I wish the military historians who will write the story of this war would be required to pass a rigorous qualifying exam in Middle East History, Anthropology and Comparative Religion.. Come to think of it, it might not be a bad idea for those same American military and civilian commanders to have been subjected to the same rigorous qualifying exam as those commissioned to write the history. Successful completion of such an exam would require some intelligence – not the kind of intelligence that hires agents or invents the politics of other people’s nation building – rather the kind that engages with culture, ideas and wisdom.
In the present configuration of nation states even with one super power it rarely works to talk down to other nations and peoples. Listen to the speeches of super power leaders – so full of “shoulds”, “oughts”, “have tos”. Even business management has discovered the power of team work, collegiality, and authentic respect for a time frame. Talking down does not get the job done. Extreme talking down which is the use of the instruments of war doesn’t get the job done either although tiny victories might be celebrated. There are many more terrorists in Iraq today than there were five years ago.
Talking down to other people with orders that are backed with guns, bombers and Hummers does not lead to success. So why do we do it? Why do war leaders do it? Why do some peace people do it, albeit without the guns? Why do we settle for tiny victories when the universe is calling us to a new consciousness of unity and purpose that will reach far beyond our generation? I can understand the politicians because they are looking down the dark hole of the next election. But the rest of us who don’t face elections are invited to know better – that force in the form of weapons or words do not lead to long term conditions for peace. When we get it down a little better maybe we can help leaders to prepare for their qualifying exams.