Afghanistan: Give it four months

In the wake of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s dismissal as chief commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Congress … Continued

In the wake of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s dismissal as chief commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Congress this week is expected to evaluate our policy and presence there. Is it time for the U.S. to get out of Afghanistan? Do we have a moral responsibility to stay or to leave?

I had a moral responsibility to speak out against beginning and continuing our fraudulent preemptive war in Vietnam, and did. That war collapsed when it became clear both that we were fighting for nothing (there being no effectual government to resist the north’s takeover of the south) and that the war’s rising unpopularity at home made its continuance politically unfeasible.

The continuation of our preemptive war in Afghanistan is becoming politically unfeasible. It’s so eerily comparable as to justify its being called Vietnam II, Yogi Berra’s “déjà vu all over again.”

Fear-mongering – especially the domino scenario that “they” would “take over everything” if we don’t defeat them – is now at least as strong as it was in Vietnam I. After we left Nam, “they” had to be redefined; and our relations with Vietnam continue to improve. Today, “they” are more diversified and harder to locate, though the American citizens among them now seem the most dangerous.

We have a moral responsibility to resist manipulation by the fear-mongerers. Here are some protections.
“Most of the things we worry about never materialize.” In my early teens I read that stabilizing sentence in the Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick’s “Twelve Tests of Character.”
Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin, philosopher-historian, is remembered for his wise remark that we human beings are too ignorant to be pessimistic about the future. The sky may or may not be about to fall, but Chicken Little knows no more about it than the rest of us. We need not swing between fatuous confidence (“irrational exuberance”) and paralyzing fear on Wall St., in war, in politics, or in private life.
Contemplating the mix of unintended consequences and unforeseeable events should warn us against letting an unknowable future oppress the known present. As Jesus put it, “Today’s troubles are enough for today.”
“They” (our real + our imagined enemies) are – as we are – subject to the Lord of history, Creator of heaven and earth. This faith is more intelligent than permitting our attention to be riveted on fear. A public so informed and formed is not subservient to the string-pullings of politicians. Here is a classic biblical expression of this freedom: “Trust in the Lord with all your might and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”

We “On Fath” panelists are presumably all experts on faith, not on morals or statecraft or international relations or military affairs. But we may as well take a crack at this week’s question: nobody is widely learned and experienced enough to answer it. My response is that before we answer the question in/out of Afghanistan, “we have a moral responsibility” to give Gen. Petraeus four months and a spiritual responsibility to pray for his effort to make a positive difference as great as he made in Iraq.

Willis E. Elliott
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