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Friday, September 10, 2021

September 11th, 2001

Highly recommend the Netflix documentary series (5 hours total). I watched all of it yesterday. Squares totally with everything I've already learned.
As the Taliban rapidly crushed US-backed Afghan forces, many politicians, pundits, and military leaders expressed surprise at having overestimated an ally’s will to fight and underestimated the enemy’s... That attitude reflects political and military leaders’ continual discounting of research, supported and known by many of those leaders, on the importance of sacred values and spiritual strength to the will to fight. It may remain “imponderable”—and attendant security challenges seemingly intractable—so long as it continues to be viewed through a narrow lens of instrumental, utilitarian rationality.

Throughout history, revolutionaries willing to sustain extreme conflict have been “Devoted Actors” fused together by faith in defending or advancing non-negotiable “sacred values,” whether religious or secular, like God or country. Insurgents willing to sacrifice for their cause have often prevailed with far less firepower and manpower than opposing state forces that mainly relied on material incentives such as pay and punishment... 

Research indicates that the Taliban and their supporters believe it’s worth dying for establishment of an Islamic Emirate—not global jihad—involving territorial sovereignty under Sharia law. Motivation and strength can be found on both sides of conflict. Research found that US Air Force Academy cadets’ perception of spiritual strength, tied to group loyalty, was more strongly associated with willingness to fight than was physical formidability. Yet, however strong the esprit du corps of American fighters, no amount of arms or training could ensure its transference to other forces and cultures...
By failing to recognize limits on the ability to impose on other cultures values that have taken many years to attain gradually in its own culture, the United States and its partners will continue the unsound habit of approaching problems by building up the wrong kinds of allies and armies—weakly modeled in America’s image but devoid of the spirit that can only arise from one’s own values and cultures. To honor Western democratic values by example, advancing them through financial, media, and moral alliances, and using force only to defend rather than dispense, is a surer way forward.
BEING GOOD (Simon Blackburn)

“…toleration is often a good, and we do well to put many imperialistic certainties behind us. When in Rome do as the Romans do-but what if the Romans go in for some rather nasty doings? We do not have to lift the lid very far to find societies whose norms allow the systematic mistreatment of many groups. There are slave-owning societies and caste societies, societies that tolerate widow-burning, or enforce female genital mutilation, or systematically deny education and other rights to women. There are societies where there is no freedom of political expression, or whose treatment of criminals cannot be thought of without a shudder, or where distinctions of religion or language bring with them distinctions of legal and civil status.

Here we have a clash. On the one hand there is the relativist thought that `If they do it that way, it's OK for them and in any event none of my business: On the other there is the strong feeling most of us have that these things just should not happen, and we should not stand idly by while they do. We have only perverted or failed solutions to the problems of which standards to implement, if the standards end up like that.

Here it is natural to look to the language of justice and of `rights: There are human rights, which these practices flout and deny. But the denial of rights is everybody's concern. If young children are denied education but exploited for labour, or if, as in some North African countries, young girls are terrifyingly and painfully mutilated lated so that thereafter they cannot enjoy natural and pleasurable human sexuality, that is not OK, anywhere or any time. If they do it, then we have to be against them.”

September 11 wasn’t a sui generis event coming out of a clear blue sky. It was the first warning that the 21st century would not bring boundless peace and prosperity. Al‑Qaeda was less a primitive throwback to the Middle Ages than an augury of the anti-liberal politics and virulent nationalism that would soon reach around the world, even to America, where the hijackers once aimed their blows.”
You can't do better than this author for your coming to fully understand our failure in Afghanistan.
Sarah Chayes's remarkable trajectory has led her from reporting from Paris for National Public Radio and covering the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan to running a soap factory in downtown Kandahar in the midst of a reigniting insurgency. She went on to advise the topmost levels of the U.S. military, serving as special adviser to two commanders of the international forces in Kabul and then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen. She left the Pentagon for a five-year stint at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she extracted the broadly relevant core from those experiences...
I've cited these previously as well. See also my SIGAR post.

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