact that for hundreds of years, various empires and coalitions have tried to assemble that juggernaut of tribes into a cohesive nation we can trust and failed. A central authority was not their preference. They were perfectly happy with their local sheriff and his, always his, not her, set of laws, religious or otherwise.
The Taliban, a religious association of Muslim teachers, entered the picture not too long ago and decided to govern that vast land by giving each tribe a sense of independence and greed that could only be maintained, not by a respect to a central location, but by their own interpretations of life, including the role of God, women and children.
We thought we had a better product. We gave them a choice they really didn’t care to make; but when the time to choose arrived they didn’t buy our goods. We asked earlier in this article what’s next. I think I know, but ain’t telling.
And that’s my point of view today.