December 21, 2009

Is Obama's War Just?

nobelpeaceprize1.jpgStardust got me thinking about the absurdity of giving a Nobel Peace Prize to someone who is in the midst of escalating the U.S. war in Afghanistan. My reaction to President Obama's Nobel acceptance speech was viscerally negative, and yet, I find it rather difficult to sort out how I feel about the matter.

The "just war" doctrine has always given me pause. I do believe that there are circumstances where war can be just, but virtually any example I can think of involves self-defense, the defense of one's allies, or humanitarian grounds. I was willing to accept Bush's initial invasion of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11 as a justifiable extension of self-defense. But I find continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan increasingly difficult to justify.

Can anyone really argue that we're still in Afghanistan for self-defense? If so, shouldn't we be in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia too?

Moreover, I have at least one nagging question about Bush's initial invasion of Afghanistan: what exactly was the mission? Was the plan to go in and get bin Laden? If so, this war has been a miserable failure. Was the plan to go in and hit al Qaeda hard enough to disrupt their operational capacity? If so, the mission could rightly be considered successful. In either case, U.S. forces should have left Afghanistan years ago.

The fact that al Qaeda rebuilt and restored their operational capacity should be a surprise to no one. Without us killing every last one of them during the initial invasion, this was inevitable. I could see us returning to Afghanistan periodically to again disrupt al Qaeda, but I have a more difficult time with simply occupying the country for all this time.

Should President Obama have won the Nobel Peace Prize? No. Did I find his acceptance speech to be an appalling disgrace on many levels? Absolutely. Should the U.S. commit additional troops to Afghanistan? I honestly don't know, but I find the idea of indefinitely occupying any nation that might harbor those the U.S. government calls terrorists implausible at best.

Understandably, Obama sought to use his acceptance speech to claim the moral high ground, to convince the world that his intervention in Afghanistan was necessary in the interest of peace. But this is the same man who has stubbornly refused to punish war criminals in his own country. When he now stands on the world stage and talks about how there is evil in the world, I cannot help wondering why he is so willing to condone the blatant evil exhibited by his predecessors. Until he does so, any moral claim he tries to make is full of holes.