Hearts and Minds

Originally posted at Writeindependent.org on February 26, 2012

I read an article today, front page of the LA Times, about how the Afghanistan situation might actually be worse now than before we went in to retaliate against the 9/11 attacks and Al Queda.

If we went in thinking we were going to win the hearts and minds of the people, then the verdict is: we have failed miserably. Are the Afghans better off than before we went in?

Who would have thought that wearing fatigues, armed with guns, and blowing up incendiary devices would make a positive impact on a country so steeped in its own culture and religious clashes?

It was a crazy idea: that “war” would bring “democracy”.

If our government had asked Americans prior to declaring war if WE wanted to go to war, the vote would have been a resounding “no!” We might have expected special ops to go in and find Osama Bin Laden, but we would be reluctant to start another Viet Nam, having learned our lesson the hard way.

So let’s stop thinking that war solves our problems, since it has been such a miserable failure, why don’t we?

But we ought not to just abandon Afghanistan, the way our “leader” thinks we should just pull out our troops. If we do that, we will be creating new problems. You can’t just go in and screw up a place and then leave it trashed. You have a responsibility to make amends over a long period of time. We owe it to the Afghans to make peace happen, and it won’t be done by wearing fatigues and guns slung over our shoulders.

I recommend that a different sort of unit be placed in Afghanistan: a peaceful group of people whose main function is to turn a desert into an oasis of sorts. It all starts with drip irrigation, and with a well-thought out plan for the women to take charge of the food supply while the men carry out the hard labor For a fraction of the cost of the war, we could really make a positive impact on the people, speaking their language and dealing directly with poverty.

I propose we send in people who are healers and teachers. Imagine that. How much farther would we have gotten with this kind of tactic to win hearts and minds, if we had started this way from the beginning?

I’m sure there are cynics out there who disagree. But prove to me that war is better than what I propose. Oh, that’s right: we won’t be able to prove it because we don’t have leaders who will try anything new.



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