Michael Walzer on Afghanistan

Michael Walzer has a new short piece in Dissent online about Obama’s troop escalation. As he has argued, the initial invasion was an example of a just war but for various reasons, the cost of decisively winning the war may be too high by now. Still he cautiously supports the escalation of the war effort for a different reason: as something the U.S. owes the Afghan people and to defend their emerging civil society. “Given everything we did wrong in Afghanistan, the work of these people—democrats, feminists, union activists, and teachers—is a small miracle worth defending against the Taliban resurgence.”

Leaving aside the question of whether it was a just war, Walzer is right to ask whether this war can be won at all. I oppose the escalation of the war effort but agree that a total and immediate withdrawal would not bode well for those left behind in the Taliban’s hands. Walzer has recently argued that in case of a withdrawal, the U.S. should take example from the British withdrawal after the American Revolution and begin taking its collaborators out of the country. In my view, that kind of arrangement would be far more appropriate than an escalation of ground forces.

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