Afghanistan and The Gordian Knot

Alexander_cuts_the_Gordian_KnotThe top story on the NYT website today is how Afghanistan’s Attorney General released 65 prisoners from the Bagram Airport Prison facility today for lack of evidence against them…and these are 65 detainees who the U.S. military deems terrorists and do not want released.

This article today reminded me of a myth today then regarding Alexander the Great and the “Gordian Knot.” Let me tell it to you and show you how they relate.

As Alexander’s Macedonian army entered the Phrygia at Gordium city-state, a myth resided their where to become the next ruler of the ruler-less city, one would have to untie the “Gordian Knot”: an enormous knot on an oxcart tied in a fashion wherein the ends of the rope were not visible, and therefore enabled to be untied.

(The myth is very similar to the one about Arthur and The Sword In The Stone in English Mythology, if that reference helps.)

So Alexander looked about the knot and found no way to untie it in a traditional sense and then, with suddenness and guile, draws his sword and hacks away at the knotted rope until it becomes “untied.”

Now the most popular interpretation of this mythical metaphor is that it should teach one to think “outside the box” as Alexander did even though he somewhat slighted the rules. In other words, Alexander got the job done in the usually glorious Alexander way and know one was about to argue.

Back to Afghanistan and the Gordian Knot mythology.

In 2001, when the U.S. Army invaded Afghanistan, we metaphorically looked at the Taliban-ruled Nation as a “knot”: It was very complex and seemed to remain tied despite thousands of years of attempted conquest by those characters such as the Russians and Alexander The Great…and they both failed.

But without thinking about it too hard and with extreme hubris we cut and hacked, and hacked and cut at the Afghanistan knot until it was left in pieces. But unlike the myth, those pieces that we hacked apart are now growing back together.

As we move to withdrawal from Afghanistan in late this year, we can metaphorically see the “knot” reassemble and reform. And one of these pieces mending back together is through the release of supposed terrorists right back into society.

So the lesson of Afghanistan know is we should have observed our knot much more than we did.

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