NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Friday February 21st 2020

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Surge To Nowhere

by Peter Molenaar

Anyone with a heart understands that President Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place on the question of Afghanistan—damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. As for the public’s opinion, it is mixed, uncertain, and fluid.

A significant poll released November 30 indicated that 47 percent of us favor some increase in troop levels, but this figure actually was down 5 points from the previous poll. So, the belief that homeland security is sustained by war abroad appears to be waning in the midst of local economic woes. “Too costly and destined to fail” is a commonly expressed view.

The question remains: Did the president’s December first speech muster the call for a ‘just war’? Truthfully, he invoked the security issue without reference to a moral imperative with regard to internationalist duty. The isolationist tendency remains strong. So, the answer is no.

Yet, on the moral front, our peace movement is also subject to questions. Foremost, what consequences for women and children would result should the Taliban reconsolidate their power? Furthermore, what would be the consequences with regard to regional stability and development?

Such questions might augment the president’s stance were he not marching behind the banner of NATO. There has been no pledge against the establishment of permanent military bases, no pledge against dispensations for certain corporations, no pledge against the imposition of “free trade” agreements, etc. Our obligation to oppose imperialism remains.

What then is the way out?

Answer: There is a regional alternative to the escalation in Afghanistan.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization took shape in the years of Taliban power (1996; 2001) for the purpose of undermining that power. The SCO includes Russia and China along with various Central Asian states that border Afghanistan. China alone sustains a military force of some 2.5 million individuals. So, the fact is this: The refusal to enlist the SCO member states as part of our anti-Taliban coalition puts the lie to the assertion that we are in Afghanistan primarily on the basis of national security.

Clearly the anti-Taliban coalition might be expanded 100-fold, not for the purpose of waging war, but for the purpose of initiating peace negotiations.

The Taliban are not borderless jihadists (they are not Al-Qaida). On the contrary, they are nationalists seeking territory on which to impose their regime. With Kandahar conceded as their capital in the south, they might readily be compelled to accept Kabul as capital of the north. In the long-view, Kabul would prevail in a peaceful competition.

Final thought: It remains appropriate to respect our president even as we profoundly disagree with his judgment regarding Afghanistan.

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