Thursday, December 10, 2009

War is Peace

Yesterday, President Barack Obama humbly accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. During his acceptance speech, Obama said that his accomplishments are slight compared to other Nobel Prize winners such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and former South African President Nelson Mandela. I am proud that the first African American U.S. President received this distinguished award. Barack Obama is the embodiment of African Americans' hopes and dreams. He is a great symbol of American progress.

However, with all due respect, I agree with President Obama. His accomplishments are slight compared to great peacemakers like Dr. King and President Mandela. President Obama has been in office for less than one year. He was in office for a couple of months when he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Aside from giving beautiful speeches about mutual respect and international cooperation, he has done little for the cause of peace.

The timing of this award is ironic and controversial. The United States is waging two wars. Last week, after long deliberations, President Obama announced his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. According to the President, this escalation will cost American taxpayers at least $30 billion this year. During his eloquent and thought provoking acceptance speech, Obama justified his decision to escalate the conflict. He stated that:

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified…I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiation cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms…Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of American has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of arms…The instruments of war have a role to play in preserving the peace.

That last sentence reminds me of the slogan "War is Peace" in George Orwell’s novel 1984. Clearly, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee's award to Obama is peculiar.

I am no pacifist. In principle, I agree with the President’s general point. Some wars are necessary and just such as the Civil War and World War II. Although I support the President's goal of eradicating Al Qaeda, I do not support his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan for the following reasons. First, other great powers such as Russia and Britain have failed in Afghanistan. The U.S. should reflect and learn from those examples. More troops equals more unnecessary American casualties.

Second, the Karzai government is a corrupt, inept regime of warlords and drug dealers. It is unlikely to ever become a reliable partner with the U.S. Without a strong central Afghan government, success is impossible.

Third, instead of squandering billions of dollars waging war and attempting to repair a failed state, that money should be used to address the problems plaguing American cities. My hometown, Detroit, has been devastated by sub prime mortgages, skyrocketing unemployment and failing schools. Many other inner cities face similar problems. This Nation always has enough money for war. But for health care and other social programs, we are told that those programs must be deficit neutral.

Fourth, Afghanistan is only one of Al Qaeda's safe havens. For instance, many of Al Qaeda operatives are in Pakistan. Many Al Qaeda leaders were killed or captured in Pakistan. Most of the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.

Fifth, the U.S. does not have a clear exit strategy. The U.S. has been in Afghanistan for over eight years. Despite Obama's assurances that the U.S. will begin to transfer forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have suggested that troops may remain in Afghanistan for years after that soft deadline.

And finally, American military intervention and occupation has not and will not ultimately defeat terrorism and fanaticism. Such policies fuel terrorism and perpetuate the endless cycle of violence and retaliation.

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