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Protesting Policy: Time for Change

October 6, 2009

As we approach the beginning of the United State’s ninth year in Afghanistan, groups of activists from different perspectives converged on the White House, expressing everything from concern to disgust.

It is hard to believe that eight years have passed since former President Bush launched the Global War on Terror and Al Qaeda; yet after hundreds of billions of dollars and untold loss of life, what can we identify as “success?”

Perhaps we can say there has not been another attack in the United States. But have the extreme voices in the Middle East not been emboldened and empowered by the military actions which have devastated multiple countries?

Despite any grievances—right or wrong, valid or invalid—that have been expressed by these extreme voices, the United States has not made itself safer as a result of the multiple, simultaneous major theater wars it is now engaged in; rather, these wars have divided the country, indebted its people, and discredited its sound international reputation.

The United States has a long and tumultuous history in the Middle East: the 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected President of Iran, Mohammed Mosaddeq, support of Saddam Hussein and the Mujahedeen in the 1970s and 1980s, the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1970s, the 1991 Iraq War and over ten years of sanctions which followed, to the present campaigns, to name just a few instances. One cannot help but observe that after all this involvement, the United States seems less poised to have favorable relations with many of these governments than ever before.

This begs the question: if what the U.S. has done has not improved its standing, why, then, does it continue the same egregious and ignominious policies of years past?

Military actions in the name of “American Interests”—which seem to create hostility toward America—have only deteriorated U.S. standing in the Middle East, hence it is time for a policy change.

The protesters who came together at the White House yesterday understand this, though they all have different ways of expressing it. The way of the Friends Committee on National Legislation is to say, “War Is Not the Answer.” But FCNL doesn’t stop there. The next message is to engage Congress and tell them to change policy.

Civil disobedience is effective in its own way, but without pressure on the legislative branch, it is difficult to keep government accountable and responsive. Elected officials need to hear logical arguments—even if they do not agree with them—so that it is clear where their constituents stand. After all, it is the principle concern of a member of Congress, second only to making law, to get reelected, which would not be possible without the votes of valuable constituents.

Do not hesitate. Tell Congress enough is enough and it is time for a policy change in the Middle East. More troops will not translate into more stability in Afghanistan. There are ways to stabilize Afghanistan without increasing U.S. military presence there. Check out these points: FCNL’s Afghanistan De-escalation Flyer.

Let us see then what diplomacy can do.

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