Obama: The end of endless war

“America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.” That is the line from President Obama’s speech on … Continued

“America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.” That is the line from President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan that marks the decisive moral shift as well as policy shift we have been looking for. No more endless war.

“Endless war” was the policy of the previous administration. War for war’s sake. War without end. The “war on terror” that had no definite enemies, no defined measure of success, and above all, no exit strategy. American foreign policy under President George W. Bush became war. Period.

As pundits pick over President Obama’s speech, they focus on the number of troops or the limited scope of what was said about Pakistan. They ridicule the timetable for withdrawal, caricaturing it as “surge and get out,” and miss the big picture. President Obama said Tuesday night, “The days of providing a blank check are over.” In other words, the U.S. should perform certain tasks and then get out of Afghanistan. We will not pursue nor pay for this war indefinitely.

Republicans who spent a trillion dollars on two wars in less than a decade have trouble with that kind of fiscal responsibility and that more precise understanding of mission. John McCain, who during the presidential campaign said before 200 people that he would have no trouble with the U.S. being in Iraq for “100 years,” completely missed this decisive policy shift in his recent critical remarks on the current President’s approach to Afghanistan.

President Obama gets the moral issues, and the big change in his Afghanistan speech is the change in the moral understanding of war. The U.S. will no longer pursue a policy of endless war.

There may be reasons that justify going to war. If going to war is ever justified, it is for very specific and limited reasons. These reasons are self-defense or defense of the “vulnerable other” as St. Augustine said.

The U.S. began the war in Afghanistan because we were attacked and the attacks were carried out by al-Qaeda, whom the Afghan Taliban were harboring. More attacks on the U.S., as well as other countries, the President indicated, are still being planned from points in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and attempts are being made to carry them out, even today. Furthermore, as a nuclear-armed Pakistan is now more than peripherally involved in this regional struggle, the stakes in regard to self-defense have gotten considerably higher.

The vulnerable others are the civilians in Afghanistan, the victims of armed conflict, conflict over which they have little or no control and most often no defense. Are we going to just walk away from them without a good faith effort to train their own army and police force to defend them? Where is the justice in that?

But there is no justification for endless war. Endless war is machine war, the robotic pursuit of violence as a solution to every difficulty we face. Endless war as a policy is immoral because it is unlimited in scope, unreasoning in its pursuit, and it has no end but the pursuit of more war.

And that is what President Obama rejected Tuesday night. And good for him.

  • billcollins45227

    Ms. Thistlewaite: You make a good point. But, the bottom line is that Obama is *saying* that the days of “endless war” are over. The fact is that he’s not *doing* anything, on the ground, to back that up that idea. If you assume that Obama’s stated words will eventually match his actions, good for you. Hopefully he will follow through. But, I don’t make that assumption. I am waiting for proof. The fact remains that Obama is sending in more troops, with these troops coming from an all-volunteer military force comprised mostly of working-class young people. If our armed forces were drawn partly from the ranks of the children of well-to-do families like the ones that Obama and his children have gone to school with at the Sidwell School, Harvard and Columbia, do you think he would be sending in more troops now? And how would your students feel about these decisions if they were the ones being drafted and sent to Afghanistan?These policies are fundamentally anti-working-class, and Obama is by no stretch of anybody’s imagination a part of or politically in tune with working people in this country. Let’s see him back up his word. I hope he does, very soon. I’m waiting…… Bill Collins

  • persiflage

    Surely the USA won’t be quite as stupid as Russia, with regard to a prolonged occupancy of Afghanistan that virtually brought an end to the Soviet Union via economic ruin – and which we helped engineer covertly by supplying anti-gunship weaponry to the Afghanis, among other devious black ops methods and chicanery.I think we’re there simply for the proximity to Pakistan – and to keep the Taliban numbers from burgeoning. We can’t stay forever, because Afghanistan will not/cannot change – it’s opium-based economy supports both the corrupt government and the Taliban….by way of the American heroin market. Ironically, rampant drug addition among the Afghanis and the well-supplied stateside heroin market makes a mockery of all this society building that allegedly took us first to Iraq and now on to Afghanistan in a much bigger way….democracy as far as the eye can see! Are all American politicians delusional?? In the mean time, American troops are engaged in a seemingly endless battle that takes them back to that part of the world over and over again….how many round trips before your number comes up? The big Casino, that is….. And for what?? Ask the Russians….what goes around comes around.

  • persiflage

    Surely the USA won’t be quite as stupid as Russia, with regard to a prolonged occupancy of Afghanistan that virtually brought an end to the Soviet Union via economic ruin – and which we helped engineer covertly by supplying anti-gunship weaponry to the Afghanis, among other devious black ops methods and chicanery.I think we’re there simply for the proximity to Pakistan – and to keep the Taliban numbers from burgeoning. We can’t stay forever, because Afghanistan will not/cannot change – it’s opium-based economy supports both the corrupt government and the Taliban….by way of the American heroin market. Ironically, rampant drug addition among the Afghanis and the well-supplied stateside heroin market makes a mockery of all this society building that allegedly took us first to Iraq and now on to Afghanistan in a much bigger way….democracy as far as the eye can see! Are all American politicians delusional?? In the mean time, American troops are engaged in a seemingly endless battle that takes them back to that part of the world over and over again….how many round trips before your number comes up? The big Casino, that is….. And for what?? Ask the Russians….what goes around comes around.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Dream on, Susan. This isn’t about “morality.”

  • LZ85

    Great point!

  • halozcel1

    *Endless War*As far as Human Beings/Virtual Beings exist on the Earth,*Endless War* is inevitable.*Endless War* had started between Sumerians and Akkadians(non-semitic and semitic peoples) at 3000 BC,Endless War in Vietnam fifty years ago,*Endless War* shall be as far as Human Beings exist in the Universe.

  • norriehoyt

    ‘”America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”‘This liberal Democrat doesn’t believe a word of it. I’ve heard it too many times from the White House over the past fifty years.Vietnam was the worst.

  • artistkvip1

    my opinion is you got a lot exactly … right…. perhaps certain people thought the meaning of the word… right… in thier context was correct… i think time and truth will prove them wrong. that might be a clue if you have to keep secrets and are ashamed of what you are actually doing then i assume ..they actually on some level at least suspected something was wrong… you don’t bring peace through war its like the tough love thing, if it tough it goes with a word that stats with s and ends with t.. there is no part of love that is tough, denial and delusions of people who cannot or will not do the …right thing ,,.. may be in clear focus right now ..isuspect God was not shocked,, nor awed by the men and women who were not chasing glory and freedom, and self defense, thay were out 4 themselves perhaps … now is the time to remove the insane few who insist upon having more than is possible to have have it is my theory they are quite insane and can’t ..help themselves, thats why they have help themselves to everyone else’s …pie .. follow th emoney ..i know these kind of people… somebody always has t sign 4 the money.. because they don’t trust any-1.. it is my theory they mistake thier own motives and morals for the one of thier betters