What is going on?

Image thanks to Sky News

Some of the best advice I have seen on Twitter this week was to do with the situation in Afghanistan. The author said basically that if you don’t know what you are talking about then don’t comment. I haven’t got a clue what is happening there and while I have a strong recollection of the events twenty years ago that lead to the invasion (I can tell you exactly what I was doing when I heard the news) I can’t recall the reasons why or the justification for the occupation. 

I won’t comment on specifics then, but it is very hard to watch the events unfold and keep your mouth shut. The images of the poor and desperate people are appalling as, once again, their lives are  thrown into absolute turmoil. I can’t tell who is the liberator, who is the persecutor or who is winning. I know nothing other than the people of Afghanistan are the losers.

I can talk in general terms though. It is obvious in hindsight that this was not a war on terror. The whole of the country was not involved in terrorist activities. Instead it was a good excuse to force a liberal market ideology on a country, western imperialism by any other name. 

But you can’t change culture at the end of a gun. Even if you are the good guys, culture and memories run deep in the psyches of the people. Culture, national and local identities are built up over decades, centuries and even millenia. They rely upon a complex set of norms and practices honed and adapted over time. A new broom may sweep clean yet it only brushes the surface.

What is also clear is that Afghanistan, along with several other countries, has been used as a proxy war between the so-called superpowers of the world. Russia, Britain and the USA have all been involved at some time. It seems to me that the direct meddling in the affairs of foerign countries never comes to any good. Soft diplomacy is more effective and, as my wife says, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Whatever happens over the coming months and years I hope that things improve for the people of Afghanistan indeed the people of all troubled areas. I also hope that we in the west learn our lessons

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