Monday, December 21, 2009

End the War in Afghanistan

President Obama, the latest Noble Peace Prize honoree, has sorely disapointed many of his most fervent supporters with the decision to send 30,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan, a war which we were told 8 years ago was initiated for the purpose of routing the terrorist group Al-Queda. Despite his eloquent and no doubt heart-felt rhetoric delivered at the US Military Academy at West Point, those of us who are old to enough to remember the Vietnam War could not help but have a terrible sense of deja-vu. Now,as then, an otherwise progressive, ground-breaking president with an agenda of social change long overdue allowed himself to be sucked into a quagmire of death and destruction by listening too much and too hard to those whose business it is to make war. Now, as then, an American president's vision seems to have forgotten that democracy is not, nor can it ever be imposed at gun point by a foreighn power, no matter how well-intentioned. Having inherited a war without direction by a president who was too busy pursuing hiw own dreams of global empire to actually complete the mission he had originally claimed, President Obama seems destined to head down that same road as he tries to build a nation in Afghanistan, a country that can boast of having defeated every imperial power in history that has tried to do that very same thing. Long divided into tribes and factions, Afghanistan has a long history of very little central government and an antipathy toward foreignors; an antipathy that has not subsided with the installation of the corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai in Kabul by the US and it's allies. For eight years our troops have been stretched to the breaking point by the two wars begun under the Bush administration and it is time to bring them home to the honor they deserve not to waste more lives in a fruitless attempt to build a western style nation in a country and culture we neither understand nor appreciate, trying to build a nation that no one seems to want or care about other than those whose feeble grasp on power in the area around Kabul is bought with the blood of coalition troops and the lives of countless innocent Afghan civilians.

If our purpose remains to root out the terrorists, that has been accomplished, if not totally by our direct effort, then also by the fact that Al-Queda has simply moved on to other safe havens in failed states and tribal areas in Somolia, Yemen and Pakistan. We can declare victory and go home. If we are seeking to build a nation in Afghanistan, we must be prepared for decades of bloodshed in an attempt to do what this small place has successfully resisted since the beginning of history. Afghanistan has been at war for 30 years this time around. We have to ask what we can possibly expect to gain by throwing 30,000 more of our young men and women into that killing field. Perhaps we should look more closely at our own history, at the principles of our own democracy and the circumstances of our own founding and recognize that Afghanistan deserves what we all deserve, a chance to forge their own destiny, whatever it will be, according to their own lights, without a gun to their head. We need to be ready to help, not with predator drones, and human fodder for their killing fields, but with genuine aide, contingent on their adherence to the principles of self-determination, liberty and the right of peoples to make their own history. If Vietnam taught us nothing else, it should have taught us that.

Al-Queda, now thought to have less than 100 members in-country, is no longer based there