Failing into Collaboration?
When is the time for peace? Talking to the man from HaGalil and asking forgiveness and wondering or wandering how to fight for peace?
حين قررت الرحيل في تلك اللحظة توقفت كل عقارب أيامي لاأسمعُ للساعةِ صوت _ قَد أوقَفَها صمتُ رَحيلي فقراريَ يعني--ماذا يعني أتركُ أهلي ___أهجرُ بَلَدي أن تخرج روحي من جسدي أن أُسجَن سجنٌ أَبَدي فَصَمتُ رَحيلي صمتٌ قاتل صَمتُ قراري حَكَمَ بموتي __صمتٌ أَخرَسَ حتى صوتي جَلَستُ وَحيداً----أَتَنَقلُ مابَينَ سكوني نَظَرتُ بَعيداً--لاأدري ماترقبُ عيوني في تلكَ أللحظة جائَتني مَحبوبَةُ قلبي__ جلست قربي وعيوني تنظرُ عَينَيها __قالت والدَمعُ يواسيها قبل أن تَرحَل حبيبي إنتظر __ إن قلبي تحتَ صَدري يَحتضر خذهُ مني --ضَعهُ فوقَ الكف وأنظر ___ أي جزء لستَ فيه خذهُ باللهِ عليك __طائراً بينَ يَديك كَسَرَ الهجر جناحه __أنتَ مَن يشفي جراحه كل جرح يرتجيك ياحبيبي قلبي لايصبر وحيداً ____إن تكن تنوي الرحيل ًلاأرى للصبر نفعا __في ظلام المستحيل ماذا مابعد الفراق __غير آه واشتياق ___إن بُعدك لايُطاق أسكتها صوت نحيبي__ أبكاها صوت نحيبي قالت مايبكيك حبيبي قلت لها والنار بقلبي عفوا حبي فدموعكِ لاتقطع دربي فحقيقة قراري --إن قراري --ليس قراري فزماني مَن سَن قراري فزماني دمر أسواري __أجبرني أن أهجرَ داري ًغاليتي --لاتبكي أبدا فجسمي يرحلُ حيثُ قراري أما روحي __ فبقربكِ تبقى روحي وبذكراكِ أداوي جروحي غاليتي أقسم بالحب __ إني يوماً سوف أعود فَخُذي عَهدي بقايا جَسَدي لاتدفنُ إلا في بَلَدي حيدر
-Email from friend who's lost hope as an Iraqi Refugee in Syria.
In attacking Turki Village by initial air assault followed by ground maneuver, we achieved tactical surprise on the enemy, a basic tenant of warfare but a maneuver largely lacking from the Occupying American Forces in Iraq during the fall of 2006. We chose to be different.
-A/5-73 Recon Operational Summary
At what point does reality completely overwhelm the neatly, beautifully constructed theories we’ve used to explain it? Why do men Rebel? At what point will the violence diminish and the people learn to live together? What does it mean to be human? Who are Us, Them, and We?
I came home from my final tour in Iraq in September 2007. Looking back, it was a time of that Mackenzie Allen Phillips would call “The Great Sadness.” After five years of fighting, it was my time to rest, reflect, and process, but I could not. I was stuck knowing and fearing and seeing and understanding that despite our best efforts, our brothers and sisters in Iraq were still stuck in anger and hate and seeking revenge.
While we finally established security, there would be no political resolution. The violence would continue.
During that same fall and into the winter, I settled into Monterey, CA to attend graduate school, young teenage girls from Zaganiyah and the surrounding villages deep inside the Diyala River Valley physically exploded. Ali Latif al Zaharie and the rest of al Qaeda network effectively co-opted and recruited them to become suicide bombers and martyrs. The poor, the downtrodden, those with no hope- they wore black, and they attacked into Baqubah knowing that God was going to cut them down.
But, during those times, perhaps Allah or God or Nature or the Higher Power turned her back to mankind disgusted by the way we chose to treat each other. He allowed us to fight and destroy each other.
