Reality in Afghanistan (or in any other country for that matter) isn’t a template of do’s and don’ts. Reality is something that military units and the local inhabitants in specific areas create for themselves.
I recently read a number of manuscripts by the constructivist scholar Alexander Wendt.
The takeaway from Wendt’s work?
The only reality that exists is the one we socially construct for ourselves and others of like mind.
There exists no one reality that can be accessed through empirical research. And, we can’t be sure that the reality we observe exists independently of our observation of it. All human associations, social identities and the interests of purposive actors, are continually shaped, and guided primarily by shared ideas and biases. Furthermore, all relations are socially constructed and given form by social practices and interactions.
Why this matters?
Often, ideas are discounted because they don’t mesh with someone else’s concept of reality. I was on the receiving end myself recently, related to my latest recommendations for prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. And, well, I’ve shot down the ideas of others in the past, too.
End of day, we have to consider the different realities—because the one thing I think we can all agree on is that, in Afghanistan in particular, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, because the realities on the ground vary so greatly.
“Agora” is a place to consider all of the realities.
Much like wine – Constructivism is a fine thing…taken in moderation. 😉
Welcome to the blogosphere Mac!
I didn’t know you were such a huge fan of Sarter! Though I’m sure Wendt would have loved to see his theories of constructivism used to assert that people shouldn’t critique your policy ideas.
Oh well. Maybe in HIS reality, amiright?
for a diversionary chuckle, i’m reminded of a moment in a graduate seminar, decades ago, about international relations from a behavioral science perspective, at a school where we were always obliged to define our terms. it was a fellow student’s turn to lead the seminar. the topic he had chosen was something about “the realities of african politics.” he started out just fine, displaying great presence. but then, after only a few sentences, he started to flounder and scavenge all across the notes he’d spread on the table in front, muttering to himself. uh-oh, i thought, he’s actually unprepared; he’s seizing up. my classmates looked around nervously too. then the guy looked up at us and apologized without losing a beat: “i’m sorry, but i’ve lost my definition of reality. i’ll have to try to get by without it.” of course, we collapsed in laughter; it was the most hilarious moment in all my years in seminars.
a constructivist moment? yes, ahead of its time. deconstructive as well? i suppose.
anyway, all praise and honor to pressfield and gant for their accomplishments with the first version of this blog. best wishes to you for this next phase. i’ve pulled back from blog commenting, but i’ll still be reading and wondering with great interest.
Finally! The internet was really suffering from not having a dedicated place to talk about the construction of social reality in a really undisciplined, haphazard manner.