How does a peacemaker respond to terrorism? In pondering this question, I decided to think like Osama bin Laden. What might he and the Taliban fear more than anything else? A little creative thinking came up with the following response.
On December 1, 2001, the people in the populated areas of Afghanistan looked up to see thousands of parachutes covering the sky. The officials immediately activated the police and military to repel the invasion. As the parachutes hit the ground, people saw that there were not combat soldiers, but boxes. “Ah, an American trick. These are bombs,” many thought. The boxes were cleverly designed, however. Within 5 minutes of landing, they began to open up like flowers. Tens of thousands of boxes over the country were all opening at the same time. This was frightening. Soldiers shot bullets into many boxes, thinking that some strange, new modern warfare was being waged.
In some places, people became curious about the boxes. They approached them and looked at the contents. They saw clothes, food, Barney dolls that say “I love you” in Pashto, Persian and other dialects and languages of the country, and radios, small televisions, thousands of CD players and CDs. The children were immediately attached to the toys, having never imagined such wealth. The food was suspect, but the clothes were useful. Slowly, the contents of the boxes were examined and people took what they desired. The contents were distributed far and wide by the people themselves.
Three weeks later, a new wave of parachutes tumbled into Afghanistan. These carried smaller containers full of batteries and new CD’s. The planners figured the lifetime of a battery and were simply re-supplying. Soon Afghani teens were listening to Britney Spears and N’ Sync and American popular music.
The Taliban’s response was to shoot anyone with these decadent devices. The problem was that the country was deluged in them. Worse, the people liked them. The radios and televisions were pre-tuned to receive low orbit satellite signals. People could pick up American and BBC broadcasts in all of their dialects and languages. The men especially enjoyed re-runs of “Baywatch.” The women began to watch Oprah.
Every few weeks a new onslaught of Western culture and materialism was delivered from the skies. Slowly, the people of Afghanistan became educated in the ways of the West. The planners of this cultural invasion were careful to honor moderate Islamic beliefs as they re-educated the population about Western culture.
Two years later, Osama bin laden was a sick and sad man. The Taliban had been replaced with a more progressive, liberal government. Kabul was slowly rebuilding into a modern 21st century city. People wore a mixture of traditional and Western clothes. Free ideas were being circulated in the new press and in the very small intellectual society forming in Kabul there was talk of opening a national university.
Within five years, Afghanistan had completely embraced a modern, moderate society. The extremists, now in a small minority, were no longer feared or tolerated. Osama bin laden had “choked on a chicken bone,” and had died in the mountains. The Afghani people, now fully knowledgeable and aware of the events of September 11, 2001, built two breathtakingly beautiful peace monuments of granite, marble and alabaster. One was placed in the center of Kabul, the other was offered to the United States with a formal apology for the terrorist acts that destroyed so many innocent people.An international ceremony was arranged at the site of the former World Trade Center. Tens of thousands attended, and the world watched by television. In this entire process, not one bullet was shot in anger. Not one soldier risked his or her life and the total cost of the operation was less than $5 billion.
Is this a fanciful idea? Of course. But the concept is to strike at terrorism not with weapons and violence, but with what the terrorists most despise and fear—the strength and power of modern culture. This idea is as frightening to the terrorists as the attack of September 11, 2001 was to us. Better yet, they would have no defense against this onslaught. How many Afghan mothers would tolerate soldiers killing children for carrying around Barney dolls that croon “I love you?” How long would people tolerate an oppressive government that provides them with nothing, when wondrous gifts fall out of the sky on a weekly basis? The Taliban would have no defense. They would lose this war and they would lose it peacefully.
By Doug Noll