The Moral Landscape

Stuart Smith
Stuart Smith
Total Posts:  1
Joined  05-10-2010
05 October 2010 14:00

I have not read the book yet but I saw Sam’s talk at TED and I immediately recognised the significance of this issue.  Currently the US is leading a counter insurgency (COIN) effort in Afghanistan.  Some people see this as a pivotal moment in defining the future relationship between Islam and democracy.

Both Generals McChrystal and Petraeus have made reference to our moral values when giving their guidance on how to do COIN.  Gen McChrystal said that ‘ensuring that values underpin our efforts’ is one of the eight imperatives of COIN.

More recently, 1 Aug, Gen Petraeus issued his guidance as COMISAF/CDR USFOR-A and stated that we must ‘live our values’.

It is not clear what moral values the 40+ nation coalition have in common with each other, let alone what morals they have in common with the peoples of Afghanistan.  (Note that I say ‘peoples of Afghanistan’.  It is not clear what morals these different peoples have in common with each other.)

The fact that two four-star generals have made reference to values in their guidance, which is intended to be read by every soldier in the coalition, indicates the significance of moral values in this conflict and in the conduct of COIN.

The International Community tend to act hypocritically in the sense that they make statements about moral principle, for example women’s rights, but do little about it in practice, for example when the Afghan Parliament passed a law permitting a husband to withhold food from his wife if she does not grant him sex.  This hypocrisy is a direct result of not having a clear understanding of what the unifying principles of the international community are and which morals, by extension, Afghanistan must comply with in order to be part of, and receive aid and support from, the International Community.

The fact that the debate on morality in the west has been dominated by (western) religions makes it difficult to identify common ground with a country that is a self proclaimed Islamic Republic.

I look forward to reading this book and I hope that it can help bring clarity of thought to a discussion that has become overly divisive because most people have confused religion and morality for too long.

Total Posts:  8
Joined  09-11-2010
11 November 2010 12:54

I would hazard a guess that the values the coalition speaks of, are the minimum set for a functioning government: rule of law, minimum corruption, security, functioning economy, food availability, etc.  These sometimes go under the name secular values, but, which can have of a negative connotation in the Mid-East.

I recall in one appearence SH made, he acknowledged he is not providing any practical approach to solving the worlds problems.  I think he would acknowledge compromises will need to be made in order to make progress.  I also think he would acknoledge a whole lot of other changes need to occur in Afganistan society before women will be able to choose or not choose the burka.