And, so it must be sometimes. Sometimes we have to fail until we are willing to collaborate.
Give me your attention for a few more minutes of your time, and I’ll explain this in full…
Sometime in the spring of 2008, I was down in the Trident Room, the bar tucked into the basement of the Naval Postgraduate School, trying to quench my thirst. This is the same bar that LTG William H. Caldwell once roamed. Jonny Cash’s The Man Comes Around blared from the jukebox, and I was decisively engaged in conversation with Doug Borer as we wrestled over small wars and life and philosophizing over ends, ways, and means.
Doug, in his own way, paused for a bit. I had already grown accustomed to the academic posturing or absentmindedness lost in thought so I paid it no mind. I sipped my beer and reflected on my last conversation with Anna Simons on how she was going to change the world and fix our foreign policy. Simultaneously, I was wondering what Dr. Gordon McCormick and Dr. John Arquilla were going to brief to Congressman Leon Panetta about his views on what the foreign policy should be.
“Mike, it’s time for you to meet Nancy,” Doug beckoned as he escaped his own thoughts.
Doug grabbed my arm, and we pushed our way through the packed crowd of Air Force, Marine, Navy, and Army folks. We made our way towards a serious-looking woman who stuck out from the crowd even though she was positioned in the middle. On first glance, she seemed simultaneously aloof yet self-aware and attached.
“Nancy, this is Mike. Mike this is Nancy,” Doug introduced, “Nancy, Mike’s one of our better students. Mike, Nancy is simply brilliant. You need to take her class on Wicked Problems.”
Nancy Roberts would become my mentor and set me out towards another path and into my own process of discovery, healing, and eventual self-awareness. Her mentorship actually led to me serving for 18 months as the editor of Small Wars Journal.
Back in 1997, Nancy wrestled with her own wicked problems. After a PhD in Education from Stanford, she sought one her own journey towards fixing things and fundamental changes. Her journey landed her in the middle of Afghanistan working with the United Nations in attempting collaboration with the Taliban at the end of the Afghanistan Civil War.
In her own words written in 2000,
Competitive strategies have a long history. Whether they have been played out on the battlefield, in politics or in the market, stakeholders following this strategy assume a ‘zero-sum game.’ If my opponents win the right to define the problem and choose the solution, then I lose. If I win the right, my opponents lose. A win-lose mind-set thus permeates interactions. Warfare provides an extreme example of zero-sum competition when countries claim the right to define their wicked problems and their solutions (over religion, land, trade policy, etc.) in such a way that it threatens other countries. In the 1930s, Japan’s need for oil and its expansion into the Pacific were considered to be a direct threat to U.S. interests. U.S. attempts to limit this expansion were viewed as a direct threat to Japan’s national security. Each country’s insistence on dealing with its wicked problems in its own way resulted in war.
Afghanistan has been wracked by war and the consequences of competitive strategies for over two decades. Some 50,000 combatants from a population estimated to be well over 20 million are actively engaged in fighting. The country lacks a legitimate government with control over its whole territory. Following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989, there was a sense that the Afghan conflict would move towards resolution. This has not happened. The instability continues marked by the absence of functioning entities of governance. The crisis in Afghanistan has two facets: the absence of peace and security and the destruction of its civil infrastructure.
It is my firm conviction that people have to fail into collaboration. Experiences with authoritative and competitive strategies and personal knowledge of their disadvantages are great teachers. People have to learn what does not work before they are willing to absorb what they perceive to be the extra ‘costs’ associated with collaboration. This learning is especially important for people who come from cultures that place a high premium on taking charge, making decisions, being competitive, and using authorities and experts to settle whatever disputes arise. Only when people come to realize the shortcomings of competition and handing over decisions to authorities, are they willing to experiment with collaboration as an alternative way of coping with wicked problems.
Or as Winston Churchill once proclaimed, "The Americans will always do the right thing... after they've exhausted all the alternatives."
Simply put, our brothers and sisters across the world are singing, "Pardon Me while I burst into the flames"