Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What To Do About Afghanistan

Here are three pretty convincing arguments about what Pres. Obama should do about Afghanistan.

The first argues that if we want a victory in Afghanistan we are going to have to decide to Get Nasty, send a lot more troops than even Gen. McChrystal is asking for, and use overwhelming military force to oust the Taliban and Al Qaeda for good. We can't win this war by going home or using half measures. We need to fully engage, no matter how politically unpopular the idea may be. Peace is only achieved through war.

The second argues that brute military force in Muslim countries is the actual cause of hatred towards America, and thus creates breeding ground for terrorism. Even if we oust the Taliban through military force, we will have lost the bigger goal of stamping out terrorism because the act of taking out the Taliban through military force will cause more hatred and terrorism towards America.

The third takes the middle ground and argues that our goal should be protecting and propping up a few major cities in Afghanistan by "throw[ing] at them all the resources they can absorb: military, civilian, financial, the works." We don't worry about the sparsely populated rural regions because if popular opinion turns our way in the big cities it will seep out to the rest of the country.

What is likely to happen will be more like the middle of the road suggestion than anything. We won't just leave, but it is too unpopular a stance to approve a major troop increase, so Pres. Obama will send a few more troops and hope it all works out.

You, of course, can decide which plan makes the most sense for you, understanding that very few of us can really understand the full scope of these foreign policy decisions. But that doesn't mean we can't have an opinion. We may not grasp the full implications of these decisions, and we don't have access to the intelligence information on which the government bases its decisions, but we can still have an opinion about how our government should generally make these decisions.

I want to re-post two quotes from modern-day prophets that guide my feelings on this subject. During World War I Pres. Joseph F. Smith said:
For years it has been held that peace comes only by preparation for war; the present conflict should prove that peace comes only by preparing for peace, through training the people in righteousness and justice, and selecting rulers who respect the righteous will of the people.
Pres. Marion G. Romney said:
We should find no pleasure in the fact that men’s strivings for peace have proved ineffectual. I wage no war against their efforts. Many of them are doing the best they can in the light they have. Nevertheless, I can see no justification for us, who have the clear light of the revealed gospel of Christ, to spend our lives stumbling around through the mists following the uncertain glimmer of a flickering candle lighted by the wisdom of men. Rather, we should devote our energies to spreading the true light, and leave the mists to those who do not see that light.
Wars are creations of man. They are only waged because we want them waged and we have created situations where they are then necessary. At some point we have to stop looking for opportunities for war and start looking for opportunities for peace. So I am personally ready to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and have our leaders start focusing on peace.

That may be naive at this point, especially to those in the government who have spent their lives in the "uncertain glimmer of a flickering candle lighted by the wisdom of men." They would say that we have to wage these wars to protect America from terrorism. Perhaps, though, we protect America best by focusing on peace and understanding instead of war.

There is no way of knowing this, but I suspect America may have been better off if we never went to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Somalia, Afghanistan, and all the other places we've taken our military might. There is not a decisive victory in the entire list, and all we've reaped is more hatred and bitterness towards our country. And now people are even talking about going after Iran. This type of thinking has to stop.

So I say, bring the troops home from Afghanistan, start creating understanding and diplomatic ties, start focusing on peace and commonalities. That, to me, is the best way to ensure peace and change the world.


Josh said...

"So I say, bring the troops home from Afghanistan, start creating understanding and diplomatic ties, start focusing on peace and commonalities. That, to me, is the best way to ensure peace and change the world."

No, that is the best way to end up every one's crapper. Why don't people understand? These folks don't want peace!!!! I am all for bringing the troops home, but peace with the Middle East is impossible. Feel free to have that feel good dream, though.

My opinion, either blow the whole place straight to hell, or let's pull out and put it behind us. Should we go even further into debt to help build up the wasteland that is Afghanistan? No. Wish them the best with their screwed up, backwards world, and move on to getting our own country out of the toilet. That is, afterall, what this administration promised to do all last year - though I'm sure quadrupling the national deficit will eventually, somehow, pay off.

Jacob S. said...

Well, we're kind of in agreement I guess. We should pull out of there, and part of it is definitely a cost benefit analysis. We are pumping billions of dollars and thousands of lives for very little in return. Afghanistan, for US interests, is just not worth this cost.

But this is a country of almost 30 million people. You can't just say "these folks don't want peace." Some don't, but most of them are normal people. They don't want to live with the constant fear of war and violence. They want normal lives.

Americans used to say the same thing about Japan and Russia. But eventually the majority of people, normal peace-loving people, took control and now we have an good relationships with them. The same can happen with Muslim countries. If we stop treating them just as enemies that should be bombed and invaded, I think we'll find we can be at peace with them. Maybe its just a feel good dream, though.

Jacob S. said...

As always, the Onion nails it: