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Regrettable images of the gut-wrenching and calamitous proceedings in Afghanistan decorated all global media platforms during this week. The culmination of 20 years and two trillion dollars of US investment laid bare for all to see. It was a misadventure. The Taliban are back. Afghanistan remains the tribal intractable enigma that caused the mighty Soviet Union to whimper with tails safely tucked between their legs. Despite being warned repeatedly that there is no military solution to the problem, the US was convinced that their USD 778 billion funded military could have settled the fractured country. Hence, they proceeded. Today, it is back from whence we came. Four US Presidents can now testify: Afghanistan, unwaveringly, lives up to its sobriquet, ‘graveyard of empires.’
What lessons are being offered by this latest development? Specifically, what is there for Guyana to carefully grasp?
NATIONS HAVE NO FRIENDS, ONLY INTERESTS
There is never an inopportune time to mention the sentiments of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand which were echoed by Charles de Gaulle and bluntly put by Henry Alfred Kissinger, ‘Nations have no permanent friends, only interests’. This is the golden rule of international affairs and anyone who does not abide by this cold posture shall be in peril. Yet again, this maxim has been laid bare by the Afghanistan imbroglio. The intentions of the Americans were never a secret, it was written across the streets of Kabul. In ‘The National Security Strategy of the United States of America’ document of September 2001, it is clearly stated: ‘Our priority will be firstly to disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations of global reach and attack their leadership; command, control, and communications, material support; and finances’ (pp.5). Due to the barbaric attacks on 9/11, the US justifiably pursued her interest in the land of tribal chaos. Henceforth, successive Presidents remain laser-focused on the mission. As a consequence, there was never a desire to save the people of Afghanistan from centuries of tribal divisions and warfare. It was never about ensuring that there was a stable society in years to come. Therefore, it is mind-boggling if not downright folly to shed tears for the people at this juncture. Be comforted by the cold hard reality: insofar as the politics of the day permits, US Presidents will make decisions with the sole consideration for the people of whom he provides tutelage.
YOU CANNOT BOMB AWAY AN IDEOLOGY
Having regards for what was previously mentioned, there is another important lesson on display with the Afghanistan fiasco: ideology is more powerful than the gun. Notwithstanding their barbarism and diabolical handling of affairs, any dispassionate observer cannot escape being marveled by the resurgence of the Taliban. We were told that they were dead. Done and dusted. When Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) confirmed the death of their reclusive leader, Mullah Omar in 2015, western nations rejoiced. Some were of the view that the Taliban were on the run, disjointed, disunited and reduced to a mere rag-tag-Kalashnikovs carrying group. As evidenced by the recent unfolding of events, this was pellucidly contrary to reality. After inestimable tonnage of bombs and bullets aimed at the group over 20 years, they have survived, nay, thrived. The only reasonable conclusion on offer is: this has to be down to ideology and therefore, Joseph Stalin’s mantra holds-‘Ideas are more powerful than guns’. For me, it says to us here in Guyana that political solutions lie not in weapons or force. We should always seek to recognize and respect what ideas are driving the actions of each group and through leadership, seek to address those.
NATION-BUILDING CANNOT BE LEFT TO FOREIGN POWERS
Broken and fractured societies must solve their problems by themselves. Foreign friends or foe will never commit to building an occupied nation for long-term stability. This is not how they operate. Anyone who argues the contrary must answer some basic questions: after 20 years of US occupation, where are the schools? Where is the grand everlasting infrastructure? Where is the eradication of the poppy trade? Where is the elimination of diseases? Where is the lasting agreement for peace? The answers cannot be in the affirmative because it was all about military might and achieving narrow self-interest. The point has been underscored yet again-no one will build your country for you. Look not to western capitals for national integration or national unity. Seek not the help of those in far lands to solve your intractable problems, it is never their business and ought not to be their business.
The great American misadventure has reinforced time tested lessons. Guyana should pay attention.