This post is inspired by a conversation we had in my class today, and by my thesis that I am currently writing for my Masters. For those of you who regularly follow me, you know I've been hammering away on it for the last few months. I am hoping to have the draft complete this week. We will see how many revisions have to be made after that.
But I digress. The point of this post is to discuss the federal system of governance and it's many positive implications for a nation-state. Europe in the 16th and 17th Centuries was just exiting the Dark Ages, and the Age of Enlightenment was beginning. What would follow is quite interesting.
You see up until this point and in all honesty for the next three hundred years Europe had many issues, and experienced many growing pains. The religious wars that were fought made many actions within the current Middle East seem tame by comparison. The Catholic and Protestant nations and their military forces were quite literally at each other's throats. Governments had extremely low levels of penetration within their nation-states. Regionalism, and tribalism was quite high. Revenue generation and revenue sharing was almost non-existent. Ethnic grievances were extremely high.
So what happened? First, education began to take hold at many levels within society. The enlightenment was the beginning of this, followed by various romantic movements that strove to reconcile the natural world with the tensions of the creative genius. (1) Second the feelings of Nationalism began to take hold, spurned on in many ways by the results of the French Revolution. Third, and most importantly to me, was that many of these European Nations made the movement to a federal system of government. Some chose Republics, some Constitutional Monarchies, but the result was the same.
The federal system of governance allowed for alleviation of many of these above mentioned issues. It allowed for greater governmental penetration of it's territories. It addressed and reduced ethnic tensions and grievance by allowing for peaceful conflict resolution. It provided a form and function for revenue generation and effective revenue sharing. Regionalism and Tribalism found a positive outlet within this system and reinforced a federal state.
Truth be told, this system of governance has been being modified continually since then. Spain and Belgium are examples of nation-states that have been modifying their federal systems through the present day. Both nation-states had many unresolved issues still, and their movement to greater federalism to include autonomous areas continued to address these issues.
What does this mean for Afghanistan? If we overlay the above-mentioned issues, we find great parallels. The religious wars between the Catholics and Protestants are seen once again in the tensions between the Sunni and Shiite. You may be thinking that this is not an issue in Afghanistan. Think about this for a moment. The fundamentalist / insurgent groups within Afghanistan are primarily Sunni. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are both extremist splinters from Sunnism. Many of the old "Northern Alliance" Tribes are Shiite in nature. Large amounts of money from private organizations in the Gulf States continue to flow into these Extremist Sunni Based Groups and their Madrassas in order to check the Shiites in the north of the country. Quite simply they do not want Shiites and Iran to gain too much influence.
Governmental penetration and ethnic grievances and tensions are another obvious parallel. So is the issue of revenue creation and sharing. Afghanistan is currently trying to form an economic plan to make itself viable. They also are trying to create revenue sharing where the local population is given money for stability, security, and infrastructure. Instead of money flowing from outside sources only through the central government, it would create an ebb and flow of revenue creation and sharing. Is this beginning to sound familiar?
Truth be told, this is not the first time that a developing nation-state has faced these challenges. Many would have us believe that these are unique issues and the first time we have seen them. Simply not true. We only have to look at our history lessons to see the very same trends.
Federal systems of governance are not perfect, but they in my personal opinion are the best option for dealing with many of these challenges that are facing Afghanistan. Afghanistan will be won or lost as a nation-state at the local level. The people and the local government are the decisive battle that must be won. A federal system of governance does just that. It addresses the challenges and issues at the local level in the framework of a national government. For examples, we only have to look at our European History textbooks.
The question of how we execute this and how Afghanistan could establish a federal system of governance is a discussion for another night.
God Bless America