Hypocrisy or Naivety?

5 11 2009

Hypocrisy or Naivety?

Those who might occasionally stumble across this blog site will know a) that I have become loath to join the world that pontificates on issues too complex for meaningful comment and b) I have often commented about hypocrisy in the modern world. I write, therefore, only when I have reached boiling point and when I wish, for my own benefit, to record in journal form, my thoughts at this time in my life.

The subject that has been building up in the back of my mind is of death and Afghanistan. I have sat, as a media watcher, for many months pondering the futility of war in Afghanistan. History suggests that no one from outside wins in that country. We have been there before, the Americans have been there before, and the Russians have been there before, and none of us came out with flying colours. The current reason for being there is purported to be to thwart Islamic fundamentalist terrorists yet I suspect that if we managed to occupy the entire land mass of that country such terrorist activities will simply carry on somewhere else. It seems to many of us that it is like chasing symptoms but not dealing with the disease. That is hypocritical and, for the many of us who feel jaundiced and betrayed having watched and worried over Iraq, there is a subtle undermining worry that honesty does not prevail here either.

In today’s Times, Paddy Ashdown rather uncertainly makes a defence for being in Afghanistan on the grounds of what might happen if we pulled out. He is, in many eyes at least, someone with credibility yet even he appears uncertain. Possibly the only reason he gives that seems to have some certainty behind it (and I take his word for the truth of what he says) is that, “an overwhelming majority … despite all, still want us to be there and only 5 per cent of whom want to see the Taleban back.”

A second view was expressed earlier in the week in the Times by Nick Horne who had just resigned from being a political affairs officer at the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, who concluded, I now believe that strategic failure is the most likely outcome of our engagement in Afghanistan.” He gave his reasoning as follows: Among the greatest mistakes of the international community has been its laissez-faire approach to the corruption, cronyism and venality of the Afghan Government. The insurgency is winning not so much because the Taleban’s ideology and platform have popular appeal, but because the Afghan Government is seen as corrupt, unrepresentative and ineffective.”

There we have it! Put in Biblical terms there is an unrighteous administration which the West is supporting. How many times in the past sixty years has the West supported such regimes, simply because the alternative is worse?  If there are two evil regimes, the answer is not to choose the lesser of the two evils but to get wisdom to choose an alternative course of action. It appears that as the West has largely rejected God, that wisdom has not been forthcoming. Whereas there was once at least a Christian consensus with absolutes in the West, which helped foster a ‘reasonable’ democracy, with the abandonment of that the West seems to have lost any viable alternative to put to regimes who have never had the same Christian-philosophical underpinning. All we are left with is political pressure of a very shallow kind which subsequently seems almost powerless. The helicopter gunship, drones and missiles become the currency of persuasion and the end is highly questionable, as Paddy Ashdown is suggesting today.

Put aside the hypocritical aspects inherent in what we’ve considered so far, there was a further article in the past week that made me ponder on whether hypocrisy or naivety were the right words that apply. The article was headed, “Celebrities get more respect than dead soldiers, says George Cross holder.” It was the complaint of a young man who at 18 had won the George Cross in Iraq but who, now out of the army and “disillusioned by army life and angry at the Government” was upset that Government ministers didn’t turn up at Wootten Bassett to welcome home the dead bodies. It was left to a services spokesman to point out that they specifically restricted such times to close families and military personnel, but it left me wondering about the reality of public responses to deaths of army personnel in Afghanistan. Is it hypocritical or merely naïve?

Check this out. If you join the army you know you will be trained to fire weapons to kill enemies. Yes? Those enemies are going to fire back and inevitably, as much as we may dislike the thought, people are going to get killed. Yes? Yes, it is right and natural for families to grieve at the loss of a loved one, but why the surprise? If we are comfortable with this government taking us into Iraq (on false grounds it now turns out) and now into Afghanistan (on questionable grounds at least), why are we surprised and upset at soldiers being killed. Surely that is either hypocritical or naïve – or perhaps something else?

At this time of year as we are coming up to Remembrance Sunday we again pull down the shutters on logical and non-emotive thinking. The First World War was surely all about bad treaties that fell like dominoes dragging everyone into one of the worst blood baths of history. Governments and fickle and deceived public opinion dragged millions to their deaths. There was nothing glorious about it. The best thing we could say to such survivors as are left would be, “We are really sorry you were dragged into that mess and had to go through what you went through.”  When it comes to the Second World War, that was a bit of a different ball game and there appeared a much stronger case for calling men to go to defend their country against a horrific ideology which still has echoes today. But now we add in the dead of Iraq and Afghanistan and, I would suggest, there needs to be a similar apology from the present government as I have suggested need to be given to World War I veterans: “We are really sorry you were dragged into this mess and had to go through what you went through.”

There is an immense difference between being called to defend your country and going to another country to wage a philosophically questionable war. Is it hypocritical of the government to send troops to a questionable conflict? Is it naïve of young men joining up at a time when they know they will be called to fight and possibly be killed, to think it’s a safe and honourable profession?

With all the clever think-tanks that the modern world uses, is it beyond our abilities to come up with bigger, better, real solutions that genuinely face the problems, face the false ideologies, and come up with viable alternatives? Ah, but there we have the problem: we believe in anything and everything and are not very good at critically examining ideologies and pointing out their faults and failings – perhaps because we have too many of our own. Hypocritical or naïve?  Possibly both!

Whether these, in such a situation, are bad things is another question. Perhaps the word ‘sincere’ should temper the discussion for undoubtedly our soldiers, at least, appear sincere. They may be naive but sincerity does a lot to cover that. Nevertheless we may still have to apologise to them and their families for not having come up with something better to solve the terrorist problem – those who live to tell the tale that is. For the rest we’ll appease our consciences by putting little crosses in a public place. We must do better!

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