Victory by Defeat

Kate - Mukilteo, Washington
Entered on March 14, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe that defeat can be a winning solution. In humility, there is strength. As our fifth year at war in Iraq and Afghanistan draws to a close, I long for the U.S. troops to come home. While a hasty withdrawal leaves Iraq and Afghanistan vulnerable to domination by fanatical forces that seem merely kept at bay by the U.S. presence, I fear the war has resulted in increased terrorist anger, instability in the region, and numerous orphans and desperate youth. These, of course, are fodder for the terrorist cells.

As a social worker, I was trained to humbly approach families with whom I work. I must ask them what they need rather than telling them what they need, even if there are some glaring problems from my standpoint.

There was a family I worked with once as a Family Preservation Therapist whom I failed to “preserve.” This resulted in the removal of one of the children from the home. I spent the court-mandated four weeks visiting the home on a near daily basis. The family consisted of four: a mother, her second husband, fifteen year old daughter with methamphetamine addiction, and nine year old daughter lost in the shuffle. The girls’ step-father was inclined to send the eldest to a group home to finish out her adolescence. Her mother, with a similar history of drug addiction but currently abstinent, painfully witnessed her own teen years replayed.

To avoid alienating the family I refrained from approaching as “expert.” Rather, I discussed with each member what needs and solutions they could determine. The teen daughter continued to abuse drugs, cut school, and eventually ran away to the San Francisco streets. I supported her mother in making the wrenching decision to call the police and have her daughter arrested.

A year later I heard from the mother that her daughter had entered substance abuse treatment. Her mother realized the “betrayal” call to the police was among the most loving acts she had ever done on her daughter’s behalf. Defeat can indeed precipitate victory.

I posit to the United States, young nation that we are, that perhaps we don’t have the answers for Iraq. I imagine the Arab world, with its several thousand years of civilization, must find it audacious to suggest that our two hundred year old model of government be installed there. Our military and our reserve troops have been exhausted by repeated deployments. Our bank has been drained. Perhaps now is the time to do the most fearful and courageous thing of all: admit failure, withdraw, and ask, “How can we help you help yourselves?”

There is concern that corruption thwarts the proper use of our aid, but I wonder if these nations can’t solve this problem themselves? To put it simply, there are more “good guys” than “bad guys” in the world, even in the Middle East. War is an outdated strategy. There is strength in humility. There is victory in it.