Last Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama announced the escalation of 30,000 more soldiers into Afghanistan over the next seven months. Obama stated that the intentions behind the troop increase are “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.” This troop increase by the Obama administration comes at a time when many people in Afghanistan and around the world were hoping that the United States would let go of the idea that military victory is the solution to everything.
Opinion polls in every country in Europe show that clear majorities support the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan rather than the status-quo or an increase in troop levels (Reuters). In addition to Europe, public opinion in Afghanistan opposes an increase in troop levels. When the new surge of American troops enters Afghanistan, they are going to face an additional enemy to the Taliban. That enemy is public opinion, or the peace movement in Afghanistan. This movement, which represents the extreme majority in Afghanistan, is making their message clear: the fighting needs to stop; we do not mind the presence of US soldiers, but only for aid and development. Public opinion is consistent around the world: there needs to be an alternative to the politics of gunboat diplomacy and militarism that is deemed infallible by the United States government.
The first acts to occur under the Obama administration were attacks on Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which killed a large amount of civilians and are strengthening support for the Taliban and terrorism. Under the Obama administration, the military campaign in Afghanistan has become increasingly more deadly for the Afghan people. The UN assistance mission in Afghanistan reported 818 Afghan civilian deaths for the first half of the year. In 2009, the UN assistance mission recorded 1,013 Afghan civilian deaths from January 1st to June 30th. This represents a 24 percent increase in civilians killed. President Karzai has pleaded with the United States countless times to not carry out attacks that will strike civilians. These pleas have been totally ignored and peaceful alternatives have been discounted as well.
There are many peaceful options to the Afghan war that can be found all over intelligence reports and in foreign policy publications. For example, the Foreign Policy Journal suggests a “high degree of statesmanship” by Obama instead of a surge in military presence. Furthermore, the mainstream Foreign Policy Journal suggests negotiations with the Taliban are inevitable, and diplomacy is the most pragmatic option in dealing with Afghanistan rather than war. Many people across the globe are supporting a multinational resolution that calls for the replacement of US troops by a UN peacekeeping force. There are peaceful alternatives, but they are being ignored.
Right now, the United States is stuck on a treadmill by attempting to abolish terrorism through mostly war and bombs (most of US money going into Afghanistan is militaristic). If war is not the answer to eliminating terror and making the world a better, happier place then what might be the answer? Well, the United States might, instead of sending five planes a day to drop food on Afghanistan and one hundred to drop bombs (which have been seriously undermining the efforts of humanitarian groups to bring food), use 105 planes to bring food. They could make these adjustments through the realization that dropping bombs does nothing but make people more miserable and resentful of the United States. The United States might realize that being responsible for over 40 percent of the global military budget is a misuse of money and does nothing to improve the quality of life for people abroad or in the US. The US could then reallocate a fraction of the budget to alleviate starvation and disease across the world. A small portion of the US military budget would provide clean water and sanitation facilities for millions of people who have none. In short, the US’ military approach to global issues needs to be replaced by a humanistic solution.