News & Politics

Katrina vanden Heuvel and Lawrence Korb Debate Military Escalation in Afghanistan

Why more substantive debate and non-military solutions are needed in this war.

As we mark Obama's first 100 Days, there is much to celebrate--from repeal of the global gag rule to the passage of the stimulus and the Administration's pledge to close Guantanamo. The budget, a smart blueprint to build a new economy, will demand that progressives mobilize to take on well-funded lobbies intent on obstructing real reform.

Yet, as I think about the most troubling aspects of these first 100 days, there are two areas which I fear could endanger the Obama Presidency: the bank bailouts and military escalation in Afghanistan.

Americans deserve a real national debate about the Administration's plans in Afghanistan--its ends and means and exits--before undertaking such a major military commitment. That's why Brave New Foundation's work is so essential: with its new documentary Rethink Afghanistan and online debates such as the one CAP's Lawrence Korb and I had last week, BNF is fostering the kind of discussion, debate and dissent that Obama has said he welcomes. BNF's work--along with a network of bloggers, progressive leaders, magazines like The Nation, peace and justice groups--is launching much-needed Congressional hearings on vital areas such as the role and goals of the US military in Afghanistan, oversight of contractors, transparent budgeting and clear metrics to measure progress toward a defined exit strategy.

What's key at this pivotal moment is increasing the pressure for constructive, smart, effective non-military solutions to stabilize Afghanistan--and strengthen Pakistan's fragile democratic government. As I argued in the debate with Korb, I believe the more responsible and effective strategy moving forward is to take US-led military escalation off the table, begin to withdraw US troops and support a regional diplomatic solution, including common-sense counterterrorist and national security measures (extensive intelligence cooperation, expert police work, effective border control) and targeted development and reconstruction assistance.

Katrina Vanden Heuvel is the publisher of The Nation