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We Need To Stop Looking at the World Through Blinders

by Shawn M. Griffiths, published
"After Mullah FM had been on air for about a year, Fazlullah became more aggressive, His brother Maulana Liaquat, along with three of Liaquat's sons, were among those killed in an American drone attack on the madrasa in Bajaur at the end of October 2006. Eighty people were killed, including boys as young as twelve, some of whom had come from Swat. We were all horrified by the attack and people swore revenge. Ten days later a suicide bomber blew himself up in an army barracks at Dargai, on the way from Islamabad to Swat, and killed forty-two Pakistani soldiers. At the time, suicide bombings were rare in Pakistan -- there were six in total that year..." - Malala Yousafzai, "I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban"

In 2013, during a visit to the White House, Malala Yousafzai, the girl the Taliban targeted for speaking out for education equality and against their interpretation of the Quran and the purpose of Islam, told President Barack Obama that an increase in drone strikes in Pakistan and the surrounding region was only causing more local terrorism. The White House did not report this in its press release on the meeting, but Malala did.

In her autobiography, Malala talks about a number of instances where U.S. drone strikes in the area resulted in people wanting to join militant groups to get revenge for the loss of loved ones who were collateral deaths in a targeted attack against a single person or small group of militants.

The accepted word from Washington is that drone strikes in the Middle East and the surrounding region are not resulting in an increase in terrorism activity, but Americans don't get to hear these stories. We don't hear how these strikes are seen in regions like the Swat Valley or the impact they have on people who are already being exploited and manipulated by members of the Taliban and other radical fundamentalist groups. If the media reports on it at all, we only hear that there was a strike and the number of people who were killed.

There is never justification for "eye-for-an-eye" violence, but there is also never justification for killing dozens of innocent civilians to take out one man. Collateral damage happens in war, but this does not mean it should be an acceptable part of our foreign policy.

We like to remain isolated in our own bubbles, however, where the world is exactly how we want to perceive it and as a result, we fail to see things for what they really are. We can't imagine what it is like to live every second of every day in fear. We can't imagine what it is like to witness someone murdered in public because they wore their clothes a certain way or listened to music or because all they wanted was to be educated. We look at the world through our own filters and eventually we do not see any distinction between Taliban or al-Qaeda and the innocent people living in this region who only want to live in peace and are victims of these militant groups.

Therefore, there must be no way any action we take has an adverse effect on the region because that may tarnish the knight in shining armor image we have. We will never have an adequate foreign policy in the Middle East or any region if we choose to look at the world through blinders.

But, the same thing can be said for any topic or issue. The only way to create effective and adequate policy, whether it be foreign policy or fiscal policy or domestic policy, is a willingness to look at the issue how the other side views it. If we aren't willing to take the time to truly understand how the opposing side views drone use, the national budget, unemployment insurance, guns in America, health care, or any other issue, we are never going to get anywhere productive on serious issues and will never be able to move forward in the right direction.

Too many people like to live in their own bubbles where they are comfortable. They only want to look at the world one way and through this filter everyone who disagrees with them is a socialist, a right-wing nut job, un-American, uninformed, and/or an idiot. Being independent-minded means being able to look at the bigger picture and having the strength to know and admit when you're wrong and when you're right, the strength to stand your ground.

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