Obama’s War

A grim milestone was reached last month. US casualties in Afghanistan during the Obama administration have now surpassed those of the Bush era. During the eight years of the Bush administration, total US fatalities in Afghanistan numbered 578. As of September 22 fatalities during the Obama administration were reported at 646.

Afghanistan is now truly Obama’s War. I write this with regret and sadness, not anger. I admire Obama greatly and support much of his progressive agenda. On this issue, though, I believe the president has been ill advised and placed too much faith in military solutions.

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How (not) to counter terrorism

In my inbox this week are three important reminders of the costs and consequences of our country’s overly militarized responses to 9/11.

In his Informed Comment blog Juan Cole offers the “speech President Obama should give about the Iraq War (but won’t).”

With customary eloquence and unusual passion Cole tells the truth our political leaders dare not admit:

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Thank you, Mr. President. Now end the war in Afghanistan.

President Obama is fulfilling his campaign pledge to end the war in Iraq, and for that we are deeply grateful. He is holding to the letter of the Iraq security agreement, with combat troops gone now, and all remaining troops scheduled to be out by the end of next year. This is a remarkable achievement, which goes against what many military experts had assumed, that the U.S. would retain forces in Iraq for many years to come. Given our overly militarized foreign policy, it takes political courage to stay with a commitment to demilitarize.

My message to the White House: “Thank you for acting decisively and boldly to end the misbegotten war in Iraq. Now do the same with Afghanistan. It’s encouraging to hear you reiterate the commitment to begin withdrawing troops next summer. You could start sooner. And you should combine this with support for political reconciliation within Afghanistan, increased aid for development and human rights, and a diplomatic compact among neighboring states for military neutralization.”

Hopefully in a couple of years we will hear the President give another speech from the Oval Office, announcing the end of another war. Hopefully too our nation can turn decisively away from the folly of waging war in other countries, toward a greater reliance on diplomacy and development to enhance security.