Vol. 11 - No. 3




(Afghanistan and Myanmar in the 
         map are not members of SAARC)

Who Has the Right to Police the World?


An observation of the War on Terror, and the US occupation of Afghanistan

How often do you hear people talk about the advantages of leaving Afghanistan? One finds no shortage of politicians and pundits who, with dead certainty, say that continued occupation of Afghanistan will thwart our enemies from returning. But from the hunt for Osama bin Laden, to a campaign against an ever-broadening, always looming “axis of evil.”--the rhetoric has been the same: The American occupation of 'rogue nations'--regardless of the costs of life and resources--will put a stop to terrorist activities. But will it?

It seems that if this is the dominant perspective, its no wonder to me why a discussion of strategies for leaving Afghanistan, or even their potential benefits (yes benefits) in the war on terror—are lacking. Of course some might find this counter-intuitive to even consider; particularly when they're completely convinced that 'if we leave, the terrorists return.' But perhaps we should consider its assumptions a little more carefully. After all, will terrorism resurface in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan if US forces leave--as if this couldn't happen anywhere else? Or will continued occupation actually thwart—and not motivate—terrorist activity? At what cost, and with what right, will the US violate the sovereignty of other nations to find its enemies?

From the position of American armed forces, prolonging occupation of Afghanistan secures both Afghan and American interests. After all the U.S. could use the region as a crucial base of operations should conflict with China, Russia, or Iran occur. And as far as the Obama administration is concerned, Afghanistan is ideal given its resources, economic viability, and the value of its geostrategic position in the region.

But the problem with this reasoning is that it ignores questions of how the US appears on the global scale as a result of its forced occupation. We often hear of Iran trying to dominate the Middle East, but what would the US convey of its character by entering and choosing to stay in Afghanistan—on its own accord--after executing Osama bin Laden? Would that convey the image of the US as an ally with whom nations could cooperate, whether securing sovereignty, or 'fighting terrorism'? What does it say that its administration would compromise international law, and sovereign law, to wage war, wherever?

While not exactly appealing, the Afghan government still tolerates the American presence--in the face of Abu Ghraib, the abuse of innocent Afghan's for a 9/11 they didn't commit, and ten years of war waged in their country in the name of finding one, Osama bin Laden. And no doubt, such tolerance is running thin. No less there are some Afghans that see the occupation in a somewhat positive light, for a number of reasons. After all the basing of U.S. armed forces in the region helped the Afghan economy to grow since the American invasion in 2003. It is also necessary (in theory) for both Afghan and American security that the US remain in Afghanistan to prevent the Taliban from regaining rule. But in what form, to what extent and on whose terms will this occupation continue?

Permanent military occupation is not something the Afghan government, or even the Obama administration (publicly speaking), wants to maintain. Doing so would convey an image of the US as a tyrant, who poses constant threat to sovereign lives of other peoples to secure the sovereignty of its own. But to what extent will the US disregard justice, as held by other nations, to see to it its own is fulfilled to vanquish an enemy? How many new enemies will the US make while chasing a single one, or waiting for new ones to appear? How far can the US intrude into the lives of sovereign nations, without a care for the blood shed to save itself from its enemies—who would do the same?

Of course to pack up and leave in the dead of the night would destabilize the whole region. But depending on how the Obama administration handles the task of leaving, the last impression of America in Afghanistan could be one of ruthless power monger, or a nation actually committed to finding its enemies, rather than deny a nation it's sovereignty, as well.

If the emphasis behind the US occupation of 'rogue nations' wasn't merely to find terrorists but garner respect and willingness to cooperate with other nations, a global war combating the enemies of American sovereignty might be more acceptable. By decreasing the presence of US forces in the region—in tandem with open calls for diplomacy and peace—the Obama administration might actually paint a different picture of the US than that of the previous Bush administration.

But of course the war continues, against a vague enemy we're to believe is always out there, waiting to attack. And of course this only means more money, time, energy, and human life, wasted in a losing game on a geopolitical chessboard. The US maintains a position of dominance in the region, by threatening the sovereign powers of other nations; in the name of securing freedom at home it continues to expand and threaten the freedom of others. And for every new success in the war on terror, comes a hundred failures--including the inspiration of future enemies.

If done in the right manner, leaving could represent the Obama Administrations willingness cooperate with other nations, and thus support cooperation from them, in return. Ending the occupation of Afghanistan might actually benefit (rather than negate) the progress of America's war against the non-state actors which threaten its security. Even though I do not believe in the principles of this war on terror, I could still see it being of benefit to the war, if the US carefully and considerately left Afghanistan. And while remaining could thwart some of the enemies to American interests, a continued violation of sovereignty may create many others.

Could the Obama administration set a trend of honoring Afghan sovereignty, or sovereignty in general—rather than continue threatening 'evil doers' to American interests (whether real or imagined)? Can we “speak softly and carry a big stick,” conveying a tone of strength and perseverance against our enemies, rather than one so domineering? Should the Obama administration show a commitment, not to frightening our enemies wherever they hide, but to diplomatic cooperation with other nations to find them, such tactic might better fit the (publicly mentioned) goals of the US War on Terror.

Perhaps it's a pulp dream--but given the history of the US occupation of Afghanistan, the decade of social unrest both here and abroad, given the cost of life, money, and valuable resources--why is it that politicians and pundits in the mainstream media consider 'what the terrorists will do if we leave'? And not, 'what will happen to the US if we stay'?

[Source: Afghan Online Press]

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