President Obama made the decision on June 22 to speed up withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan. In response to Obama's move, the French government also announced that it would withdraw its forces in Afghanistan as well. I think that President Obama's decision is a sensible one. A Nobel Peace Prize winner should do something to promote world peace rather than waging wars.
There is a Confucian saying in China. It goes like this: "Mingbuzheng, zeyanbushun, yanbushun, zeshibucheng" (A person's words will be effective only when it is appropriate to his position. Without appropriate words, a person cannot accomplish his goal). I hope that by saying and doing the right thing now, Mr. Obama will be in a better position to accomplish his goal of getting reelected.
In 2003 when the US started the Iraq war, one of my former classmates at Brandeis wrote to ask my opinion on the war. I responded that the US would never be able to win the war in Iraq. At the time, he was not convinced. But years later when the US was bogged down in the messy war in Iraq, he wrote back to congratulate me for making the right assessment about the outcome of the war right at the beginning of it. Last year in an opinion piece here in China Daily, I made the same remark about America's war effort in Afghanistan. The US would not be able to win in Afghanistan.
I was able to predict the outcome of the two wars because I know that so-called terrorists do not need to win. They just need to continue. They do not need to overwhelm the US forces on the battlefields, but they can bleed the US to the extent that it becomes so weak that it would voluntarily give up.
Most of the so-called terrorists are native people. What the American forces consider harsh terrain in Afghanistan is the homeland of these people. These “terrorists” have no choice but to fight to defend their homeland and what little they have. But for the American forces and their allies from NATO, who are used to modern amenities, their deployment in Afghanistan is the last thing they want to do in life.
The “terrorists” who are fighting on their own soil can resupply themselves very easily. But it costs American taxpayers more than $1 million to deploy one soldier in Afghanistan. That is only counting the direct costs. There are many other hidden and indirect costs as well. The long-term medical expenses for injured soldiers, the mental distress soldiers' families suffer from long separations from their loved ones and the unrecognized dehumanizing impacts soldiers undergo when they have to shoot at civilians in remote and hostile environments.
The world has changed, and the age of imperialism and colonialism should be buried forever. In the old days, Western colonialists were able to conquer their colonial territories because they had rifles, while the native people did not. Today, people in the Third World have acquired their own rifles, and they are prepared to use them to defend themselves.
This simple fact has transformed our world, and have changed the balance of power. The US and the Western nations' high-tech weapons, which they can use to inflict huge destruction on their victims, are not that effective after all in face of persistent resistance from the local people who are determined to defend themselves.
Former President Bush said that the “terrorists” were fighting the US because they were jealous of American freedom and way of life. I think that Mr. Bush got it wrong. The “terrorists” are fighting to defend their own freedom and their own way of life. They do not want to mess with American freedom and way of life if Americans had not messed with their freedom and way of life in the first place.
It seems that American war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan did not get America anywhere except the unnecessary casualties and financial duress it cost American society. It is time for the American elite to come to their senses and realize the futility of wars in this world.
Our common mother Earth has experienced too much abuse caused by senseless wars. Everybody who cares about the future of our common home should unite to bring about peace in this world. Peace-loving people all over the world should unite and work together to stop wars everywhere.
Peace-loving people should band together to fight for a more peaceful world, a world where aggressive wars would be resisted by all the people in the world.
Instead of wasting its resources on waging wars, the US should use its vast resources to wage peace in the world. Then, only then, will the US be able to enjoy peace and rid itself of the nightmare of “terrorism".
Han Dongping is Professor of History and Political Science at Warren Wilson College, NC.