In a world that seems hell-bent on its own destruction, there has never been a greater need for citizen diplomacy. That is not to say that we do not need a strong military and a strong diplomatic corps. Both of these are necessary in the world we have created and provide unheralded and heroic service to our nation and to the world through their service. There is a role, however, for active public diplomacy conducted by citizens. Indeed, citizen diplomacy both strengthens and is complementary to our professional diplomatic and military efforts.
I served in both Iraq and Afghanistan as a US Army soldier. That experience made me acutely aware of the complexity of those conflicts. Context is the most difficult thing to grasp. At once, there is both violence, corruption and all of the challenges innate in an insecure and war-weary area of the world, and there is also courage, virtue, selflessness, and evolving opportunities unavailable in previous years. To ignore this context is to miss some truly amazing progress being made by the people who you will never see on the evening news. Consider, for example, that there have never been more girls attending school in the history of Afghanistan. Today, nearly 20 percent of Afghans enrolled in higher education are women. There are 3,000 women-owned businesses and associations in Afghanistan. Women-founded nonprofit organizations are taking care of many of the needs of their communities. Women are serving in leadership roles at all levels of government. These women are courageously and optimistically moving Afghanistan forward toward better days.
TEAM KARADAH CHALLENGE: Make $2,500 become $20,000
Temporary internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, too often, become permanent places of poverty and hopelessness. Imagine, if you will, being driven from your home and all that is familiar to you. You are then corralled into hastily constructed camps; nothing more than mud huts and tents. These structures are then filled with families — fathers, mothers, children, and extended family. An economy of sorts will disrupt some of the monotony of your new existence, but mostly it will be filled with worries about what the future holds for you and your family. Will circumstances allow you to return to your home? Will your home be there when you return? Will your children ever know the normal life you had before; the life that seems increasingly distant with each passing day? These are compelling questions of substance and not exercises in intellectual what ifs.