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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Soldiers Question War
March 19, 2007

       Soldiers question war, just like other Americans.  Over here in Afghanistan, it’s easy to understand why.

      It can get discouraging, seeing so little progress when we put forth so much effort.  All the sacrifice of US military members, Afghan military personnel, and even civilians over here - we try so hard, yet it seems like progress is so small and so slow.  Sometimes we wonder if it’s worth it.

      I was given a copy of Christianity Today, and read of a ministry that struggled with the question often asked of missionaries in third-world countries like this one: “If God loves me, why am I starving?”

      It’s a heart-breaking question.  It’s a question I can’t even begin to answer, especially when I see such poverty and misery all around.  Yet we continue to fight.  One has to wonder if we are taking the right approach to the problem of human suffering.

      I fear that one day, the United States will reduce its funding of the Afghanistan campaign.  If this happens, the Afghan government, which depends on U.S. funds, will fail.  People who depend on us will turn to other sources for money, and our efforts here will quickly go into reverse, sliding backwards, back to the tribal wars and fighting that were here long before we arrived.  And the poorest of the poor will be the biggest losers, while the Taliban and those like them will emerge victorious.

      Americans back home have absolutely no concept of what an uphill battle we face here to make change.  I don’t see long-term results occurring for at least two generations - the infrastructure, value of education, resistance to change, and limited vision of many of the people here requires a long-term solution we haven’t found.  A war will not solve it, even if we can ultimately defeat the Taliban.

      Yet our presence here gives many Afghans hope.  Some of them have tasted freedom to the point they see a future where they can succeed.

      Even educated Afghans have a limited idea of how wide a gulf exists between our country and theirs.  They see our technology and military might, yet they don’t understand it’s only the tip of the iceberg.  They don’t realize how our universities and research institutions contribute to our success.  They don’t understand that our businesses use long-term planning techniques to work towards their continued success, and rely on educated workers and researchers to create progress and growth.

      These issues are more than simply our having a jump-start on other countries.  They are part of our values: education, progress, working hard, working together, trying to be first to discover something new and better.  It’s more than just an effort to make more money - inventors in our country are recognized and rewarded and valued by our society as a whole.  Our culture is the result of not just decades, but centuries of human progress.  We would be naïve to expect this to be duplicated in short order.

      I had a conversation with a young Soldier here in Waza Khwa - he was expressing his dissatisfaction with our progress and the whole situation in Afghanistan.  I urged him to write his Senator and tell him what he thought. (Many times, members of the military will write their Congressperson to register complaint, which usually starts an investigation into the Soldier’s unit.  This is not what I suggested.  Every member of the military has the right to express their opinion to their elected representatives - it’s part of our system of government, and Soldiers are citizens, and elected officials should hear their views.)

      Tonight, Sunday night, there was a church service here, held by an Army chaplain, with communion.  I asked God if there was an answer to all these questions, and why I was here.  I felt an answer in my heart, that God has some purpose in all this, and that there will be progress, because God is at work.  Often, we don’t know why things happen, or what our part is, but we put our trust in God to put it all together to work for good.

      I often have told my own kids, “This isn’t heaven, and life isn’t always fair.”  It’s advice I need to remember.  Most of the suffering in the world is created by humans, not God.  God does not want people to starve, or die, or kill.  If we all followed the precepts of religions everywhere, we would share, be compassionate, and work together for everyone’s mutual benefit.  Yet this is obviously not the case.

      For my part, I must work on doing what I can, where I am, and trusting God to make something good happen with it.  It’s all I can do.  With God, it will be enough.

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.