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The Family of Imraan

Reader comment on item: Nation-building in Afghanistan, Iraq Was Never Going to Work

Submitted by Renox (United States), Sep 21, 2021 at 03:25

During the last few weeks of America's sojourn in Afghanistan, a certain refrain I had read or heard somewhere stuck in my mind and I have yet to get rid of it. It goes something like this: an Afghan and an American are talking about the coming calamitous and embarrassing abandonment by the US of its Asian ward. The American asks the Afghani how they withstood American's presence in his country for so long to which the Afghan replied: "You guys never had a chance here.....you may have had the clocks and watches at your disposal......but we had the Time."

That is to say: it was just a matter of time before the US - stumbling and fumbling – would abandon its project in Afghanistan.....as it had in Syria, Iraq and basically all of the Middle East. (Let's not forget the grotesque scenes in Libya of our US Ambassador – his corpse, that is – being dragged and hauled from one end of Benghazi to the other by who knows who for who knows why.)

Item to keep in mind: There have been a total of 8 US Ambassadors killed while in office: 2 died in plane crashes, and one was killed by rebel forces in Guatemala. The rest were all killed in the greater Middle East, specifically: Sudan, Lebanon, Afghanistan (1979), Libya and Cyprus.

But it is Dr. Pipes' 4th factor outlined in his essay that I think is the root cause of American failure not only in Afghanistan but in the Middle East as a whole. That is to say it is very difficult, probably impossible for an average American to really grasp the tenacity, the omnipresence, and dominance of Islam – the religion – in all phases of Middle Eastern life. The idea that the US could transform Afghanistan laws, institutions and way of doing things to closely resemble a Western country was a notion that had no chance of succeeding.....not even close.

A recent story I read relates how a famous scholar on Islam was recently giving a lecture/seminar to an advanced class at Stanford on the causes of the 9/11 attacks in the USA. Discussions and questions were allowed during the lecture.

The scholar later commented in private how naïve and uninformed this advanced class was on even the most elementary dynamics of the subject at hand. As the lecture continued, and to his utter amazement, he realized that just about every student was unable to understand the extend to which religion....plain ol' religion – was the primal force for the 9/11 attacks. To them, that people could actually be inspired and driven to perform the heinous attacks on the basis of some religious beliefs was totally beyond their comprehension, totally alien. They were dumbfounded. (So was the scholar but for other reasons).

During the last 20, 25 years, whenever an event occurs in which Islam has played a role in one capacity or another, I usually hearken back to an illuminative Koranic phrase that explains so much to me. It comes from the Sura (chapter) with the name: The Family of Imraan (sura 3: verse 119). Here it is in Arberry's translation, though I have modified it extensively to reflect my own interpretation of the original Arabic: In it, Allah acclaims the Community of Believers and charges them with the leadership of Man:

"You are the greatest of Nations, committed to honor, forbidden to dishonor and believing in Allah. You were forged mightily and put on Earth as an example to Mankind. Had the People of the Book believed as you do, their entry into Paradise would have been assured. While some of them are Believers, most of them are ungodly and are doomed to Hell for all Eternity."

With a steady diet like this since childhood, one can perhaps see the futility in any attempts at "change". Not for several more lifetimes, at least.


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