War and Peace

This past week saw President Barack Obama receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It was acknowledged by most, including the recipient that the prize was awarded more for the potential that he represents rather than the body of his accomplishments to date. In my view this in no way diminishes the accomplishment of President Obama in receiving this prize and his eloquent speech once more demonstrated his ability to speak to the global perspective while leading that most insular of nations, the United States.
His acceptance of the prize had to be tempered with the fact that he has most recently increased the commitment of the United States to a military solution in Afghanistan. President Obama acknowledged the irony of his accepting a peace prize while committing his country to further warfare and he did a masterful job of presenting his logic for taking steps to protect the United States from a global terrorist initiative while being committed to global peace in the long term. While I do not doubt President Obama’s veracity, I do not believe that his recitation of the facts or logic is accurate. The facts are freely available to us all and given the consequences and the cost we should all consider them.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, getting the same result, but always expecting a different result. The United States is now fully committed to an overwhelming military solution in Afghanistan, fighting a nationalist movement in order to counter to perceived danger of an enemy with global intentions. In the 1960’s, the United States fought the North Vietnamese, a nationalist movement that even adopted the United States Declaration of Independence as its own, in order to fight the perceived global intentions of the international communist movement.
After the deaths of over 50,000 American troops and millions of Vietnamese, the United States withdrew. The nationalist movement in Vietnam succeeded and there was no appreciable impact on mitigating the dangers of the perceived global intentions of the international communist movement.
Now thousands of American lives will be at risk in Afghanistan. Millions of Afghani lives will be at risk. The sacrifice of blood and treasure is absolute and unavoidable no matter how firm the “conditional exit formula”. And even now we know that there is no prospect of “victory” because no invader, no external force, ever truly achieves a “victory” over a nationalist movement except by exterminating its military force or by imposing a substitute socio-economic structure, also known as colonialism.
It should go without saying that the goal of the Obama administration is not to exterminate the Taliban. And while the history of the United States is replete with colonialist adventures from the Philippines to Haiti to Hawaii and beyond, we do not expect Obama administration to propose the colonizing of Afghanistan as an eventual solution. Indeed, from Alexander the Great to the British Empire to the Soviet Union, the dust and rubble of Afghanistan is littered with the skulls and skeletons of empires that sought to subdue the Afghan people. Can there be an expectation of a different result this time? Remember the definition of insanity.
And then there is the eerie repetition of a very sad history. In Vietnam, there was the perceived notion that the global war against communism needed to be fought in that country. Although the communist power bases were in China and the Soviet Union at that time. The so-called war against communism achieved no victory against communism and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union and the transformation of China had nothing to do with the U.S. war in Vietnam. Ironically, the gut-wrenching and absolute defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan had a lot to do with its eventual downfall.
And now we are supposed to believe that al-Qaeda can be defeated in Afghanistan and that we will be safer from a future 9/11 debacle if we draw the line in the Afghan sand. This, despite the fact that we know that there are al-Qaeda operatives in London, Spain, Minnesota, Yemen, Virginia, Pakistan and Iraq. We know that al-Qaeda does not have a headquarters or a traditional central command. If Osama bin-Laden’s head was delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as was once promised by the CIA, does anyone believe that we will be safer in Brooklyn or Brookline or Denver?
Along with millions of others I supported Barack Obama because his candidacy promised a more creative, thoughtful and nuanced approach to the challenges of this planet. I still support the President. I do not support his policy in Afghanistan and I fear that he has listened to the siren call of the debacle that lies over the abyss. I pray that I am wrong but history and the facts and logic do not offer much solace.


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