When I hear the word ‘American,’ I think of apple pie, baseball, Thanksgiving, freedom, and capitalism. When I hear the word ‘Afghan,’ I think of war, mountains, and the Taliban. Barely anything else comes to mind. It is this ignorance that perpetuates the idea that the US can make Afghanistan into a thriving, free country, and it is this ignorance that perpetuates this horrible war. Until Americans realize that we know what amounts to nil about Afghan culture and society, this war will continue.
I know a few things about Afghanistan, but not much. Afghanistan has always been a tribal society. These tribal loyalties are still especially strong in the rural areas, and less so in urban areas. The Afghan people have never really known democracy except in the heyday of the Cold War when it was a puppet government of the USSR. Aware of these two basic concepts, any sensible person would realize that our war effort will be in vain. Representative, national government may be the “American Way,” but it is not the “Afghan Way.”
Ninety-nine percent of the US population, myself included, knows very little about the ways and workings of Afghanistan. That being said, we should stop acting like we know what’s good for Afghans — because we really don’t. We can call for modernization and nation building all we want, but it will do no good. Our arrogant ignorance needs to cease immediately. Only then will real progress be made.
Here is an amazing photo essay from Afghanistan in 2009. The differences between there and here are hard to miss.Published in