We've entered a new phase in the debate over the war in Afghanistan. Bernard Finel writes:
Conventional wisdom in Afghanistan is changing. Just a few months ago, calling for a smaller footprint approach focused on counter-terrorism was labasted as "half-assed" and worse. And people calling for such an approach were accused of being ignorant and labeled as extreme peaceniks. But times change, I guess because it is becoming increasingly clear that we are moving in the direction of this position.
He's referring to the fact that the counterinsurgency strategy is now being scaled back to focus more on assassinations, kidnappings, and so forth - what Vice President Biden calls "Counter-terrorism Plus". The problem Finel raises is that the folks who were once so fiercely touting COIN's nation building are now the same people claiming to be all in favor of CT-Plus and its lighter footprint. He labels them as "vaguely sociopathic" for their apparent change of heart.
I know we get a kick out of ridiculing these people. It's aways fun to look back and realize you've been right about something. Who doesn't want to preen around declaring how smart they are because of what they said back in two-thousand-and-whatever. I do it. We all do it.
But not this time.
This is not some ethereal intellectual exercise. This is the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the longest war in American history. Human beings - Americans, NATO-partners, NGO and aid workers, Afghans, Pakistanis - are dying every single day this war goes on. Our economy is breaking down around us while we funnel billions upon billions of dollars into a war that isn"t making us safer and isn"t even useful against Al-Qa'eda, the perpetrators of 9/11 and supposedly the whole reason we're in the war to begin with.
That's why we're ending the war. The anti-war movement has the momentum, fueled as they are by the military and their families, as well as the vast majority of Americans, to include the bulk of the Democratic party. We have pushed into congress, tripling the votes to block the war since last year. We have candidates across the country - Missouri, North Carolina, Iowa. There's no "enthusiasm gap" here, we're counting the days until November.
I don't care if you were for the war a week ago, or last year, or ever since 2001. Right now is always a good time to rethink Afghanistan. There are no hypocrites in this movement. There are only Americans putting forward their own policy choices for counter-terrorism, development, and human rights.
For some, including many politicians who oppose the war, that policy is CT-Plus. Some favor a focus on development and governance, while others see even those measures as unnecessary. There isn't even a distinguishable ideological test - you'll find conservatives, libertarians, progressives, liberals, everyone you can imagine. Opposing the war is about good policy for our country, not partisanship or doctrine. The single point which unites the movement is the realization that the war in Afghanistan has to be ended.
If you're a pundit or think tanker, and you need to walk back your war supporting positions slowly, starting with COIN to CT-Plus, fine, go right ahead. Your credibility is only in danger if you continue to support a ridiculous and indefensible policy like the war in Afghanistan. If you're a politician who campaigned on escalation back in 2006 or 2008 and you now want a timeline or to block the funds, that's perfectly all right, voters are worried about 2010. You're only putting your election in danger if you continue to back the President's escalation and occupation.
Take the time now to reassess your support for a bloody and expensive occupation. August is a lazy summer month, perfect flip-flop weather, y'know? There's plenty of time to relax, take in a show, whatever.
But as it cools down and we move into the fall, the midterm general elections, that's when everyone starts paying attention again. That's when we start looking really close at where you stand, when we start naming names. Something like "hey did you see that Joe Sestak and Jane Harman voted yes for $33 billion in war funds, money that goes straight to the deficit?" It'll get ugly.
So don't worry about it if you used to support the war. We're not looking backwards, we're looking forward...all the way to November.
Want to help end the war? Sign our Petition declaring "I vote and I demand my elected officials end this war." Join us on Rethink Afghanistan's Facebook page, and be sure to check out the Meetups in your area.