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Archive for June, 2011

President Obama will announce soon the beginning of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan. This is a crucial turning point for American foreign policy. Many of us are urging the President to make a substantial reduction as part of a coherent transition strategy to enhance security in the region.

Even Henry Kissinger is now discussing the need for military exit. In a June 7 article in the Washington Post , Kissinger outlines a strategy for negotiating the “withdrawal of all or most American and allied forces.” He proposes setting a deadline to reach a “residual force” level within 18 to 24 months.  It seems that members of the imperial elite now recognize the need to end the war.

It’s weird to find myself agreeing with Henry the K after all these years. I had the same feeling a few years ago when Kissinger joined George Shultz and other senior statesmen in advocating a world without nuclear weapons. Actually, it’s not that I’m agreeing with him but rather that he is coming around to support positions many of us have advocated.

Kissinger writes that a negotiated agreement in Afghanistan needs an “enforcement mechanism.” I have a related but different idea: the deployment of an interim Muslim-led security force under UN authority.  The mission of the proposed force would be to protect civilians and enforce the ceasefire provisions of a negotiated settlement. It would prevent a security vacuum as foreign troops depart and provide political and security assurances within Afghanistan and among neighboring states.

Details about this concept and other elements of a peace strategy for Afghanistan are contained in my new book Ending Obama’s War: Responsible Military Withdrawal from Afghanistan, available from Amazon.

I hope Kissinger gets a copy as well.

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Today I spent several hours with a group of students from Cairo University who were actively involved in the uprising. Four men and three women, all in their twenties—those who made a revolution.

I asked the women about gender relations during those extraordinary days.

In Egyptian society, one of them remarked, relations between men and women are ‘not positive.’ Another put it more bluntly: ‘we are always being hassled and harassed.’

During the revolution, though, a miraculous transformation occurred. Men were more considerate, and women could participate freely without being harassed.

One woman described her experience on the terrible night of January 28 in Tahrir Square, when dozens of protestors were killed and she herself had been knocked down and injured.  At 3 in the morning, tired and aching, she searched for a ride home. A young man offered to help. He put  her in a car with three other guys and drove her home. No hassles, only caring support.

‘Something like this never would have happened before.’

(more…)

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So many lessons learned already in the first day of our symposium on the unarmed revolution at Cairo University. Here are a few flashes:

Egypt’s uprising has been described as an internet revolution, but the regime did not fall because of Facebook messages and tweets. It was overthrown by the determined resistance of millions of people in the streets. Estimates we’ve heard range from 8 to 12 million across the country. One of the professors said yesterday, no fewer than 15 million. We’ll reserve judgment on the final number pending more research, but this much is clear: This was one of the largest outpourings of mass civil resistance in human history.

The people faced brutal police repression and attacks by thugs. They died by the hundreds from bullets and beatings. Thousands were injured. Yet they returned to the streets day after day in ever increasing numbers. An incredible display of mass civic courage—similar to what we are witnessing today in the streets of Syria and Yemen. (more…)

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I’m in Egypt this week for a symposium the Kroc Institute is co-sponsoring with Cairo University and the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict on “learning lessons from the unarmed revolution in Egypt.” It is exciting to be in Cairo in the wake of the remarkable 18-day uprising that brought down the Mubarak dictatorship. As I stepped off the plane last night I felt a special sense of excitement and joy at entering a newly liberated country.

I know Egypt faces many problems and contradictions. The revolution was incomplete, and many crises and challenges lie ahead. All of this will become clear, I’m sure, as we study the political and social dynamics of the revolution in the coming days. For now, though, I want to bask in the enormity of what the Egyptian people have accomplished. They have demonstrated the power of mass nonviolent resistance. They have proven again that a people united in their determination to be free are a mighty force for change.

Let us hope the people of Egypt can succeed in forging a successful transition to a more democratic, prosperous and secure future.

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