I wanted to change gears briefly and speak about the difficulties of rebuilding the failed, war-torn state of Afghanistan while dealing with the obstacle of firmly enculturated ethnocentrist ideas among the local national population.
The word “ethnocentrism” describes a (Usually) subconscious pattern of thought that one’s own cultural behaviors are correct, and others are incorrect. However, these days it is typically used by leftist pseudo-intellectuals as a pejorative term to describe how white westerners inherently behave toward other cultures. To be honest, white westerners, especially Americans, are well known in many parts of the world to be friendly and accepting of other cultures, to a fault. I have witnessed what real ethnocentrism is, in Afghanistan.
I was in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, and while I currently have little to no concern for whether the place ever graduates to a status higher than the poo-pond at Kandahar Airfield, I did leave my sweat there in buckets, and my unit lost three good men there. The best men. They were the kind of men who, when they went down, you thought “If they can get those guys, they’re not even going to break a sweat getting me.” So I guess I do have some concern about what happens there, even if I don’t think I should.
The religious, ethnic and sectarian differences the local populations hold fast to and use against one another constitute the one of the biggest hindrances to increasing the general stability of the country. This is just one level of ethnocentrism that I myself observed during my time there as a part of US Intelligence (USI). We operated with great difficulty at times due to the unwillingness of opposing ethnicities, such as Pashtuns, Uzbeks, Tajiks and Hazaras, to work together based on these differences. That factor was present in the higher levels of government, in the media and even down at the grassroots level, showing that the cultural divide was quite deep. My own experiences reflected this well.
Ethnic orientation was always a major factor in political appointments. I believe this to be an example of self-fueling ethnocentrism.
I mentioned earlier “one level of ethnocentrism” I had observed. The other level of ethnocentrism, though it wasn’t conscious, intentional or malicious, was coming from those of us in USI ourselves. We spent months in country assisting, advising and training the local officials, military and police on how to promote stability, build and maintain infrastructure, create a cohesive community in their area, increase security and manage public works and systems for the population. We did this based on our own knowledge of what that stability and cohesion might look like in Afghanistan, but it was and still often is clouded by what it would look like in the United States. Dozens upon dozens of generals, officials and politicians have devised volumes of books and strategies on nation-building in third-world countries that look and function in a way that is in no way similar to the cultural environment in which we live. Interestingly, enemy forces in the region have proven adept at using ethnocentrism to fuel the fire of instability and sectarian violence. The Pakistani ISI adds their own unique flavor.
There are several complex cultural currents in Afghanistan that have been driving the overall unstable situation in the region. At this point, our troops have done the job they were asked to do to the best of their ability with the tools they were given.