Wednesday, August 18, 2010

H-Day Reads

After the somewhat depressing post, looking back from 2050 at how our experence in Afghanistan will end. and entering a second decade of crisis after passing the first, trying to plant western style democacy in the ancient cradle of civilization where the region never really advanced beyond the despots that ruled for the past 5,700 years. Two articles attracted my attention and deserve a deeper look.

The first is from an Op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms. Ali reminds us of what the late historian Samual Huntington once wrote, and how it relates to the recent controversy surrounding the mosque in New York and other small ripples of conflict between the West and Islam.
What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the "Clash of Civilizations," particularly the clash between Islam and the West.
Huntington's argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important.
Ms Ali ends her comments with this observation.
The greatest advantage of Huntington's civilizational model of international relations is that it reflects the world as it is—not as we wish it to be. It allows us to distinguish friends from enemies. And it helps us to identify the internal conflicts within civilizations, particularly the historic rivalries between Arabs, Turks and Persians for leadership of the Islamic world.

But divide and rule cannot be our only policy. We need to recognize the extent to which the advance of radical Islam is the result of an active propaganda campaign. According to a CIA report written in 2003, the Saudis invested at least $2 billion a year over a 30-year period to spread their brand of fundamentalist Islam. The Western response in promoting our own civilization was negligible.
Read more:
How To Win The Clash of Civilizations

Iraqi Tribal Map

Afghan Tribal Map

This next read will surly stir some response at least mentally, since it challenges most of the narrative that has been taught the past forty years in U.S. History classes from elementary to the university.

Phillip S. Meilinger a retired Air Force colonel with a PhD in military history penned this next article, posted over at Small Wars Journal. Meilinger takes a unvarnished updated look back at the native societies that populated North America during the Pre-Columbian Era. Backed up by the latest archeological data, Meilinger serves up a concise if somewhat narrow view of tribal culture as it relates to war. In this vein I think it is needed to convey the theme without becoming bogged down in the minutia of this tribe was not as war like at that one. Meilinger opens with this intro.
There is an old saw among political scientists that democracies seldom fight other democracies. Although the accuracy of that statement often hinges on definitions—was 1914 Germany an autocracy because of the Kaiser, or a budding democracy because of an elected Reichstag—it is nonetheless largely valid. It has thus been a tenet of US diplomacy to urge the spread of democracy worldwide. Richard L. Armitage, the former Deputy Secretary of State, said recently in an interview: “every President except John Quincy Adams has been involved in the belief that the world is made better by a U.S that is involved in the protection of human freedoms and human rights across the board.” He went on to assert that “every postwar President has believed we have a duty to spread democracy.”
Cutting to the chase Meilinger contrasts what we now know about the Pre-Columbian cultures living in North America and what most have been taught in the past forty years.
Recent books capitalize on a new cycle of research that began a decade or so ago when archeologists and osteologists looked into Indian prehistory—the two thousand or so years before contact with Europeans. The results have been startling. Researchers discovered that prehistoric hunters/gatherers and indigenous peoples were violent and warlike. Most Indian villages, all over the continent, were surrounded by timber stockades, earthen palisades and berms, and other defensive fortifications.6 Indeed, the supposedly most peaceful of all Native Americans, the Anasazi of the southwest, did after all, often live in barely accessible cliff dwellings carved out of mountain sides. Why would they go to the trouble of hiding their homes and making them so indestructible if they had nothing to fear from each other?
What does this have to do with the war in Afghanistan.

It appears that President Obama also believes that peace and democracy can and sometimes should be imposed on lawless areas, but we need to rethink such a strategy and its implementation. Is democracy a realistic goal in Iraq, Afghanistan or other Islamic countries, and if so, how can it be achieved? Will 34,000 more American ground troops in Afghanistan provide the security and institutions needed to nurture democracy? It would appear that the goal should be to change the mindset and culture of ethnic groups—to accept the notions of diversity, tolerance, freedom and peaceful coexistence. These are not unworthy aims, and their achievement could go a long way to removing the hatred and violence than now reigns in too many areas of the world. The challenge is to determine a methodology for achieving these positive goals.
Read the whole piece
Primitive Violence, Culture, and the Path to Peace

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