Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Bit More About "Muslim Moderates"

Washington decision-makers need to learn that they must either educate themselves or they will do more harm than good by inflicting American power on socially complex places like Afghanistan. Simplistically labeling our opponents as "evil" only means we are entering the contest with our eyes shut. We need to identify the actors, learn their goals, and figure out what they would settle for. The reality is an admittedly confusing "complex, adaptive system" (the good news: that spells "opportunity" for the thoughtful), but even an Excel spreadsheet of Actors x Goals would be a step forward in comparison to the approach followed in Washington since 9/11. Educating ourselves will facilitate moving from searching for "moderates" to cultivating moderates...and even to redefining what "moderation" means.

The comment below, by Vice President Biden, exemplifies the confusion in Washington:

Five percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated....Another 25% or so are not quite sure, in my view, of the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency. Roughly 70% are involved because of the money.

Does it really not occur to him that there might be other motivations? In the first place, "because of the money" is a rather crass formulation, implying an immoral greed, when "avoiding starvation" might be a more accurate way to put it. Beyond that, what about fear (either of the insurgents or of the U.S.), patriotism, justice, defense of their way of life? Might Biden care to put percentages on those justifications? These distinctions are critical, and as the Pakistani civilian regime turns to dictatorship to maintain its hold on power, these distinctions will become even more critical.

Question: Does "moderate" mean refusing to defend your home when invaded, occupied, bombed?

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