As we mark Obama’s first 100 Days, there is much to celebrate–from repeal of the global gag rule to the passage of the stimulus and the Administration’s pledge to close Guantanamo. The budget, a smart blueprint to build a new economy, will demand that progressives mobilize to take on well-funded lobbies intent on obstructing real reform.
Yet, as I think about the most troubling aspects of these first 100 days, there are two areas which I fear could endanger the Obama Presidency: the bank bailouts and military escalation in Afghanistan.
Americans deserve a real national debate about the Administration’s plans in Afghanistan -its ends and means and exits–before undertaking such a major military commitment. That’s why Brave New Films’ work is so essential: with its new documentary Rethink Afghanistan and online debates such as the one CAP’s Lawrence Korb and I had last week, BNF is fostering the kind of discussion, debate and dissent that Obama has said he welcomes.
BNF’s work–along with a network of bloggers, progressive leaders, magazines like The Nation, peace and justice groups–is sparking much-needed Congressional hearings on vital areas such as the role and goals of the US military in Afghanistan, oversight of contractors, transparent budgeting and clear metrics to measure progress toward a defined exit strategy.
What’s key at this pivotal moment is increasing the pressure for constructive, smart, effective non-military solutions to stabilize Afghanistan–and strengthen Pakistan’s fragile democratic government. As I argued in the debate with Korb, I believe the more responsible and effective strategy moving forward is to take US-led military escalation off the table, begin to withdraw US troops and support a regional diplomatic solution, including common-sense counterterrorist and national security measures ( extensive intelligence cooperation, expert police work, effective border control) and targeted development and reconstruction assistance.
The three questions Korb and I debated were tough and vital :
1. Will more US troops in Afghanistan strengthen or weaken terrorist networks?
2. Will more US troops in Afghanistan help to stabilize Pakistan or contribute to its further destabilization?
3. The third question was selected from over 500 questions that were submitted by the Rethink Afghanistan audience: What are the parallels and differences between Vietnam and