Last week, President Obama concluded his strategy review on the war in Afghanistan. In his speech announcing his conclusions, he explicitly stated the reason this war continues:
As President, my greatest responsibility is to protect the American people. We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future. We are in Afghanistan to confront a common enemy that threatens the United States , our friends and allies, and the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan who have suffered the most at the hands of violent extremists.
So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan , and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you.
In this, I agree with the President. The goal of any war America prosecutes should be to keep America safe, and the goal of this war is to prevent terrorist attacks from Al Qaeda.
I am heartened that President Obama has explicitly endorsed what I think is the only reason America should ever go to war. I’m saddened that I disagree so much with his methods for achieving that goal. In that speech, he also explicitly linked Taliban control of Afghanistan to defeating Al Qaeda:
So let me be clear: al Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan . Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan . And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or allows al Qaeda to go unchallenged – that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.
In fact, the logic is entirely wrong. At its heart, the Taliban is a foreign resistance organization. The Taliban is more powerful now, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, precisely because there are foreign troops in their countries. By escalating in Afghanistan and putting more foreign troops into the region, we drive Taliban recruitment and power.
There is another way. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has laid out a plan to eventually de-escalate in Afghanistan, fight Al Qaeda, and keep America safe. By focusing the current level of NATO troops in places where they can have the most impact, and working regionally with the Afghan government, Pakistan, and even the Taliban to disrupt Al Qaeda cells, we can get ourselves to a position where we guard over the region without being committed heavily on the ground. This will not only strengthen our allies in the region and cost less money and lives, but it will also sap the Taliban’s recruiting power and allow us to focus on the real threat, Al Qaeda.
It has never been explained to me why we need thousands of troops on the ground to root out Al Qaeda. America, working with its allies, has been disrupting terrorist networks for decades without large ground forces. Why can’t we do it in Afghanistan?
Because if you take this logic to its conclusion, that we need ground troops to disrupt Al Qaeda cells, then we need forces in Somalia, and Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, all of whom are known to host Al Qaeda members.
More importantly, the troop surge just will not work.
This decision by President Obama has historical parallels. As I wrote yesterday:
42 years ago today, on April 4th, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King first spoke out against the Vietnam war in a speech entitled “A Time to Break Silence.”
On April 6th, 2009, Get Afghanistan Right, in coordination with bloggers, writers, and activists all over the country, will participate in demonstrations both online and offline around the war in Afghanistan, with the aim of getting our fellow Americans to break their silence and voice their views on the conflict, which is escalating now that President Obama has completed his strategy review.
Write a blog post on April 6th. Write it on your own site and then email Get Afghanistan Right, so we can aggregate your post with others on our homepage. Or, write a post on Oxdown Gazette over at Firedoglake, a site where anyone can write a post. (Click here for instructions.) Whatever you choose to do, just break the silence. The world will be better for it.
So, please join me and speak out with your opinion on escalation in Afghanistan. You’ll be in good company – today, bloggers on Daily Kos, Firedoglake, here at The Seminal, and numerous other outlets are expressing their views as well. So please , take a moment and write a blog post on Oxdown Gazette.
And when you’re done, continue your activism. Sign a petition for oversight of the Afghanistan war by Congress. Call your representatives in Washington and share your views directly. And tell your friends about Get Afghanistan Right so more people can get involved.
We, as progressives, have been silent about this war for too long. As Dr. King said, "We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."