How the U.S. War in Afghanistan Might End
By Jim Cason on 06/21/2011 @ 10:30 AM
On a recent trip to the Pacific Northwest several people asked me what FCNL is doing to end the war in Afghanistan. I argued that FCNL's combination of focused lobbying on the Hill and sustained grassroots lobbying around the country is having an impact. I also made the point that congressional votes alone don't usually end wars.
As the president prepares for another speech on Afghanistan policy and Congress prepares for more votes on the U.S. war, it’s worth remembering that the first successful congressional vote to cut off funding for the Vietnam War didn’t come until 1973. Your lobbying with FCNL, combined with the broader pressure from public opinion, other protests, and movements and the current concern about government spending is what will ultimately end the war.
Pressure to end the war is building. This week the U.S. Conference of Mayors approved a resolution calling for Congress to work for an early end to the U.S. war in Afghanistan so that the money can be used for pressing projects at home. Here’s one paragraph from the resolution.
The United States Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. Congress to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy.
National Public Radio reports that this is the first time since the end of the Vietnam war that mayors have come together on such a call. What NPR didn't report is that part of what motivated the mayors to act was action by the Baltimore City Council that was prompted by calls from a grassroots Maryland coalition that was arguing the money spent on war in Afghanistan should be spent on priorities in thte United States.
The mayor’s action comes less than one month after 204 members of the House of Representatives supported a resolution calling for the president to articulate a strategy, with a clear timetable, for withdrawing all U.S. military troops from Afghanistan. Although that vote still fell 14 votes short of the numbers needed to secure passage, the same resolution only garnered 162 votes last year and a year before that garnered about 138. The White House is watching those votes closely.
The administration, we are told, is also paying close attention to which voices are calling for an end to the war. In the last few weeks, Harold Rogers, the influential chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Norm Dicks, the ranking minority leader on the same committee, have both suggested the U.S. needs to begin thinking about a way out of Afghanistan. Others Senators including Senator Foreign Relations Committee leaders John Kerry (MA), Dick Lugar (IN), and Bob Corker (TN), Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (MI), and members of the leadership including Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), Dick Durbin (IL) and Chuck Shumer (NY) have also begun questioning the war or arguing the U.S. military needs to begin planning a way out.
Both the New York Times and the Washington Post have published articles in recent weeks pointing out growing opposition to the Afghanistan war within the two major political parties in this country. This month, the Los Angeles Times also published an editorial calling for a "significant" withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
For the FCNL community, of course, this is not enough. We argue that War Is Not the Answer and the U.S. needs to abandoned the failed war strategy in Afghanistan in favor of a more comprehensive policy that could help to end the fighting.
Which is why this week when the military spending bill arrives in the House floor, FCNL will be working to secure votes for an amendment by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA) that would require almost all the money in that bill to be spent on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. This legislative language is not likely to be approved by both chambers of Congress and sent to the president for signature, but it adds to the public chorus that will ultimately end this failed war.
In my trip to the Pacific Northwest, I spoke with many people about the pressing needs of local communities around the country. Particularly at a time when the U.S. economy is not doing well and state and municipal budgets are being squeezed, many people around the country are beginning to ask about the spending choices made by our elected leaders in Washington. In the last decade, my colleague Ruth Flower tells us, Pentagon spending has nearly doubled. This year, the House has again voted to increase Pentagon spending, while cutting spending back for other priorities. Do these spending choices reflect your priorities?