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MUHAMMAD: The Bergdahl Message? Don't Go It Alone

Askia Muhammad | 6/11/2014, 3 p.m.
Askia Muhammad

I once interviewed the mother of a Muslim martial artist who is now incarcerated. His crime? He sought to arrange with an undercover FBI agent to go to Afghanistan to join forces with the Taliban and to teach them martial arts.

“You can’t win a war with karate,” the distraught woman said she had warned her son.

Her analysis is brilliant and it points to a similar error, apparently made by U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. You can’t change the outcome of a war by yourself. You shouldn’t go it alone. You certainly can’t win it alone.

Like the unfortunate Brother who thought his superior knowledge, and his superior knowledge of martial arts alone, would make the Afghan resistance forces better able to defend their country from the invading American – a.k.a. “NATO” – forces, it is a fatal flaw to believe that your solitary act, even standing down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, will change the outcome of a war.

Wars are decided by the collective will of nations expressed through the valor, tenacity, and determination to prevail, demonstrated by the nation’s fighters again and again on battlefields.

Let us not forget. Afghanistan earned the nickname “graveyard of imperial armies,” not because of karate or Kung Fu, or because invading soldiers laid down their arms and walked away from their garrisons. No.

Over the millennia, Afghanistan taught the same lesson American forces are now being taught, by defeating: the army of Alexander the Great; the British Army at the height of that country’s imperial power; as well as the mighty Soviet Union in the late 20th century.

If, while under arms on the battlefield in a foreign country, Sgt. Bergdahl became disillusioned with his army’s mission, he should never have – as some of his comrades accuse him – laid down his weapon and wandered off into the hostile jungle, where he ended up spending five years as a captive, mostly in isolation, probably beaten and tortured.

There was a distinct danger that he might have been able to reveal tactics, weapons, the capabilities of, and the location of his military unit. Might that have been enough to result in the total destruction of his unit; alter or even hasten the outcome of the war itself? Of course not, he might have unnecessarily cost the lives of some of the members of his unit, but that’s all.

A military member who can no longer maintain full and faithful allegiance to his/her oath, to his flag, to his commanders, might indeed lay down his arms, but that act should be to surrender himself to his commanding officers. Declare yourself to be a conscientious objector. Such an act might result in the offending service person being confined to the stockade or the brig, but so long as it was not an act of cowardice in battle, it would hardly ever result in a five year sentence behind bars in somewhere like Fort Leavenworth.

No headlines of course. No non-stop propaganda circus, instead, an honorable path which you might lead others to follow.