War in Afghanistan from a Liberal Pluralist Perspective
The term "liberal" has taken on a specific meaning in Western politics that is somewhat different than the actual stated definition of the word. The word truly means "favorable to progress or reform" (Liberal, 2012) and is seen as the opposite of conservative which is being "disposed to preserve existing conditions" (Conservative, 2012). These terms have become politicized and the groups which carry the two labels may be better described by the opposite literal use of the word at any given time. However, another term, liberal pluralist, is something else again.
The book "The Practice of Liberal Pluralism" discusses introduces the topic of how liberal democracy has changed from it original meaning into something that is wholly different, at times, from the origins of the term (Galston, 2005,1). Democracy is a government which is focused on the people being served rather than the government itself, and when the word "liberal" is added it also takes into account the changing nature of the people being served over a period of time (Galston, 2005, 3). This is a departure from many other forms of government as the leaders of many countries have been more interested in allowing the people serve them than the other way around.
One such country, Afghanistan, has embarked, with the assistance of the United States on an historic undertaking. Because of the danger posed by government supported elements within Afghanistan, the U.S. (and other nations) believed that there was a clear and present danger to people in other parts of the world. Thus, the multi-lateral war in Afghanistan that has been waged for more than a decade, was focused on first securing the country for its citizens and then producing regime change. The focus of this paper is to look at what theory of government can most successfully assist Afghanistan in the areas of continued security, sustainable economy and national identity.
The theory which is most relevant to this discussion is that of liberal pluralism which was mentioned in the introduction. The idea incorporates all that has been learned about government through the democratic experiment that has been conducted for more than two centuries. It must first be understood that government is to be "of the people, by the people and for the people" (Library of Congress, 2012) as a foundational concept of this theory. To that end, liberal pluralist theory is constructed of three parts which are supported by this first supposition. They are: political pluralism, values pluralism, and expressive liberty (Galston, 2012, 2).
Political and values pluralism, along with expressive liberty, are concepts that outline what the leaders of the world want for the nation of Afghanistan going forward. To effectively join the world's cadre of democratic nations, the citizens of Afghanistan must be given these governmental guarantees. About political pluralism Galston (2012, 1) writes "it is an understanding of social life that comprises multiple sources of authority -- individuals, parents, civil associations, faith-based organizations, and the state among others." This concept demonstrates that people think differently about politics and the requirements for political leaders, and all of these thoughts should be allowed to be validated via political discourse and free elections. Besides the different institutions that make up a nation are the diverse and changing values that the society has. Galston (2012, 2) states that "there is no single way of life, based on a single ordering of values, that is the highest and best for all individuals." Every individual within a citizenry is different and brings a unique value set to the political process. All of these value sets should be equally honored by the government, rather than preferring one or just a few over others. Finally, Galston (2012, 2) defines expressive liberty as "a presumption in favor of individuals and groups leading their lives as they see fit & #8230; in accordance with their own understanding of what gives life meaning and value." By using the theory of liberal pluralism it is possible to create a government that provides security, stable economy and identity for the people of Afghanistan.
This theoretical approach is one that has been used by many nations to successfully produce governments that work for the people rather than the institution of government. Because of this, it is necessary that an international coalition be built which can advise the fledgling government in Afghanistan rather than leaving the task to a single nation. An international consensus allows the people of Afghanistan to have the best possible advice on the construction of government in accordance with the principles of pluralism. One voice is strengthened by others, and one opinion of governance is enhanced by the experience of others. The United States has been accused in the international press of taking a unilateral approach, to a large extent, in conducting the war in Afghanistan. While there have been other nations involved in the actual fighting, the U.S. has taken the lead in the war and in the nation-building that have taken place in recent years. The international community is better able to produce the results desired in Afghanistan because a greater understanding of the situation can come from this international consensus. No one nation can expect to fully understand the needs of another, but an equal coalition can work to ensure that the desired people-focused government is achieved. Since it is necessary to have an international consensus, the United Nations should be at the forefront of agreements rather than a U.S.-led coalition of nations. This provides the benefit of producing a government which is not seen as a puppet state of the United States, and one that is truly focused on the various security, economy and identity needs of the Afghani people.
Security in the region has been impossible for many years due to the number of terrorist groups which operate within the country and because the former Afghani government was focused on goals counter to procuring a government for the people. Radical groups operated unabated in many of the towns within Afghanistan and openly recruited young members who were indoctrinated early in life into the belief system of these organizations. The Taliban is a "group known for having provided safe haven to al-Qaeda and its erstwhile leader Osama bin Laden, as well as for its rigid interpretation of Islamic law, under which it publicly executed criminals and outlawed the education of women" (Bajoria, 2011). This faction created a government that did not allow citizens to express themselves and compromised the security of a great deal of the Afghani people.
Ensuring the continued security of the region for all people is a primary goal of any coalition which tries to help Afghanistan establish a new government. There must be a solution that provides the freedoms purported in liberal pluralism, so that all citizens can feel safe within the country's borders. Talks have been ongoing between the international military contingent in Afghanistan, the global community, the current Afghani government and the Taliban to try an reach some sort of accord, but this is worrisome to women and fringe religious groups who were sorely oppressed during the reign of the Taliban (Bajoria, 2011). The group continues have a great deal of influence especially in many outlying areas of the country, and it is deemed an impossibility to form a government without Taliban input. If peace is to be secured they must be included in the talks. However, the groundwork for those talks has to be understood by all participants so that all citizens in Afghanistan can feel safe once the international coalition leaves the area.
The primary goal has to be that the international coalition reaches a satisfactory agreement from the Taliban to cease hostilities in the country, or a continued international presence may be needed. It is not desirable that the United Nations continue to have a peace-keeping force in the region, but it may be necessary. Only a true compromise that allows all citizens of the country to have equal rights will be acceptable. Otherwise there will have to be a continued international security presence. A time table should be offered to the Taliban and other fringe groups in Afghanistan during which an agreement must be reached or international security plans must be enforced by a UN security force that is permanently stationed in the country.
The economy in the region is one of the primary reasons that Afghanistan has been unstable for decades. The Taliban was allowed to flourish due to promises that the government established by the group would bring the people a greater amount of prosperity than previous political groups (Bajoria, 2011). Unfortunately, this, along with a promise to a return to Islamic fundamental roots, was a ruse that the group used to secure the loyalty of the Afghan people. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world because it does not have established exports -- accept one.