As more and more young Americans are killed in Afghanistan each and every day, President Obama faces a decision that could decide his presidency: to stay or not to stay. American soldiers are presented with the enormous, probably impossible task of eradicating the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and building a nation of literal sticks and stones in to a “stable democracy.” If President Obama does choose to stay, he seriously needs to consider how he is going to justify such a war.
The morality of this war has hardly been talked about by anyone. Discussion of this war is largely limited to tactics and numbers with little, if any, talk about the skewed moral compass this war is being fought with. Just at cursory glance at the war thus far reveals something a bit distressing. While this may be something hard to comprehend for the many who believe that the US has done no harm, America does in fact kill civilians. And lots of them. The debate over whether these attacks are intentional or unintentional is besides the point: thousands of Afghan civilians have died as a result of the war, many more than 9/11, the justification for entering the war in the first place. Disproportionate force has been used and is consequentially immoral, all American Exceptionalism aside. Speaking of exceptional, does this apply to our morals or just our military?
It was Al Qaeda that attacked the US on 9/11, not the Taliban. While, yes, the Taliban did harbor Al Qaeda, they also offered to try Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan under Islamic Law. Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the team failed to cooperate with the Taliban and they missed a golden opportunity as a result of their ineptitude and arrogance. Ironically, the same people who said that a trial like that would be unfair (God forbid that they would be granted a writ of habeas corpus!) conveniently forget that they openly refused trials for war criminals and even those that do come to fruition are kangaroo courts at best.
As 9/11 is an event of the past, so are relations between Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Al Qaeda should have been the focus of the war, but with dwindling numbers that are scattered throughout the world, what good is it trying to find the roughly 100 that remain in the area so affectionately named “graveyard of empires?” Unfortunately, many people are either ignorant of this or simply disregard this crucial fact. Even those that do accept the fact use twisted moral logic to justify the occupation of Afghanistan by arguing that the Taliban is a force that needs to be removed from power. People that argue this also miss another key point: 92% of the population dislikes the Taliban and this number is only heading south. What is the point of sending American soldiers overseas to be killed waging a war against a group that did nothing to the US and whose power is fragile at best? If anything, it should be the people of Afghanistan who should dethrone the Taliban, not American brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. There is no conceivable justification for asking American soldiers to do the jobs of the Afghan people.
Nation building has also been used to defend this war. It is argued that American soldiers can effectively win over the hearts and minds of Afghans. Realistically, however, they can’t. After 8,000 innocent civilians have been killed as a result of the war American soldiers are looked upon by the Afghan people with a suspicious eye. This only helps to impede the nation building process. There is also hardly, if any, justification for pursuing a nation building strategy, affectionately named “the surge.” America has its problems back at home. Among them are: the Rust Belt, our economy, our failing education system, etc. These problems are ours and ours alone. We need to fix them ourselves. Just like the Afghans should have to fix their own problems themselves. Theoretically, even if America did succeed in building schools just for girls, wells in the town center, and other civilian projects, the probability that they would still be there after the US has left is slim to none. So, why even bother if all that money, blood, and sweat will be in vain? Karzai is seen as a contemptible joke by the people, and the military and police are seen in the same light. The government of Afghanistan will be incapable of defending, maintaining and improving all of the infrastructure built by the US. Unless, of course, the US chooses to remain in Afghanistan indefinitely.
With crumbling cities and infrastructure at home, is it right to ask American soldiers to do this work overseas while risking their lives when it can just as well be done at home? Is it right to have innocent Afghans killed everyday due to “logistical errors?” Is it right to ask the overburdened American taxpayer to bribe Afghan politicians and build Afghan schools with their hard earned money? Is it right to ask Americans to do the job of the Afghan people and to die for it in the process?
President Obama has spent a long time debating his next move. Let’s just hope he makes the right choice.