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Thoughts on the War in Afghanistan

I was raised to believe war is wrong. As a child of thoughtful parents,as a Quaker, as a person who aspires to be ever compassionate, and even as a bleeding heart liberal, I do believe that violence usually, ultimately, results only in the continuation of violence. With less of a blind conviction and more of a gnawing fear, I believe that the US's attacks on Afghanistant will probably, sooner or later, increase the blind hatred which spawned the terrorist attacks to begin with, and the cycle will begin again. More people, more innocent people, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and beloveds, will die. On all sides.

The ever-burning question remains, however: If we do not fight, what do we do?

Do not believe that I think nothing should be done. No person committed to nonviolence believes nothing should be done. It is a matter of determining what can be done that will not cost lives, both now, and especially, in the future. There are means of economic and political persuasion the US and the UN have access to. There is an international crimes court. There are means of subversion from within and ways to support the enemy's other enemies. I'm not a political strategist, and I'm not going to be able to eloquently or accurately describe other means of "attack" that do not include mass mobilization of military forces.

Part of me even wonders if turning the other cheek could have been possible. The terrorists wanted to create a situation where we would bare our fangs, and therefore prove to their sympathizers that we are the monsters they make us out to be (no, this is not rational. Need I bring up rationality when discussing these people's mindsets?). If we kill enough civilians in our retaliation, that's a score of martyrs' names for the terrorists to cry when they make the next attempt on the lives of our own people. And then wewill respond again in kind, and the cycle will continue, like the ongoing battle between two bullies in a schoolyard not big enough for both of them. How many "little kids" will get accidentally stomped in the crossfire?I wonder what would have happened IF we had done our cleanup and expanded our security and said, with as much certainty as possible, we won't be invaded like this again, if we would have burst the terrorists' bubble?Perhaps not. And it's not like, with violence such a part of we Americans' way of thinking, it would have happened anyway. But it is, I believe, worth thinking about. So please do so.

In defense of our country's leaders, I will say that the war is being handled more intelligently than any other military conflict I have witnessed in my limited 25-year lifetime. Much better than Iraq. Much better than Serbia. At least measures are being taken to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. Measures are being taken to prove to the Afghani people that this war is not on them, and we will help them where we can. The military strikes seem pretty surgical. I can imagine a number of retaliatory scenarios much worse than this. I can't imagine a military scenario much better. When the war is over, peacetime resolutions, reparations, and reconstruction must be handled even more delicately, even more strategically, and without the option of resorting to bombs. The truth is that even if Osama bin Laden is killed or captured, the sentiments he carried will live on, in someone, somewhere. The true war we must fight is the war against hatred, in their hearts and, perhaps more importantly, in our own. "You can't kill the Devil with a gun or a sword." I pray that our leaders continue to move with discretion and foresight. I do not want more people to die anywhere, because of this. If we make one wrong step, they will. And I do not forget that possible that step has already been made.

I support the peace movement in this time, though with much more... reservation than I usually do. Partly, because as I said, I want to acknowledge the presence of at least some wisdom in our leaders' actions. Partly, because spokespersons of the peace movement have had said little on the specific end of things on how they feel the situation should be handled. It is a shortcoming of the peace movement in general, and having worked in the movement from the inside, I feel certain in saying this, that peace activists have a tendency to throw around the "war is bad" rhetoric with nothing practical to back in up. Any person will agree that war is bad. The truth of the matter is that most Americans believe it is unfortunate but necessary. To prove that it is not requires a well-researched, rational argument expressed clearly to the masses. Sadly, my friends, in this spiritless world, faith is not always sufficient to reach the hearts of the people at large. The peace movement can say, "There are other solutions," all it wants, but until it says what those solutions are, exactly, it will continue to spit in the wind.


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All original materials © 2003 R. Pickard