It began as an open debate: Should we invade Afghanistan? The imperial rationale was wrapped nicely in the rhetoric of salvation and humanitarian concern. Many appeals were made to segments of the liberal as well as conservative society to see the urgency of ‘saving’ Afghan women and children from the violent male brutes. Once the raison d’être embedded itself in the collective conscience of the American public, there were a few voices left behind that begged Americans to see the preposterous nature of their foreign policy in Afghanistan. Fast forward to 2014, the positioning has changed from liberal savior to liberal appraiser. The statement “We are saving you!” (through sheer military and economic endangerment) is now moving along the condescending lines of “We have saved you.”
Ergo, Obama’s praise for the landmark Afghan elections only generates sardonic irony amongst those who have witnessed the obliteration of Afghan lives under military occupation. The courage of Afghan people showing up bravely in front of poll stations has zilch to do with the “American contribution” and more to do with the communal despair felt at the hands of years and years of imperial violence as well as local ethno-religious wars that haunt the life of every Afghan. Given its history, brimful of foreign interference, it is only intrinsic for the average Afghan to aspire a democratic state where his or her rights are never compromised for the sake of maintaining hegemony – be it of the Americans or the Taliban. Like any other nation alive, Afghans are entitled to the complete freedom of making their own socio-economic and political decisions.
The election should signify the blistering urge and undying hope of a nation to attain complete autonomy. Each epoch of meddling from surrounding neighbors set Afghanistan back by decades; if anything, the United States and its allies should replace its patronizing nod-of-approval and offer an apology to the Afghan public for pillaging its lives and resources.
It’s easy: Showing a thumbs-up to a war-beaten nation and saying, “Good job!” It is a quintessential American gesture. It takes little introspection and a lot less remorse. But what it doesn’t take is a remote notion of responsibility and the idea that you can only ground a people so much until they take whatever they possess – even if it is just a speck of hope – and turn it against you, against all odds.