Nevertheless, it is possible for you to make some strides in lending legitimacy to an award whose nobility (or nobelity as the case may be) has been less tarnished ever since Al Gore won for his very nice PowerPoint presentation about polar bears. You can restore some semblance of “peace” to the Nobel Peace Prize.
Please begin by withdrawing America's troops from Afghanistan. Stop the dithering. In the middle of the many things you consider “urgent,” focus on matters of war and peace. You alone are the Commander in Chief. Peggy Noonan was right when she characterized you as “the anti-Lincoln.”. Whereas Lincoln, your ideal, focused every day of his presidency on the war at hand, even personally tracking down General McClellan in bars and parlors, you have barely made time to meet with your own appointed leader, General McChrystal. Then, when he embarrassed you by speaking to the press, he got your attention. If peace is the aim, your attention and focus are key.
American troops are serving gallantly in circumstances that cannot be described as promising. General McChrystal desires to win in Afghanistan. Of course he does. He is a soldier, and a good one at that. He asks for more troops to execute on the mission you gave him in March, the very mission you now are re-evaluating in a long, drawn-out process.
What none of your advisors is telling you is this: it is time not only to reassess the strategy for our war in Afghanistan, but more importantly, to reassess the morality of our war in Afghanistan.
In order to justify morally the use of arms and force, a number of pre-conditions must be met. The use of violent force should be a measure of last resort. War should be an act of defense rather than an act of offense or aggression. Violence inflicted should not proportionally dwarf the violence that is prevented by that action. And most importantly, war and force should only be exercised when there is a reasonable chance of success.
This last condition of what is commonly referred to as “just war theory” brings Afghanistan into clear focus. What exactly would constitute “success” in Afghanistan?
? A stable central government? If that is the goal, please keep in mind that Afghanistan has never enjoyed such a thing. George Will has rightly noted that far greater odds of success in establishing stability are failing miserably in Bosnia right now. Why would success in Afghanistan be something that we cannot even achieve in a more promising place like Bosnia?
? The elimination of the Taliban? Are they really our enemy or are they merely a tool of our larger foe, Al Qaeda? Eliminating the Taliban serves what purpose? There is good reason that Afghanistan has been called the graveyard of empires.
? An environment in which Al Qaeda can no longer nest and train? If that is the goal, we must then prepare to make war in Yemen, Somalia, and countless other lands where Al Qaeda is already at home, alive, and well.
I raise these questions because we no longer seem interested in the morality of our intended actions or their intended results. In order to justify our military action there, one must first know what success actually is. We do not. And where there is no definition of success, there necessarily is no reasonable chance of it.
So, what our intentions were in 2001 no longer matters. Whether our entry into Afghanistan was justifiable then is not of import now. The landscape has changed. The metaphorical sands have shifted. We have been in Afghanistan, we have placed soldiers in untenable positions, and we have never fully grasped what it is we are trying to do. It is time to pull out.
This is not to say that we have failed, nor is this to say that we have lost. This is merely to say that a clear reassessment indicates that our strategy for defense against Islamic terror must change as time passes. We face a real and present danger. Arrests in our own homeland in the last month remind us that the threat is real. However, having troops in Afghanistan serves no real purpose. They can be better deployed or employed elsewhere, rather than remaining in a land where they have no real mission and no definition of success.
Feel free to fight Al Qaeda. Feel free to combat Islamic terror in ways that make a real difference. Feel free to craft a realistic and meaningful strategy for how America can continue to allow Muslim immigration in an era where we are discovering that Islam is incompatible with Western ideals of equality and freedom. But, most of all, feel free to earn your Nobel Peace prize by removing our sons and daughters from a situation where they no longer belong. And use them instead to make a real and lasting difference.