Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The American Taliban



Let me start out by saying that I am not a Cultural relativist. The Western conception that has based society and government on the individual and his rights, is the most Just. The Taliban are awful medievalists, but beyond the immediate context, there are undertones to their resistance and resolution that are, oddly enough, parallel to a revolutionary American ethos.
Though distinct events in American history, the American revolution and civil war linger in collective memory and helped form an identity forged in part in the heat of battle. Along with the blood of patriots being the breast-milk of liberty, it has been a devotion to the close knit familial units that have moved Americans to rebel against what they perceived to be unjust systems. Whether it be Imperial George or Federal Lincoln, the imposition and distrust of centralized rule is a strong narrative to this day. Favorite son of the South Robert E Lee writes that despite his,

"devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of my native State, with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed, I hope I may never be called on to draw my sword..."

The loose federalism prior to the civil war helped to create very local identities and loyalties. With the absence of the Federal system as a source of governance and services, family and local structures galvanized to form the distant south's political and social fabric.

Likewise, from the loose reign of the British colonial government prior to the 1760's grew a unique and localized colonial identity. If a disengaged and distant central power could allow the emergence of shattered and colloquial identities, than it can only be imagined challenging it would be to form a national identity and consensus for a people that have existed in a vacuum of Federal Government. That vacuum realized is Afghanistan.

Enter Mullah Omar, the military leader of the Taleban who has amazingly fought and evaded US capture for eight years. On Omar, Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who coordinated the Obama administration’s initial review of Afghanistan policy in the spring says of Omar, “This is an amazing story,” “He’s a semiliterate individual who has met with no more than a handful of non-Muslims in his entire life. And he’s staged one of the most remarkable military comebacks in modern history.” When you get over the fact that he is an Islamist, he sounds an awful lot like the frontier educated Davey Crockett or Daniel Boone, fighting a lopsidedand ultimately futile fight at the Alamo. This Underdog construct is another parallel, but that is another discussion. Think of that moniker often seen on bumper stickers or protest signs of patriotic and not so subtle vets, "Gods, Guns, Guts".
Though the context is entirely different, if Omar had an SUV, i don't think he'd change the bumper sticker.

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