Q: In the wake of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s dismissal as chief commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Congress is evaluating 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?
From a New Testament perspective, all nations are embodiments of the transcendent Powers that God created to maintain order and justice in the world. Since the Powers are not Christian, no nation can be expected to act on the basis of Christian ethics. It is unrealistic, therefore, for Christians to call upon any nation to make military decisions on the basis of some version of Christian morality. What Christians both can do and have a responsibility to do is to remind all nations of their responsibility for establishing and maintaining a just social order. Christians can speak about the United States remaining in or withdrawing from Afghanistan only in terms of the extent to which either contributes to that responsibility.
Assertions of whether the people of Afghanistan want or do not want armed forces of other nations in Afghanistan are based on largely anecdotal evidence. Consequently, whether U.S. military action is creating friends or enemies cannot be determined as clearly as those holding either view would have us believe. It does seem, however, that a few things can be said with certainty.
For one thing, removing western troops from Afghanistan probably would result in the more dictatorial Taliban groups attempting to regain their former power. Such a return, however, would have to be resisted by forces of Afghanistan and their neighboring friends.
In the second place, the United States has neither the ability nor the authority to attempt to be the world’s police force. A just order in Afghanistan must be created and maintained by the people of Afghanistan themselves or, failing that, by a multinational peace keeping force made up of nations with a worldview similar to that of Afghanistan.
Finally, any effort to preserve order and justice by military means alone will learn sooner or later that in and of itself, violence – whether that of guns and bombs or that of the gloved fist – will produce one thing only: more violence.
So from a perspective of sheer human wisdom, yes, the United States should withdraw from Afghanistan, and should do so immediately.