Where Are The Afghans In The Afghanistan Debate?
Surely by now you’ve read True/Slant contributor Michael Hasting’s wonderful profile of General Stanley McChrystal — one that has landed the General in hot water and may even lead to his departure from his spot as top commander in Afghanistan. If you haven’t read it, I’ll have to ask you to stop reading this and go read that first, it’s a great look into the minds of the leadership of American troops in that country.
However, while the nation’s attention is refocused to America’s longest war (it recently surpassed Vietnam in length), there’s still one glaring gap in the coverage of the conflict. Namely, there still isn’t any real coverage of actual Afghans in the war.
Watching television coverage of the McChrystal episode today, I saw all sorts of big names — Brooking’s Michael O’Hanlon, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer — dissect the news of McChrystal’s thoughts about Obama and the White House leadership team. Yet who I didn’t see on, and who I never see on the airwaves, is actual Afghans invited on to respond to the day’s news about the war in their country.
When you think about it, that’s a very disturbing absence. International forces have well over a hundred thousand troops fighting in a country with millions of people in it, and those millions of people don’t even seem to be important enough to mention in the debates in our nations’ capitals. This sort of marginalization of the people whose country we have a massive troop presence serves to dehumanize them. We’re always talking about what we’re going to do to them, or winning over their public opinion, or what we want from them. We never ask them to speak for themselves, to explain what they want in the country they were born in. Rather, we seem to obsess over the opinions of generals like McChrystal, foreign transplants who do not have the same organic roots and wisdom that being a native bestows.
Then again, this problem isn’t limited to Afghanistan. It seems that whenever our public figures (media and politicians) talk about the world — even countries we happen to be fighting in or occupying with hundreds of thousands of troops — the natives of those countries are pushed aside, and we’re much more eager to know Sarah Palin’s opinion on the matter than the indigenous person who has lived their whole life in the country.
If we’re serious about becoming a global community in the 21st century, then we need to expand the range of voices we allow in our public debate. And the first place we need to start is by ending the exclusion of the voices of the people who we fight our wars in. After all, the decisions our policymakers make as a result of the conclusions of our public debates matter much more to the natives of these countries than they do to us.