The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, almost single-handily derailed the general meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this past weekend. To curry favour from his country's 15% Shia Muslims for the August 20th Presidential election; he has signed into law radical elements of Shia Family Law.
During our last century, movies still etched in our collective psyche have attempted to shed light on how the world's wide-ranging cultural differences colour the perspective of war. Whether it was "Lawrence of Arabia", "Back to Bataan", or "Beau Geste", to name just three; the films' characters were gripped with epic confrontations fueled by attempts to fit our western culture into molds of significantly different values.
From the dawn of modern time; along the famed "silk road" to the Orient and through the fabled Khyber Pass, westerners have failed in two milenia of attempting to come to grips with the South Asian cultural divide. The Khyber Pass, a 53 kilometer strategic mountain passage through the Hindu Kush Mountain range between Pakistan and Afghanistan, is, it seems, our cultural "night and day". Its contrast stands as a geographical reminder of the world's geopolitical differences.
At the Strasbourg NATO Summit, just when U.S. President Obama sought additional support for his planned military surge into Afghanistan; he was blindsided by Hamid Karzai. The irony of this cultural two-step is that Karzai's failing government was established, and continues to be propped-up by the American government. It was formed when the Bush administration abandoned the mission to capture Osama Bin Laden and rout the Taliban permanently out of the mountain caves into which they took shelter. No surprise there: Afghanistan's history is repleat with countless examples of two-stepping forward...and three stepping back.
In modern times; first the British, followed by the Soviets learned the painful lessons from their disastrous attempts to westernize the regions beyond the Khyber Pass. It seems that it is now our turn: At the risk of sounding like a scratchy seriously over-played record - There is no hope of creating an Afghanistan, nor a Pakistan for that matter in: as it were, "our own (western) image". And, there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict.
Give me a break! NATO leaders can huff, puff and feign outrage over Afghanistan's Shia Family Law. Central and South Asia are the cradle of humanity. At many historic junctures, there's has been a civilization not so pretty from "our" moral viewpoint. But the valuable lesson the inhabitants have learned, and still apply; since before Jesus Christ turned as white as Michael Jackson, is: Patience.
Sadly Canada's increasingly painful lesson learned is: That at the end of our commitment, whether in 2011; earlier if Karzai fails to revise the family law that embraces the Shia code...Or later if President Obama get his wish... Our billions of dollars wasted and the hundreds of casualties will amount to dismal failures.