President Obama's decision to escalate NATO's Afghanistan occupation - with the addition of as many as 17,000 troops - makes him the owner (if not instigator) of whatever consequence or outcome occurs there as a result of that deployment, at least during his term in office.
Likewise, those Americans who unquestionably support or acquiesce to the president's decision to increase U.S. military presence and involvement in Afghanistan need to take a moment and acquaint themselves with their party's unaccustomed role as an advocate of military aggression in defense of Bush-like, democracy-spreading nation-building.
Moreover, if that support and acquiescence of the new administration's military posture against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan is based on opposition to the Muslim organization's objectionable practice of Islamic law (Sharia), that reasoning mirrors Bush's own self-serving justifications for his self-perpetuating ideological crusade behind the force of our nation's defenders.
That embrace of the vestiges of Bush's militarism abroad, albeit offered with trust and belief in our Democratic president's judgment in managing it to 'success', strains to avoid using the same jingoistic rationales to justify the heavy-handed exercise of our military forces against violently resisting populations. President Obama's own language in explaining his intention to 'move forward' militarily in Afghanistan avoids repeating the verse and scripture of the last administration by replacing Bush's redundant reminders of the threat from 'terror' and 'terrorists' with his own definition of a struggle against 'extremists' and extremism'.
Still, there remains a reflexive assumption that our nation's participation in military aggression in Afghanistan is directly related to our nation's response to the 9-11 killings here at home. There was a clear call from all corners of the Democratic party during Bush's term for a refocus on capturing or killing the fugitive suspects after years of a (deliberately) distracting occupation in Iraq which diverted the bulk of our military resources and attention away from what Mr. Obama has described as the 'center' of the 'war on terror' in Afghanistan. There is an understandable belief that, even now, years and years after the original attacks on our nation, doubling up on the militarism there would heighten the potential for 'success' in the enterprise.
The targets of our devastating militarism are mostly the ghosts of resistance to our own grudging military advance on the Afghan's homeland. Additionally, the casualties have tragically involved scores more innocent civilians than original 9-11 perpetrators or accomplices. In fact, AP reports that in the last two months, the number of innocent civilians killed by U.S., Afghan, and coalition forces far exceeds the numbers killed by the Taliban; over 100 dead so far, this year.
The escalating military involvement and aggression in Afghanistan this year has also resulted in a tripling of the number of U.S. troops killed there. Disturbingly, the rate of those killed in Afghanistan this year has surpassed that of Iraq. Twenty-nine U.S. troops died in Afghanistan the first two months of 2009 - compared with eight Americans in the first two months of 2008.
"It has a lot to do with the fact that we have a presence in places and going into places and disrupting insurgents in area where they haven't been bothered much," Col. Greg Julian, the top U.S. spokesman in Afghanistan, told AP Saturday. That, he said, means more battles and more attacks.
It should be emphasized that, along with the increase in force, President Obama has promised a 'surge' of diplomatic and humanitarian activity in Afghanistan and has included a tripling of foreign aid to Pakistan in his budget. At the completion of a 'review' of policy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in late May, the president is expected to produce a new mission plan in time for the NATO summit in April. That strategy is anticipated to be a comprehensive mix of 'achievable' goals which reflect the admission by Pres. Obama and his military leadership that military means alone "cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan - the Taliban and the spread of extremism in that region."
Despite the president's pledge to continue the fight against 'al-Qaeda' and the Taliban 'extremists', there isn't any broad inference in his declarations that he intends to use the force of our military to combat some objectionable ideology, belief, or religious practice he disagrees with.
"I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means," Mr. Obama told reporters from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.. "We're going to have to use diplomacy. We're going to have to use development."
In Pakistan last month, the government decided to negotiate a ceasefire with local Taliban in an isolated province in their tribal region of Swat. Despite the controversial deal which would allow the Taliban there to enforce their sometimes unbearably oppressive, sometimes deadly Islamic law, or Sharia, there was a beneficial trade-off of an end to the corrosive fighting and a disarmed Taliban militia.
Asked about applying a Swat-type deal to the conflict with the Taliban in Afghanistan, U.S. Defense chief Gates indicated that he would indeed be open to an offer by the combatants there to lay down their weapons and negotiate. Although a remote and extremely optimistic prospect, the comment by Gates is evidence of the willingness of this administration to think outside of the reflexive militarism and nationalistic paranoia that passed for the Bush regime's Afghanistan strategy.
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