Saturday, August 14, 2010

Worlds Meet

The Seeker’s Nation Building

When the hero of last year’s television series, Legend of the Seeker, told his bodyguard that they had to detour from the major goal of saving the world of the living from the underworld, he thought about providing basic support for the local population. His comments could have mirrored the attempted nation building in Iraq or Afghanistan. Even if the end of the world came for the society within a day’s time, that day’s hours could be filled with suffering from hunger, roving bands of militia or torture. The Seeker’s idea focused on responsibility. Does an action only aim to counter the overwhelming obstacle, or does the action have a duty to give aid to immediate problems? The peasant about to be tortured may be one person, but his fear of death looks at the knife at his throat rather than the events of tomorrow.

Recent setbacks in Iraq have happened as the once patrolled streets in areas by local factions have stopped. The Sunni-led government has failed to pay the patrols that the US supported. In Afghanistan, US forces are seen as aiding a corrupt Kabul government. Those examples stem from a lack of nation building, or a way to build systems so local people have a say in security and progress.

Yet those issues were exactly what Richard as the Seeker saw as crucial. During a scene where the Seeker struggled to stop forces from the underworld from destroying all life, he teamed up with former enemies and discovered the aftermath of war. A former unit of the army fighting him turned to give him aid, and the fighting and torturing expert Mord’Sith — a blend of female Klingon, and ninja — became a bodyguard to protect him. But, before he resumed finding the answer to the ultimate destruction of his world, he witnessed villagers who were left without homes. Those people suffered from injuries and became filled with hate at the thought of working with anyone from another land.

The Seeker faced an option of focusing on using his new military power to claim the throne so overall destruction could have been avoided. But he told his supporters that they must first treat the locals because the results of war meant he owed a responsibility to those people.

Could that be a form of nation building? While his attempt answered a vision of being responsible, the action also set up ways to stop further chaos. Those villages would either support or oppose the future world the Seeker built. Without homes, they would live on the road, and maybe attack other villages for food or survival. Without treatment for injuries, possible plagues could threaten the area. Without trauma treatment, they might resort to a rage that stopped them from working with other villages in a common struggle.

So the Seeker was left with key tools of the military and logistical knowledge to tend to the villages. He could have used the troops just to stop creatures from preying on the villages, but that would not have solved the food shortage or calmed an anger directed at other strangers. He had other tools of logistics that allowed him to dispense justice between the villages and tools of observation about where food could be obtained. The Seeker chose to use the tools that would prolong the lives of the population over the tools of military force. The use of force is the key. Of course the Seeker swung his blade, but the purpose centered on protecting people. When a military questions whether protecting the population places its troops in danger, that military misses the real enemy. The enemy isn’t a danger to itself. The real enemy is that force that is hurting the society that the military hopes to protect.

So let’s look at the comparison. The people in Afghanistan and Iraq are struggling to regain ways to obtain food, shelter and overcome distrust. When the military is used to enforce the rules of questionable governments, disruptions often occur in the lives of the population. In Afghanistan, farmers resort to growing poppy. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, homeless people seek comfort from a warlord and the general person feels anger to the local government.

Maybe the question we dare ask is whether nation building happens only when we use the military or if it can occur by focusing on the population by making sure they have work, shelter and relief from the trauma of war.

The Seeker worried about a larger threat — that of his entire world being destroyed by the underworld. Maybe our larger threat is an underworld of terrorism and black markets.

- Tom Pope

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