Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama: Make It Real.

The war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. At least it is unwinnable with anything less than 200,000 U.S. troops and another 5-10 years of death and destruction. And even then - no guarantees.

The goals of the war are unclear.

To stop Al-Qaeda? But their leadeship are hanging out mostly in Pakistan, and in any case, it is such an amorphous organization that cutting off the head will do no good. Instead you must starve the body - by denying it a cadre of motivated recruits. That involves a slow - very slow - raproachmant with the Muslim world. It requires intense world wide intelligence work and police like actions - not a localized anti-insurgency war.

To bring democracy to Afghansitan? But the horse that the West is backing - Karzai - just stole the elections with massive fraud. By all accounts he is corrupt and sectarian. He only looks good in comparrison with the fundamentalist Taliban.

To help Afghan women? That can't be imposed from the outside. They, and their local male allies, need to do it for themselves. The West can only encourage them and help out indirectly.

So yes, there are some noble goals invoked to justify the war in Afghansitan. But goals are not enough. You need the means. And the West does not have the means to impose its vision from the outside. To continue the war will likely not acheive any of its goals, and will result in years of death and destruction for Afghanis and for the Western soldiers unlucky enough to be assigned there.

Obama could do something to earn the Nobel Peace Prize he just won, by flip-flopping on Afghanistan and figuring out how to get out as soon as reasonably possible. Does he have the courage to publicly change his mind? I doubt it. But lets hope so.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, of the Shalom Centre, has made roughly the same point in his latest e-letter. Here are some insightful - and some wacky - ideas and issues he raised.

... Yes, the Taliban are disgusting. Oppressive. But there are a myriad ways of encouraging reform ... The one that does NOT work is trying to install democracy at the point of a bayonet. Or, even worse, Predator Drones which
massacre wedding parties from the sky and turn the survivors into furious

... We can already see that we have walked into another quagmire -- an endless war in a country that for centuries has hated all occupations with a burning fury. -- And that war would undermine all plans for social reform at home --- exactly what happened to Lyndon Johnson whren Vietnam swept away the Great Society.

... 500,000 US troops for five years many dead, maimed of body, mind, and soul. Forget about health care. Forget education. Forget healing our wounded, choking planet.

... But the mindless pressures of military habit are still pressing. The American people --- surveys show a majority oppose this war --- must act to end it.

The other path --- friendship with Islam; economic aid at the grass-roots, micro-loan level; empowering women; ... Afghan women want to be empowered --- but they do not believe American bombs will do it.

... Call a conference of the independent women's organizations in Afghanistan. Offer micro-loans for grass-roots economic development to any group of ten women who apply as a group (loans ranging from $1,000 to $5,000), plus offer ten revolvers and 100 bullets to each group of women: one gun and 50 bullets for each woman for target practice, 50 for defense against anyone who comes to assail them for being
uppity. ...

If you are American, Arthur encourages you to write your Senator, using the following link and urge them to end the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible.


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