Americans elected President Obama in part based on his promise to put diplomacy and international cooperation, rather than the use and threat of military force, at the center of his foreign policy. With respect to Afghanistan and Pakistan, while there have been some encouraging signals in terms of actually implemented policies, the folks who voted for Obama are not yet getting the "diplomacy first" that they were promised.
Last week The Washington Post reported that 55 percent of Democrats support negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, and that 56 percent of Democrats think the
The Washington Post-ABC poll asked:
Would you support or oppose the
Among Democrats the answers were: 55 percent yes, 39 percent no, 6 percent no opinion.
The poll asked:
Do you think the
Among Democrats the answers were: 56 percent economic development in
The great thing about talking to the Taliban is that it costs nothing, kills no one and is compatible and complementary, at least initially, with every other strategy.
It costs nothing because if in negotiations Afghan insurgents demand something totally unreasonable, you can always say no. If the talks go nowhere, you haven’t lost anything; in fact, you’ve gained credibility with the Afghan population because you showed you were willing to negotiate. And if the talks break down because you stood firm on an important principle, then Afghans can see that you stood firm on an important principle.
If, on the other hand, Afghan insurgent leaders say, "We’ll stop fighting if you agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of your forces," and if you were eventually planning to withdraw your forces anyway, now you’ve got something to talk about.
What could be more monstrous and absurd than more than doubling our military operations in Afghanistan – starting a new war, essentially, and leading almost certainly to an increase in civilian deaths, as aid agencies warned NATO leaders on Friday, because we say we have to fight people who oppose the presence of foreign troops, and that we can’t leave until we defeat them militarily?
Why not make agreements with most of the people we are now fighting, and agree to a timetable for withdrawal, as we have done in
And even if talks with Afghan insurgents did not lead quickly to a comprehensive agreement on all issues, mightn’t it be useful to pursue intermediate agreements? Let’s say we want to build some schools. Wouldn’t it be useful to have agreements with insurgents not to shoot at the people building them or blow the schools up?
As The Washington Post reported on Friday:
Analysts say that elements within
"The key is to get the big players in
The diplomat and several Afghan experts said that the same thing happened during the recent voter registration here, and that it could happen again in August if Taliban "handlers" in
If we can make agreements with the Taliban to allow elections to proceed peacefully, why not other agreements?
I am a big fan of the "Obama Doctrine" that the
Stephen Kinzer, author, former New York Times foreign correspondent, argues that sending more