Good Reads: America's longest war, in Afghanistan, and Liberia's Nobel Laureate
On the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan war, today's papers detail the lessons still to be learned. And in good news, Liberia's first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, wins a Nobel Peace Prize.
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History is often a study of missed chances and lost opportunities, and Declan Walsh’s piece in the Guardian details the efforts of Hamid Karzai, a then little-known Pashtun tribal leader receiving a delegation of Taliban elders in the Kandahar suburb of Shah Wali Kot. The Taliban at that time wanted to negotiate a peaceful reconciliation, allowing Taliban fighters to return to their villages. Mr. Karzai seemed game, but the US military wasn’t interested. As Mr. Walsh writes,Skip to next paragraph
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In retrospect, it was a tantalising opportunity for a smooth post-Taliban transition and, perhaps, a novel political dispensation. But it wasn't to be. Furious after the 9/11 attacks, the US war machine pursued the Taliban hard. Karzai, the new leader, acquiesced. And the Taliban leadership slunk across the border into Pakistan to lick their wounds and plan the resurgence that is racking the country today.
But while history is about learning from mistakes, it is also about learning from success, and today’s announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize for three women – Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman – show the powerful effect that women can have in politics and peacemaking.
The New York Times quotes Thorbjorn Jagland, a former Norwegian prime minister who is now head of the Nobel committee that chooses winners, as saying this year's Nobel prize is a very deliberate signal to the world of the important role that women play: “We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society.”
Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf is running for a second term in office in elections scheduled for Oct. 11, so keep an eye on the Monitor’s coverage from the Liberian capital of Monrovia. See also a previous profile of Johnson-Sirleaf, the Harvard-educated economist, by Paige McClannahan, which ran last April.