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Putting the Brakes on Afghanistan

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Imagine finding yourself in the driver's seat of a car heading directly at a brick wall. You panic: What to do?

Fortunately, there are three people in the car with you, and they all have very firm advice. The person in the passenger seat tells you to push the pedal to the metal. Right behind you in the back seat, your friend is urging you to accelerate only modestly. And the fourth person in the car recommends that you maintain your current speed.

You might be thinking: These are my only choices? I'll hit the brick wall either really quickly, rather quickly, or pretty darn soon. The end result will be the same. The car will be destroyed and all four of you will be in the hospital.

Since these are the choices now being presented to President Barack Obama for his Afghanistan policy, who can blame him for being slow to make up his mind? His top general is telling him to send 40,000 troops. His vice president is telling him to send 10-15,000 troops. And his secretary of state and Pentagon chief are urging the middle course of 30,000 troops.

Isn't anyone out there telling the president that he has more levers at his disposal than simply the gas pedal? Isn't anyone pointing out the obvious?

The brake, Mr. President, the brake!

Frankly, the car metaphor isn't precise. It's actually a bus heading toward that brick wall. A really, really big bus. And we're all on board, the entire U.S. population. The president's advisors are all clustered up at the front. Their voices are pretty loud. But we can all make our voices heard if we all shout together from the back of the bus.Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and keep the message simple: Don't send more troops to Afghanistan, Mr. President.

Peace groups around the country are coordinating this call-in campaign in these few days before Thanksgiving so that the president knows, before the expected announcement of his Afghanistan policy next week, that there are other choices. Here's a link to some additional talking points about different congressional options.

"It is unlikely that we will soon have another president with the moral and rhetorical force to talk us out of a foolish commitment that cannot be sustained without shame and defeat," writes Garry Wills in The New York Review of Books. "If it costs him his presidency, what other achievement can match it? During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama said he would rather be a one-term president than give up on his goals. Here is a goal no other president we can imagine would have a possibility of reaching. Presidents who just kick the can down the road are easy to come by. Lost lives and limbs are not."

The crash can be avoided. But we must call the White House and let the driver-in-chief know that we're here, we're clear, and we don't want this war no more.

Cross-posted from Foreign Policy In Focus, where you can read the full post. To subscribe to FPIF's e-zine World Beat, click here.