Following a weekend when the world celebrated what would have been the 70th birthday of singer, songwriter and peace activist, John Lennon, there are rumours that a peace deal is being discussed in Afghanistan between President Karzai and the leaders of the Taliban. Karzai has taken the incredibly radical step of traveling to the south of the country he is supposed to be leading, to discuss peace with the Taliban. The Taliban have indicated that they could not consider such a peace deal until the occupying forces leave, which is ironic because if a peace deal were brokered, in all likelihood the occupying forces would gladly leave.
But you ask, how can the legitimate, democratically elected leaders of Afghanistan have meetings with the Taliban, who we all know are nothing more than terrorists? Well the problem with that logic is that the words 'legitimate' and 'democratic' have to stretch a long way to fit in the same sentence as Karzai. Other words like 'corrupt' and 'exploitative' could easily fit in that sentence. It is true that the Taliban are notorious for their Islamic extremism, their harsh promotion of Sharai law and their oppression of women so there is no use looking for the 'good guys’ to support. Of course the problems predate September 11, 2001, the supposed reason for the US led invasion, now almost nine years ago. They predate the ten-year conflict with the Soviet Union, where the Soviet army battled insurgent forces who were financially and militarily supported by the CIA. The problem's genesis goes back even further to the state's modern existence as a buffer state between Russia and the British Empire. Maybe the descendants of the ancient religions of the Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists might point to invasions by Arabs many centuries before these problems.
While cynics would suggest that peace couldn’t work in such a tribal and problematic place, it is not unreasonable to be reminded that war does not seem to have a very good track record. The British, the Soviets and now the Americans in Afghanistan have found that war is a rather clumsy, expensive, deadly and ineffective tool. Giving peace a chance sounds like a hippy slogan, but the conclusion that war is an abject failure is hard to deny. Diplomacy is a messy compromise where justice and morality rarely win the day. But when war seems such a monumental failure, there seems little alternative than to sit down with your enemies and dare to dream of peace.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34: 14
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