Barack Hussein Obama has become only the fourth US president, after Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Coming after the disastrous Bush administration’s doctrines of wars of aggression and preemption any President should be awarded the prize if he/she simply refused to continue Bush’s policy, which is why my congratulatory message is tinged with a bit skepticism.
With a publicity seeking commander of US forces in Afghanistan asking for more US troops to be stationed and fight there and after eight years of an already failed policy anything less than a resounding NO to such demands means Obama is headed towards another Vietnam type conflict marked by steady increases of US personnel with no clear winnable objectives. I found this list of things Mr/President Obama should consider to be most helpful in deciding whether to send more troops to Afghanistan:
1. The planning of 9-11 was done in hotels and apartments in Germany and Spain, and flight schools in the United States. Even Paul Pillar, former CIA deputy chief for counter-terrorism will tell you that an al Qaeda base in Afghanistan would not significantly increase threats to the United States.
2. If the Taliban had control of Afghanistan, it would likely not allow al Qaeda in. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. president’s guy in Afghanistan, will tell you the same.
3. The Taliban would not necessarily gain full control of Afghanistan if the United States left. It never had it before, and appears unlikely to be able to take it now. These three points, as Robert Naiman has pointed out, make the leap from US withdrawal to an al Qaeda attack on the United States quite a large one.
4. Occupying and bombing Afghanistan is actually making us less safe. It is enraging people against the United States, building the Taliban and other resistance.
5. The occupation is also damaging the rule of law. Our engagement in this illegal enterprise makes it more difficult to prevent other nations from engaging in wars of aggression.
6. The occupation is not benefitting the Afghan people. It is not protecting their rights or their lives. It is brutally taking their lives with bombs and imprisoning them without charge or trial or the rights of prisoners of war.
7. The Taliban is made up of poor people fighting in order to eat. They need aid, diplomacy, jobs, education, and resources, not bombs and troops and mercenaries. We’re paying tens of thousands of Afghans to fight as mercenaries. We could pay them to rebuild their country and have money to spare.
8. That we are supposedly succeeding against al Qaeda when arguments are needed to reauthorize the PATRIOT Act, but supposedly failing against al Qaeda when it’s time to continue or escalate wars is insulting, not credible.
9. The citizens of the United States oppose the war, and it’s our money and our kids, and our country being placed in danger of blowback.
10. The people of Afghanistan, according to an ABC News poll, want the United States to withdraw. It’s their country, and you cannot impose democracy on them without obeying their majority opinion.
11. If we’ve been through eight years of this and not been able to even devise a rough description of what a “success” would look like, what are the chances that it will be identified and achieved in year nine?
12. It’s called the graveyard of empires for a reason.
13. Our states’ militias, the national guard, is needed at home and cannot constitutionally be sent abroad to fight for empire.
14. US soldiers signed up to defend the United States, not to commit war crimes in distant lands.
15. There is nothing worse than war that could conceivably take its place. Killing people is the worst thing there is.
I wish the Nobel prize committee had waited to see what Obama’s response about Afghanistan would be before they awarded him the peace prize. Perhaps they thought in giving it to him it would be pressure on him to ‘do the right thing’. I can’t say what their motivation was or what will be Obama’s but his first real foreign policy challenge that directly affects the interest of America is imminent. I hope he lives up to the challenge and the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize.