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A complex decision

12/9/2009, 2:10 a.m.
“No wonder it took Obama a while to think this one through.”

A complex decision

Those with hearts devoid of any love for humanity will be quick to resort to war. And those with a mindless naiveté about the hostility and violence in the world will oppose any commitment to war whatever the circumstances. But there is such an event as a righteous war.

Every nation has the right to defend itself against armed aggression. Only the inveterate pacifists would dispute that. Some would even oppose military intervention by a powerful nation in defense of others who are oppressed. However, the U.S. involvement in World War II is considered by historians to be righteous, but there was never a serious threat of a German invasion of America.

Now the nature of warfare has so changed that leaders of great nations find it difficult to unravel the complexities of confrontation. First of all, the weapons of war are now so lethal that a first strike could be terminal for the population of some nations. And military technological innovations have created the capacity to deliver these weapons longer distances. This reality demands a redefinition of the nature of a preemptive strike.

There is also a major change in the nature of combatants. In the old days, one nation would declare war on another and they would meet on the battlefield. Nowadays, insurgents from one country attack the citizens and interests of other nations, and they are often joined in these terrorism attacks by adherents from numerous other countries.

It is no wonder, then, that President Barack Obama took the time needed to consider the many aspects of America’s war in Afghanistan. Of one issue there can be no dispute. The United States has every right under international law to conduct military operations in Afghanistan, a country that harbored al-Qaeda as they launched violent attacks on America.

On Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C. by 19 al-Qaeda operatives, Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants were operating in Afghanistan which was under the control of the Taliban, a Muslim extremist organization. The effort to capture bin Laden essentially ended on Mar. 20, 2003 with the invasion of Iraq. By January 2009 only 32,000 troops were committed to Afghanistan, while troop mobilization climbed to 160,000 in Iraq.

Obama’s speech on Dec. 1 at West Point made it clear that the battle is really with the Taliban, who have taken control of Afghanistan and the border area of Pakistan. This conflict can be resolved only with the commitment of an adequate contingent of U.S. troops.

Obama has decided to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and he will begin to withdraw them in 18 months, when local forces should be able to defend their nation. The goal is: “To disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future.” Obama also envisions a better partnership between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Obama acknowledges the complexity of the issue, as he calls on “the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not.” He affirms, “we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the source, the moral source, of America’s authority.”

Who can disagree with that statement, no matter where you stand on the military mobilization issue?