An Alternative to War
Everyday I watch the news on TV. What do I see and hear? Yet another soldier, or more, has sadly been killed in Afghanistan. A young life wiped out, aspirations, ambitions – gone. I ask, ‘For what?’ It’s not that I agree with the terrorists or think the people of Afghanistan don’t need help in their long hour of need. No, I just believe that the battle, when fought this way, will not be won. The ‘powers that be’ are fighting ‘same with same’, yet against a belief system of fanatics. That belief is being made even stronger by retaliation.
I know nothing about military strategy but my life’s work as a psychiatrist has given me some knowledge about the structure and power of belief systems and the difficulty in changing strongly held beliefs of whatever kind. In the logical levels and in the ‘power’ of influence of thinking, beliefs are above the effects of environment, behaviours, and capabilities and just below identity. With fanatics, the beliefs have become ingrained to such intensity that they are almost their identity, so that they will willingly die for those beliefs. That is the strength and level of belief that is being fought in Afghanistan. Death for the fanatics is welcomed by them as a ‘way to their heaven’. Recently, one clerical of the same faith as many of the present day fanatics had the courage ‘to stand up and be counted’ and declared that acts of terrorism are evil and will lead to Hell. I applaud him. He is, of course, accurate.
Some beliefs, of course, like belief in kindness, honesty and integrity are essential for maintaining decent values in human life, but those of fanatics, gained from and based on indoctrination of their own interpretation of religion cause untold suffering and many deaths.
Despite several years and the combined forces of many countries, neither the Taleban nor al Qaeda have been beaten. So when is it time to alter tactics? One of the first lessons in life should be, if you try to do something one way and it doesn’t work, try something else. The tree with a more flexible stem can bend and is more likely to survive in a storm. The problem with many religions and fanatics is that the underlying beliefs are totally rigid. Something drastic and more powerful has to happen to alter those beliefs and, consistently, over a considerable period of time. Behaviour that strengthens the beliefs is counterproductive for change and the negative actions continue, but with added impetus.
Though I shall present a simplistic view, it is the principle that I wish to convey.
Let me mention three factors.
Firstly, somehow the fanatics are getting weapons. Where from? They have no facilities to make the guns themselves, and, even if they put together the roadside bombs that are doing so much damage, they still have to obtain the required components. So, who supplies the fanatics?
Secondly, the poppy fields in Afghanistan provide not only a livelihood for the farmers and money for the fanatics but also drugs of addiction, causing untold havoc throughout the world. Ironically, we see pictures of the soldiers walking, waist high, through fields of pink poppies. The poppy fields should be destroyed a s a p.
Thirdly, what do the Afghan people want and need? The general population, like people throughout the world want to be able to feed themselves and their children and live in peace. Primarily, whatever else, they need the wherewithal to produce and procure food.
My suggestions would be that the international community, United Nations, whatever and whoever, agree to:-
1) Stop ALL fighting. Only in Maths and grammar do two negatives make a positive. In life, two wrongs are always two wrongs!
2) Destroy all poppy fields as soon as possible – preferably in co-operation with the farmers, but if not, this action is still necessary. It should be done in a way that creates least damage to the land, This should be within the scope and wit of man!
3) Fighting must stop. Instead, the troops, money, aeroplanes etc should be used to airlift sufficient food into the country on a long term basis to feed ALL the people, and medicines to treat their illnesses. The fanatics should also be fed and treated with any needed medicines in exchange for their weapons.
The leaders of the terrorists could be searched for, captured and brought to justice by a select group of soldiers e.g. SAS, rather than endless bombing raids which destroy but do not achieve their goal. We see on TV short videos of the terrorists making the bombs used for the roadside killings of soldiers, so finding the leaders of these men should be possible.
A distribution network of food centres and medical centres would need to be set up. These could be run, even for several years, by the military from their camps and depots to avoid looting, stealing or corruption. The billions spent would then not be wasted in destruction of people and their country but have a peaceful and helpful purpose. However much food and medicines are supplied, it would still be much cheaper than the war.
The terrorists fight with weapons to kill. Would they compete to try to win over the people by supplying food and medical facilities? I doubt it.
The final phase would be to then provide plants and facilities for processing of the produce for sale. The farmers could grow alternative crops, as is already being done in some areas, where pomegranates are being grown.
The money is already being spent and wasted in billions, why not proceed on a different path, do something positive? Something which will enhance peoples lives rather than destroy a nation. When I watch the devastation and bombing, I think as a doctor, but also as a wife, mother and grandmother, and my heart aches for the women in Afghanistan and their hardship and sorrow.
Gradually, with this strategy, the power and fear of the terrorists will be weakened, and invasion of their country will be helping to create health rather than destroy life. Beliefs can change, slowly, in this way over years. As an overview the human race has not progressed through time, just become more powerful in destroying life and the environment. Surely time has come for a change.
Of course, these actions require a different mind-set in those who govern other nations. The ultimate fear engendered by terrorist is the fear of death. People in power travel abroad with hundreds of security guards and can even take their own steel-armoured car. Despite the carbon footprint being immense for these trips abroad, that is, apparently, of no concern when compared to the fear of their own death. They make commands from behind the safety of their desks, and, speak from behind bullet proof shields.
They then make decisions that young men should be sent out to face bullets and possible death daily.
When I worked as a Doctor for very many years, I never, to my knowledge, prescribed a drug or treatment for anyone that I would not have accepted to have myself in identical circumstances. It had to be potentially OK for me before it was OK for anyone else. If the politicians or terrorist leaders had the same rules, then the wars and fighting would stop. Why do people like Bin Laden hide? Why does he not walk freely in the open if his message is right? Fear of death. What they cause they also fear. I will just add that they have every justification for that fear as everyone must account for their actions when they die, and die, one day, they will.
I once saw a programme on TV about a tribe in one of the isolated areas of the world. This tribe’s main objective each year was for each village to work to rear as many turkeys as possible. Why? Once a year, the village members met and the village which gave most turkeys to their neighbours won the highest regard and respect.
And the so-called civilized world thinks it knows best?
Certainly, it is quite brilliant in the subject of, ‘How to waste vast amounts of money and inflict immeasurable pain’, and would obtain a distinction in ‘Greed’.
There is a flaw in my suggestions. The procurement and distribution of food, medicines, vehicles, equipment, fuel etc would be an ideal situation for exploitation and greed in those supplying the necessary products, and ideal situation to make excess profits. It happens all the time. But, it could be prevented.
I would at least trust the young soldiers carrying out their tasks at the point of distribution.
Isn’t it time for a change?