Dialog Takes Time: Military Leaders Stop for Tea

Greg Mortenson is an unlikely military adviser. However, the author of Three Cups of Tea has been consulted by Gen. Stanley McChrystal and his successor Gen. David Petreaus on dealing with the insurgency in Afghanistan.

In Three Cups of Tea Mortenson tells his story of bridge building in Pakistan and Afghanistan following his rescue after a failed attempt at scaling the second highest mountain in the world, K2 in Pakistan. In gratitude to the Pakistani villagers who nursed him back to health, Mortenson returned to build a school for Pakistani girls. But first he had to build a bridge to get construction materials into the back country.

His book tells the story of how dialog and relationship building is changing the culture of these warring nations.

Interestingly, the wives of U.S. Military leaders were the ones who put their husbands onto Mortenson’s work. For no compensation and without contract, Mortenson regularly consults with U.S. Military leaders at their request about nation building, one conversation at a time.

Critical of “laptop warriors” who proved incapable of turning the tide of war in Afghanistan, Mortenson has promoted authentic relationship building as a tool which augments military strategy to conquer resistance to culture change.

This takes time which Al Qaeda and the Taliban are willing to invest in order to win the minds of their adherents.

It may take three cups of tea to begin to have authentic conversation with our adversaries. But that is time that could be very well spent in contrast to the limitless sums that can be spent to prolong the conflict.

U.S. Generals are beginning to agree.

Source: The New York Times, July 18, 2010


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