In an editorial entitled “The case for withdrawal from Afghanistan is not yet made,” the British Independent acknowledges that the argument for withdrawing Western forces from Afghanistan has “grown considerably stronger” over the past few months. “However,” the paper avers, “the case is not yet overwhelming; not least because no convincing alternative strategy for protecting Western security interests in the region has been put forward.”
The Independent goes on to find fault with two different withdrawal strategies, one of them being Vice President Joe Biden’s plan to primarily fight militants with remote-operated drones. The problem with this plan, the paper states, is that “these weapons are already causing heavy civilian casualties and provoking popular anger in the region. Such strikes might succeed in eliminating terrorist targets, but the problem is that, in the long term, they merely feed the problem of Western resentment.”
Now the paper’s analysis here is undoubtedly correct. It’s impossible to drop bombs in Afghanistan without killing innocent people. No matter how good your intelligence, no matter how precise your weapons, you’re going to end up killing civilians. And this in turn inflames the population and drives many into the arms of militants.
So The Independent is smart enough to understand that killing more innocent Afghans isn’t going to make Westerners any safer. And yet the paper believes that we should continue our current campaign, which, of course, largely consists of dropping bombs in civilian areas. Because if we pull back now, the paper fears, then the Taliban will return to power and consequently al Qaeda will again be given a safe haven.
So, in other words, we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. We’re damned if we continue dropping bombs—because that just inflames the population. And we’re damned if we stop dropping bombs—because that will just enable the Taliban, and thus al Qaeda, to return.
One strategy The Independent never considers is the one that should be most obvious. Since killing Muslims engenders terrorism, then it seems to follow that the best way to combat terrorism would be to stop killing Muslims, not just in Afghanistan but everywhere. Let’s remember why Osama bin Laden attacked us in the first place. Unlike George W. Bush claimed, it had nothing to do with us being free. Rather, Osama bin Laden attacked us because we—that is, our governments—have long been attacking Muslims.
For several decades, the West has supported Israel in its oppression of the Palestinian people. For several decades, the West has propped up corrupt regimes throughout the Muslim world. For over ten years, the West imposed sanctions on the Iraqi people, sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.
These and other similarly immoral actions led to 9/11.
And yet the West continues its assault against Muslims. And for this reason, I agree with The Independent that merely withdrawing from Afghanistan would not pacify al Qaeda. For even if there were no longer any NATO troops in Central Asia, there would still be American troops in the Persian Gulf, there would still be money going to the governments in Jerusalem and Cairo, there would still be Guantanamo Bay.
But if the West reconsidered all of its relations with the Muslim world, if it started treating Muslims like actual human beings, and not means to their own corrupt ends, then the global jihadist movement would suffer immeasurably.
Violence only begets more violence, and until Western governments learn this important lesson their own citizens will not be safe.
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