No Surprise on Afghanistan

December 2, 2009

I was asked to attend a meeting at the White House on November 19 to discuss the Afghanistan and Pakistan wars. I was unable to attend because of my mother’s funeral.

Now that our president has decided to expand the war I have to wonder if my attending the meeting would have had any effect other than to appear to give tacit approval to this horrendous action. Sadly, I conclude that only the latter would have resulted by my attending.

When Obama was elected, I was sent an email from a peace activist describing him as a Peace President. I was in the middle of drafting my end of year appeal letter and my friend, who reads over my drafts and offers suggestions, wanted me to include a phrase “the first Peace Candidate ever elected.” To both of them, I said, “Obama said he would end the war in Iraq, but only to increase the efforts in Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan. He was not a Peace Candidate.”

As the months went on more of my friends expressed frustration with Obama for not greatly decreasing the war in Iraq fast enough, while already beginning to increase efforts in Afghanistan. They felt betrayed.

I said, “He said from the beginning of his campaign that he would end the war in Iraq slowly and that he would increase the efforts in Afghanistan and possible invade Pakistan. He has kept this campaign promises.” They would look surprised and not remember his statements from the campaign.

Now the Obama administration has kept other promises—a more open process for one. If nothing else he should be applauded for his efforts to use the somewhat neglected State Department. But more open to view does not necessarily mean more open to different solutions. There has never been any serious indication that Obama intended not to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan at all—only a question of how many and how long.

So while we are not facing (at least at this moment in history) a pledge to commit troops for hundreds of years, neither are we facing an immediate withdrawal of troops any where—including Iraq and Colombia.

We should not be surprised.

J.E. McNeil
Executive Director