Thursday, December 03, 2009

Sojourners: Afghanistan needs aid, not troops

President Obama has committed to about 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan - a limited "surge".

When you break something in a store, you've bought it. The same principle works to a much, much larger degree in the laws of war. When the United States chose to invade Afghanistan, it took on responsibility to stabilize the country. I am not a military expert, and I have not extensively examined the evidence for or against the surge. Therefore, I cannot oppose the surge per se. There is good reason to believe there are really dangerous people on the ground in Afghanistan.

However, Afghanistan has also been a failed state for years. Its extremely rugged terrain and extensive tribalism make it difficult to govern. There are many reasons to be concerned about deploying additional troops. President Obama sought extensive advice from his military, but when you ask a military person about the problem in Afghanistan, you are most likely to get military solutions.

For a long time, Sojourners, a Christian organization, has counseled against additional military action in Afghanistan. While I don't necessarily agree with that, I agree wholeheartedly with their warning that development, not military action, must be the primary strategy. Military solutions can at best contain the problem of terrorism. Anyone who thinks they can kill terrorism is a fool - Dick Cheney being at the top of this list.

I think that in his heart of hearts, President Obama does not think he can kill terrorism. However, there has also been no sign of an increased commitment to economic development in Afghanistan. I would urge readers to sign this letter on the Sojourners site to remind the President about economic development - and, on the off chance that he's forgotten, of the folly of the armed solution to this problem.

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