Throughout the years we seem to have blindly believed that being the head of the country’s military, a president will always be there to protect the country with his/her informed decisions and prompt actions. Although It seems like a very reasonable thing to ask or expect of a President, who is also the military head of the country. The question is why should a President, knowing the imminent threat to his life, choose to stay and fight? Does the seat of a president require the obligation to die for the country? Is that a moral obligation?
In the wake of the recent events in Afghanistan, Mr. Ghani, President of Afghanistan fled the country speeding the collapse of Afghanistan, as the country fell under Taliban control. He has taken refuge in U.A.E. The author of the book, “Fixing failed states” has himself been unsuccessful in fixing his own country or even standing with it at the most vulnerable of times. Unraveling this incongruity starts with our understanding of politics and why it exists in a democracy. In present times, politicians are viewed as celebrities doing their country, a great deal of favor by doing the work they do and having a ‘larger-than-life‘ appeal. But the brutal truth is that a country that looks up to its politicians without critiquing or questioning them, is a country doomed. When citizens start to worship their politicians with closed eyes and ears, that’s when the downfall of democracy begins. Politicians who are never questioned about their policies find their way to becoming dictators.
As of today, the people of Afghanistan are witnessing public hangings. Mullah Turabi, one of the founders of the Taliban, says that the hard-line movement will once again carry out punishments like executions and amputations of hands, though perhaps not in public. Ashraf Ghani in an interview that was published on 9th September said, “I apologize that I could not make it end differently.” I remember James David Barber pointing out – “The best way to understand a president’s likely responses to a crisis is to understand what that president values most highly.”
Being the military head of a country, a president has the power to send his soldiers to war. Presidents cannot participate in the war themselves but they can equip, encourage and lead the military to fight wars that are necessary. History accounts for the Kings who fought alongside their armies. Read more about the kings who led their armies to battle here. In Shakespeare’s dramatic account of the Battle of Agincourt, King Henry V, in an effort to assess the morale of his forces, disguises himself as a common soldier and visits some of his troops in the British encampment on the evening before the battle. When he encounters three infantrymen who wish that they were safely back in England (rather than France where the battle occurs), the King, still in disguise, responds, “Methinks I could not die anywhere so contented as in the king’s company, his cause being just and his quarrel honorable“.
Remembering President Bush’s famous speech standing next to a firefighter on the rubbles of the World trade center on September 11, 2001, from where he spoke the famous words, “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you…and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” This proclamation of hope and promise of justice to the many Americans who lost their loved ones can certainly be called a president’s virtue and is expected from every leader of any country, not just the president. A president is a leader whose decisions and wisdom can make it stand tall or bring a nation to its knees.
In the aftermath of the fall of Afghanistan and the complete US withdrawal from the country, President Biden made a statement regarding the withdrawal of American soldiers from Afghanistan. He mentioned that the United States trained more than 300,000 Afghan National Security Forces to fight the battle. This Afghani army collapsed in a matter of eleven days. This downfall was anticipated by the US to happen in months if not years. The US was very wrong in its assessment of the situation in Afghanistan as President Biden acknowledged in his remarks. A major reason for this collapse was the lack of leadership. This army was comprised of untrained young soldiers who were overworked and had no faith in the government to look after their families in case they die in the battle. Nearly 60,000 soldiers and police officers have lost their lives fighting since 2001, the majority just in the past six years according to a report from the Brookings Institution. Corruption in the political system was also a major reason for the downfall of the army.
Morality, though these days we refer to it as a taboo in our society, has been the reason for the nations to keep their sovereignty. Morality is the fine line that’s keeping us from becoming animals. Humans are very well capable of behaving like animals as we have seen in the recent news of the Taliban and crimes all around the world. But in our present world, morality too has become subjective to people. What’s moral for me might not be moral for you. After all, the Taliban are fighting a moral war according to them.
A captain of the ship does not leave his vessel unless he has made sure that every person has been rescued. This is not a law but more of a moral obligation. Presidents and political leaders when they come to power must also bear in mind the responsibilities, hardships, and need for the sacrifice that are interwoven in the roles, but more often than not, History has seen more leaders in power enjoy lavish lifestyles, the influence and revelry that comes with the power to govern.
- Must the president be a moral leader? by Kalpana Jain (link)
- Unjust War and Moral Obligation: What Should Offifficers Do? By Paul Christopher 1995