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The Ups and Downs of Obama’s First Days

February 3, 2009

Sometimes I am still amazed that Barack Obama is my president…It still feels a little too good to be true. But he is. And he is taking action! President Obama has done a lot in his first weeks in office: he set in motion the closing of Guantanamo and secret detention centers, called for ending torture, and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to better protect against discrimination. These actions represent years of advocacy, activism, protesting, and genuine hard work by the peace & justice community coming to fruition.

However, President Obama also ordered (or at least approved) two drone attacks in Pakistan, killing 22 people, three of which were children. This story didn’t get hardly any press. As a matter of fact, when I was trying to find it again to write today, I found mostly stories about Obama’s view of Pakistan in the campaign. Well he said it then and he is doing it now: Obama is going to use military force to attack the Taliban in Pakistan, with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.

Obama is positioning himself to carry out another campaign promise–a troop surge in Afghanistan. There is talk that soon he will approve another 3 brigades, 10,000-12,000 more troops, to fight in the war in Afghanistan. Admittedly, there is also been a lot of rhetoric about the “smart power” that Obama and Clinton are going to use in Afghanistan. But Obama is still planning to send 30,000 more troops to the endless war in Afghanistan. When will we learn that War Is Not the Answer? When will we realize that there aren’t enough troops we could send to Afghanistan to solve the problems there? The Soviets learned that lesson the hard way. We learned that lesson the hard way in Vietnam and Iraq. Are we doomed to keep repeating the same failures over and over again?

I don’t think we are. I think there is hope that Obama will realize sooner than later that the answer is not war, but the smart power that he and Hillary Clinton are talking about–diplomacy and development. I think they will recognize this when the public convinces them. Where’s the public outcry about the bombing of Pakistan? Where’s the outcry of the proposed troop surge in Afghanistan? We have to make our voice heard!

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