Saturday, January 11, 2014

Culture is important to peace

Tribal methods of keeping peace are the foundations of modern society. Forgetting these links appears to be one of the largest factors in why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have failed. In much of the research that deals with peaceful societies, peace is more prevalent than many have come to believe. This is the case with Afghanistan. Although the Taliban government after 1994 was not a welcomed transition, there was a peaceful semblance of order under the Taliban. This reality is hard to understand when balanced with the stories of public executions, segregated schools and news of societal violence. What is often lost in the fog of war are the linkages of society which would remain alive. The cultural ways of dealing with issues remain because that is what the people are use to. These linkages must be used and supported for as long as necessary. What often happens is that the old methods are disposed of because foreigners see them as part of the problem. The same thing took place hundreds of years ago in North America. Today many of those ideas are now being put back because of those methods actually were useful and are often more efficient that what replaced them. For example courts in modern society are often slow and not community focused. We are seeing a resurgence in restorative justice programs. Such methods were the only method of dealing with issues that broke the peace in society. The elders were the ones that dispensed the program and ultimately ensured that peace returned. Such methods were alive and used in Afghanistan and Iraq. When those methods were broken a power vacuum was created. This power vacuum was a major component of why the military efforts failed. The governments that were propped up had no real authority with the average person. When the propped up government tried to execute its authority it was seen as a tribal power grab than a legitimate use of force. For those that study the transitions of society in times of violent upheaval, it is well know that a semblance of the past needs to be maintained. Some structures of culture are best preserved so the people can feel comfortable and secure. If such structures are not kept the transition will take longer to be successful if it is ever successful. People have to feel that they are part of the transition. This is the ownership of peace that must be felt as widely as possible. Peace is not something that can be imposed upon a person. The very notion is a contradiction in reality and is exactly what was being done in Afghanistan and Iraq. “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” Trust is a large component of peace. If the people do not trust the government or the people in government, peace is not possible. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, peace was possible until the foreign military started caring more for their own security than the people who they were to protect. The average person knows that peace was not going to happen when they saw troops being transported by helicopter. This lack of peace was further noticed when troops traveled in fast moving convoys to remain safe. The culture of peace was lost early on and the people understood this before the foreign governments even noticed. The people resorted to the old methods of doing things. This set back was fought hard by the new governments. However each fight brought more insecurity and distrust. Had the new governments embraced the old ways of doing things and brought peace in slowly we may have seen a different outcome. However we tried to hurry in peace, to buy peace, to impose peace with a smoke and mirror strategy. Culture takes time to both build and transition. In Afghanistan and Iraq we tried to bully people into peace.

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