Koblenz, Germany – Keynote Speech to the German Federal Armed Forces

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This lecture is dedicated to your hero and my personal good friend, Wolf Graf von Baudissin, who coined the term “innere Führung,” or inner steering. My talk is about collective inner steering, worldviews, often subconscious, as natural and normal as to be in no need of articulation. And yet, that is what we need, based on countless dialogues with Afghans and Germans of many varieties.

Afghans are autonomous mountain people living mainly in 25,000 autonomous, self-reliant villages. Divided into, say, 6-8 nations, the Pashtoons were split by the Durand border drawn by imperialists. This is where Alexander the Great became Alexander the Small. Even the Mongols gave up. The British were beaten in 1842, 1878, 1919, as were the Soviets in the 1979 invasion. Moreover, the United States’ October 7, 2001 invasion, backed by a coalition of the willing –  Germany and Norway being members – seems to get nowhere.

My dialogues with the Taliban and others point to three clear goals: no secularization, no unitary state under Kabul, no more invasions.  Afghan’s Muslim monotheism, with a strong we-culture and much sharing, rules out any rule by infidels and any capitulation. Their time perspective is unlimited and their Umma (community) comprises 57 Organization of Islamic Cooperation member-countries with 1,560 million Muslims. Their experience in staving off intruders is their strength.

What does Afghanistan bring to mind? Think of Switzerland. 6,000 autonomous municipalities, 4 nations surviving as a loose nation-based federation, high local autonomy, good relations with neighbors, neutrality. In a TRANSCEND mediation in February 2001, a five-point solution emerged:

• Coalition with the Taliban

• A federation degrading Kabul

• A Central Asian community with all neighbors and open borders

• Basic needs for all nations and genders

• Peacekeeping by the United Nations Security Council and the OIC

Nevertheless, a leading Afghan politician present said, “Fine, but the Americans will attack us in October for bases and pipelines.” And they did.

If Afghans draw the conclusion from history that we survive by staying the same, the Germans draw the opposite conclusion.

German history is high drama. The First and Second Reich had the Lord, God, as the guide, the Kaiser as His representative on Earth, surrounded by a gradually modernizing court and army, with subjects trained in obedience. The enemies, created by the 1054 and 1095 schisms, were Orthodox and Muslims and Jews. The First World War destroyed all that. The Kaiser abdicated, the court receded to the background, and so did the Lord. The people were confused –– Russians, Serbs and Jews stayed as enemies. In came Hitler. The key enemies were the same, Jews, Russians, Serbs. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Second World War destroyed all that. Again, the positions of God as ultimate guide and of His representative on earth were vacant. The former was occupied by Washington and Moscow, the latter by Adenauer (West Germany) and Ulbricht (East Germany).  The people, well-seasoned in obedience, followed suit –– in two varieties of Germans divided, like the Pashtoons, by imperialists. For the Jews, the Final Solution, for Russians terrible suffering, but Nazi Germany was beaten by them in the end.

From Washington, a new Trinity emanated. Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy. Focused on acts of commission, not omission, individual not collective human rights, debates/voting, not dialogue/consensus. It was all very Western. The Muslims were almost forgotten, but then Washington was hit by 9/11. Unlimited solidarity with Washington became German foreign policy, defending their security at Hindu Kush.  Having arrived at the new Trinity, the Germans felt entitled, nay, obliged to spread that gospel to the “failed” Afghans.  So they did. The rest we know.

The German people seem to accept almost anything, the Lord in two varieties, Kaiser I and II, Führer, Superpowers in two varieties. Time has come to normalize that country as a loose cultural federation with numerous autonomous municipalities. And they found a delicious concept, Heimat, the local, the organic, to build on. The mountains are few. And Germans are too homogeneous.

Am I making fun of the whole inter-cultural exercise?  No. Like Sun Tzu I believe in knowing not only Other but also Self. But not on imposing Self on Other, known also as colonialism.  Dialogue, yes, exchanges, yes, but cloning, no.  Some will grasp what is offered. Others will pretend and use it against the donor. As Germans forced back to a highly ambiguous Heimat, past would do.

Let Afghans be Afghans. Hold the Swiss model high. Let Muslims help Muslims. Stop the nonsense about running the world from Central Asia. Let central Asians find their own form.

Originally published at TRANSCEND Media Service. Used with permission.