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If You’ve Got Nothing Worth Dying For, You’ve Got Nothing Worth Living For.-Martin Luther

I was struck this week by the number of Taliban killings in Afghanistan. They are killing civilians, Afghani military, police and yes, even NATO soldiers. The reason I was struck by this wanton killing is that the Taliban is in the middle of peace negotiations with the United States Envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad. Even the slightest test for common sense would tell you that if you are in the middle of peace negotiations you might take the bombings and shootings down a notch. Apparently there is not the slightest bit of common sense present in that country, on their side or ours. It reminds me of a quote I once read about Viet Nam. “The only thing we learned from Viet Nam is that there is nothing worth dying for.” I find that statement tragic.

It is amazing how far we have come. Peace at all cost. Is that a worthy goal? Is peace worth any price that one will pay. If that is true, is peace worth dying for?

My concern about the peace process in Afghanistan today is the fact that while peace is being negotiated one of the parties (the Taliban) are continuing to kill and make war. When asked about it, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister said, we just want to make sure that the Americans understand that we are not negotiating from a position of weakness. I must admit. I am skeptical of this peace process. Winston Churchill once said, “the only thing we have ever learned from history is that nobody ever learns anything from history.” The US leadership would do well to go back and read about the history of Afghanistan. One should read the history of a British General Elphinstone.

The significant errors in judgment and poor decision-making by General Elphinstone led to the greatest defeat of a British Army in the Empire’s history.  Some have argued that Elphinstone was inexperienced and old; these being justifications for his inability to defeat a tactically and technologically inferior opponent.  This may be true but the character of Elphinstone traits tell a different story.

British Major General William George Keith Elphinstone, known as “Elphy Bey,” was a leader that failed in his most important duty; to protect those under his command.  His leadership traits were:

  • Indecisiveness (especially under critical conditions)
  • Inability to make sound tactical decisions
  • Unpreparedness and unwillingness to plan ahead
  • Suspiciousness of junior officers
  • Gullible (relied on negotiations from a position of weakness)
  • Failure to translate information into intelligence

I fear that the failures of General Elphinstone are about to be repeated. It’s a pity, because all the signs are there. General Elphinstone was just tired fo being in Afghanistan. He was just ready to go home. His expeditionary army of 16,000 well equipped men, all perished, but one at the hands of an inferior enemy. Time will tell. The prospect of peace looks wonderful and it is something we all long for, but at any cost? History would tell us otherwise.

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