This is the last post in a 5-part series responding to arguments from
thoughtful Democrats and progressives who are unsure about opposing
President Obama’s plan for Afghanistan. Part one about whether more
troops create more security is here. Part two on women’s rights is here. Part three on the terrorist threat is here. Part four on supporting President Obama is here.
Reason 5: “We have an obligation to the Afghan people. We broke it, we should fix it.”
I share that genuine desire to help improve the lives of people in Afghanistan and to keep Americans overseas and here safe, and I agree that we have an obligation to Afghanistan. However, for all the reasons stated in my previous posts in this series, I believe that should manifest through diplomacy, aid, reconstruction, development and a commitment to use proven tools to deal with the threat and root causes of extremism. As with Iraq, I find it interesting that people assume that if we feel indebted to a country in this kind of situation, it automatically means we must continue or even expand our military presence. Through years of bloated military budgets and misguided definitions of what “security” means, our government has done people a great disservice by feeding us misinformation about how the US can have an impact on the world and not demonstrating the availability and superiority of nonmilitary tools. If the main way people have seen our government interact with other nations is through our military, they are not going to have a clear picture of more effective ways the US can engage and help improve the lives of others.
I also believe part of that obligation is to speak out loudly and often if I think what our government is doing is damaging to Americans, Afghans, and the larger global community. The Afghan people don’t have much of a voice in this process, but we as voters in this country can influence the direction of our policy, if we commit to bearing witness and putting pressure on decision makers for a better alternative.
I urge people who feel some skepticism about expanding the war in Afghanistan to learn what they can about the situation and US policy, and whatever conclusions you come to, do not be “mesmerized by uncertainty.” These are life and death matters and it is up to us to “break silence” as Dr. King urged us to do.