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Strategic Negotiation is Not Appeasement

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The media are abuzz with the news that President Obama acknowledges that we are not winning the war in Afghanistan and is thinking about reaching out to moderate elements of the Taliban. And the right-wingers are jumping all over it. To them, it's proof that Obama likes to pal around with terrorists. By contrast, their hero and dear leader -- George W. Bush -- would always swagger and smirk and talk about how we don't negotiate with terrorists. How macho. And look where that got us. Intelligence experts agree that Bush's cowboy-style foreign policy has actually made us less safe. Therefore, it's clearly time for a new strategy, and not a moment too soon. The key to Obama's approach is a nuanced one. He's not going to jump into bed with al-Qaeda or the Taliban extremists. The New York Times explains:
Mr. Obama pointed to the success in peeling Iraqi insurgents away from more hard-core elements of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a strategy that many credit as much as the increase of American forces with turning the war around in the last two years. "There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region," he said, while cautioning that solutions in Afghanistan will be complicated.
It makes sense from that perspective. But the right-wing reactionaries aren't very good at nuance. One of them tried to appeal to my human-rights-related sensibilities. Here is what he wrote to me:
Obama's foolish policy consigns Afghan women to brutality and death under Sharia Law, while also reversing the substantial gains made during President Bush's tenure.
I don't know where to begin here. First of all, what gains did Bush make in Afghanistan during his tenure? He attacked Afghanistan with too few troops. Then took his eye off the ball -- and let Osama bin Laden get away -- in order to divert our efforts to Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, and which at that time was an unarmed country that posed no threat to the U.S. That paved the way for the Taliban's regrouping and, as a result, the restored social and political repression of Afghan women. Second, and perhaps more relevant to the point, by engaging the more moderate elements of the Taliban, we would be in a much stronger position to advocate for human rights in that country. Currently, we are the foreign occupier. They don't care what we think. But we've got bargaining chips, and Obama will use them constructively, not destructively, for a change. It boils down to this: The bullies are no longer running our side of the playground. The teacher is now in charge. This nation, and our foreign policy, are now under adult supervision. And it's our only hope.

 

Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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It's time for a real history lesson for these ... by eileen kuch on Wednesday, Mar 11, 2009 at 12:11:47 AM