Osama, Just War, and Afghanistan

In today’s “Breakpoint” commentary, Chuck Colson says that the war in Afghanistan does not meet the “Just War Doctrine” criteria, and the US should immediately withdraw.  Read his commentary here:

I strongly disagree, and wrote the following response:
Chuck Colson,

I respect you tremendously, and quote your application of worldview to current events frequently.  You are one of the most potent moral thinkers of today.  But no one is 100% perfect, and in today’s Breakpoint, you are just plain wrong. 

You say, “Our goal in Afghanistan seems to have morphed from destroying the Taliban to nation-building,” – well, yes.  We removed the old, evil regime, and have some moral responsibility to help them rebuild with something better.  Similar to the US occupation of Germany and rebuilding of Europe after WWII.  We had learned after WWI that leaving a vacuum allows the worst elements to walk in.  Just as we found that leaving Afghanistan after the Soviets left, opened the door to takeover by the most extreme elements in the Taliban. 

“Christian just war doctrine demands that war be waged only when a reasonable probability of success exists.”  How can you be so pessimistic, when Afghanistan has conducted 2 national elections (albeit flawed).  We are not going to “transform Afghanistan into a pro-Western, pro-democratic society.”  But we can support the reform elements and give them the protection and training to achieve their own version of a developing free country.  Remember, the lack of any history or social understanding of freedom was the argument against transforming Japan and Korea after WWII.  It will take time, and yes money and sacrifice, but the goal is very realistic. 

“The success of the operation against bin Laden proves that targeted, behind-the-scenes operations based on solid intelligence give us the best chance to eliminate the terrorists.”  This is the most wrong statement of the entire commentary.  The intelligence to root out bin Laden was gained through aggressive military action within Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. 

Osama was found by tracking down his personal courier, which was extremely difficult because of the security precautions they enacted.  The pseudonym “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti” was provided by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (captured in Pakistan in 2003), and Abu Faraj al-Libbi (captured in Pakistan in 2005). It took more traditional sleuthing to get al-Kuwaiti’s real name, according to the NY Times. That meant putting more operatives on the ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan to track him, yielding a partial name.  A file released by WikiLeaks suggests that the courier’s identity was provided to the US by another key source, the al-Qaida facilitator Hassan Ghul, who was captured in Iraq in 2004 and interrogated by the CIA.

In fact, Osama was holed up in his compound (and largely ineffective in leading further terrorism) because of the on-going military operations partnering with counter-terrorism efforts.  Plus the “targeted” operation was from a base in Afghanistan which would not exist without our presence there.  We cannot gain intelligence without the larger effort, and without our active military partnership with the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. 

The fact is, that without the heartbreaking sacrifice of so many US Soldiers and Marines, the people of Afghanistan would be enslaved by the worst kind of terrorists.  And freeing the enslaved is one of the most Christian, and “Just War Doctrine,” goals I can think of.