It’s time for President Obama to stop listening to his generals regarding the war in Afghanistan, according to Sojourners joint chiefs chairman Jim Wallis. It’s time for the president to listen to him:
With President Obama’s announcement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan expected in a speech tomorrow evening, news stories today are citing a variety of unnamed sources claiming to know what he will say.
The Los Angeles Times says that 10,000 troops will be withdrawn this year, and the 20,000 additional from the 2009 “surge” by the end of 2012. That would still leave close to 70,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan going into 2013. The Washington Post adds that while Obama has yet to make a final decision on how many troops to remove in July, the number is likely to fall between 3,000 and 5,000. And the New York Times notes that Obama is still considering options. Fox News late this morning quoted a White House official saying, “The reporting today is all over the map, and we’re not playing whack-a-mole with the various scenarios.”
So let’s be clear. It’s time for Obama to stop listening to his generals. Whatever the specific announcement will be, if it falls within the range of the reported options, it’s simply not good enough. As I’ve written before, it is past time for a clear, quick, and responsible exit from Afghanistan — not one slowly drawn out over years. And we must insist on that. It has become a war of occupation, a massive counter-insurgency, the defense of an utterly corrupt and incompetent government, and an impossible effort at military-led nation-building. Too much money has been spent, and too many lives have been lost. It’s time for the war to end, and not be forever prolonged.
Now, I realize that the folks in the Pentagon (not to mention the State Department, National Security Council, and even Congress) don’t know nearly as much as foreign policy, military policy, diplomacy, or the situation on the ground in Afghanistan as General Jim. Heck, even the president–the smartest man ever to occupy the Oval Office, according to some–doesn’t know near as much about any of that as Wallis. General Jim, after all, has been advocating, not as a matter of ethics for Christians but as a matter of national policy, the same approach to pretty much every military conflict since 1965, and so has it down to a fine art. He doesn’t need to know anything about the specifics, which just get in the way of the ideology anyway.
I have opinions about Afghanistan, and I don’t mind expressing them publicly. The difference between General Jim and me, however, is that I don’t pretend to offer those opinions as anything other than just another citizen. My seminary degree and ordination don’t make me an expert on foreign policy or military affairs, and I claim no absolute moral certitude regarding those opinions. After all, we can’t all be General Jim.