When I talk with people about foreign policy issues, some of their most common concerns deal with blood and treasure.
After maintaining the conversation for awhile, I typically notice that what they are referring to are U.S. troop casualties (we just learned that July 2009 was the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the war began nearly eight years ago) and the money we spend in the effort (we have now spent over $233 billion.) These are both very important realities to consider and should definitely be in the equation when evaluating foreign policy. But something I feel is often overlooked by many, conservatives and liberals alike, is the number of civilians that are killed as a result of war.
The election of Barack Obama has many liberals excited about the progress that accompanies “The One’s” presidency. I myself approve of Obama’s decisions thus far overall. But ever since the campaign season, I have been disappointed when people brush over the issues they know deep down they cannot justify; They often refuse to follow the president’s call for critique. This is probably because they a) are so enamored with him that they do not feel that he is worthy of criticism, or b) feel they must defend him against conservatives of the Sean Hannity/Glenn Beck variety, who make outlandish arguments that amount to all emotion and no logic.
One such example, for which I personally cannot find any justification, is civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To all my liberal friends, consider some of these facts before jumping on the “Support the War in Afghanistan” bandwagon. On September 8th, 2008 (when Bush and Cheney still reigned supreme), we received reports that civilian deaths tripled in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2007, directly due to U.S. and NATO air strikes. Despite criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Obama Administration decided to continue air strikes (or “drone attacks”) in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region, despite knowledge of these reports.
These drone attacks are supposed to target the enemy and drive the Taliban into Pakistan, but end up killing hundreds of innocent civilians in the process. 1,103 civilians have already been killed in the first six months of 2009. Civilian deaths in the region have risen 24% in the first quarter of this year alone. Some estimates put the grand total of civilian deaths in the region at more than 7,500. No reasoning seems to justify the killing of innocent men, women and children: Not the preservation of our freedoms (vague and illogical), nor the cost-benefit analysis (cold-hearted and inhumane.)
I think Obama is making much-needed progress in the world, but let’s be honest about some of the harsh realities as well; Only then can we push for the change we truly desire. We are seeing few signs of decreasing drone attacks and plenty of indication toward a long-term U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Seeing as a long-term presence looks virtually inevitable at this point, I hope the drone attacks are not destined for the same fate.
Randal Serr is a brand-spankin’-new liberal political columnist for Rhombus; This is his first column. He should probably find a better picture for his editor.
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