Joan Smith argues that Obama should not listen to supporters who wish to stop US interventions abroad – with particular reference to the ongoing struggle in Afghanistan:
Despite the disaster in Iraq, it would be a huge moral defeat if Obama listened to them. Just because Bush, Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld got everything wrong when they responded to the 9/11 attacks doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to park our judgement and principles for a generation. Bush made a lot of noise about capturing Osama bin Laden dead or alive, left the Afghan war half-finished and veered off into Iraq after Saddam Hussein, a very unpleasant dictator who nevertheless had nothing to do with al-Qa’ida or the suicide bombings on the east coast of the US.
In retrospect, the Bush administration’s actions were so ill conceived and capricious that it’s hard to believe they were allowed to discredit the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, yet that is what has happened. Obama has already faced calls to make a deal with the Taliban – supposedly a nicer version than before, a sort of Taliban lite – and pull out of Afghanistan.
If he is going to win that war, he will need the support of liberals in the US and the UK who can see beyond the carnage in Baghdad to a set of principles which, Bush or no Bush, remain important to uphold.
The central proposition is that democratic nations should not simply stand by as oppressive regimes wreck whole countries and cause the deaths of thousands of civilians.
leaving Afghanistan now would be an abject surrender to extremists: only last month, 15 schoolgirls and their teachers were injured in an acid attack, the latest in a relentless series of attacks on girls’ schools and teachers.
Will liberals lend their support? As some have argued:
It is vitally important for the future of progressive politics that people of democratic outlook should now speak clearly against those for whom the entire progressive agenda has been subordinated to a blanket and simplistic “anti-imperialism”. The values and goals which properly make up that agenda – the values of democracy, human rights, solidarity with peoples fighting against poverty, tyranny and oppression – are what most enduringly define the shape of any left worth belonging to.