Afghanistan: War of Necessity? Or Opportunity for Peace, Reconciliation and Development?

President Obama has repeatedly called the US occupation of Afghanistan a "war
of necessity", in contrast to the war of choice his predecessor waged (and of
course is still ongoing) in Iraq.

While I am no mind-reader, I'm not sure the president really still believes
that, or he may want to come up with a different way to describe the situation
in Afghanistan and the region. Certainly there are grave problems in Afghanistan
and in neighboring Pakistan that deserve attention and resources from the US,
other countries in the region and the global community.

But, as my colleague Michael Beer of Nonviolence International said to me
recently, if it really is a "war of necessity," why is the president taking so
long to decide whether to send more troops? Shouldn't it be a no-brainer? Why is
the Administration apparently preparing to try to persuade a war-weary public
that more troops, maybe tens of thousands, need to deploy to Afghanistan?

My sense is the president's deliberation (for which I think he deserves some
credit) and his Administration's desire to explore a broader range of issues
(governance, aid, development, education, women's rights, local policing and
judicial systems as well as others) than just troop levels indicates there is
serious doubt about how "necessary" continuing and escalating the war really is.
At least it is a confirmation of the many statements from military and
diplomatic leaders, both within the Administration and outside it, that there is
no military solution in Afghanistan.

Clearly the US public doesn't think Afghanistan is a war of necessity, as a
majority of Americans now oppose the war or at least its escalation.

Another way to think of this is the "Just War" test, not the official
Catholic doctrine, but the real definition of a Just War - one you'd send your
kids to fight in.

Clearly this war fails that test for the overwhelming majority of Americans,
and many veterans of Afghanistan and military families are now speaking out for
an end to the eight years and counting US occupation, just as so many of them
have regarding the Iraq war and occupation.

My children, at ages 12 and 15 a little older than President Obama's
daughters, think the US is always at war, and why wouldn't they? The US has been
involved in wars almost their whole lives. Of course the children of
Afghanistan, and Iraq, and Palestine, Sudan, Congo and too many other countries
know the horror of constant war much more personally. We, their parents, are
failing them, aren't we? They deserve peace, and we all need to demand it for

Instead of a military escalation, we need a transition to non-military
solutions in Afghanistan, and a plan to withdraw US and NATO forces as soon as
possible. Support for comprehensive peace negotiations between the various
parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, including some Taliban leaders, and a
surge in economic development and humanitarian aid to grassroots programs led by
Afghans are the key steps to the new direction we need for Afghanistan, and for
the U.S.

Many national and local organizations are organizing Call-In days to the
White House next week to oppose the escalation of troops and call for an end to
the war. Please call the White House between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern
Standard Time next week at 202-456-1111, and urge your friends, family and
colleagues to do the same. Afterward, please call your Member of Congress with
the same message, and go to
to find out more about our congressional pressure campaign, and you can report
on what you learn from your representative on that webpage.

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