In March of 2002, while running for Treasurer of the Commonwealth, I did a one day tour of the Fall River/New Bedford area including speaking engagements, radio appearances and an interview with the Herald News in Fall River. I was aided by David Dionne, a great and tireless activist for social justice, peace, and the environment. David had setup the whole day and first on the itinerary was the interview with the Herald News.
Now March, 2002 was about five months after the US invasion of Afghanistan and one of the reporter's first questions was what would be the Green Party's alternative to invading Afghanistan. I stated that invading the country was the wrong approach and the US would have been better off in the long-term by building a nonviolent resistance movement to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda that sought the development and liberation of all of its citizens.
With President Obama's announcement that he will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to join the 68,000 US soldiers, 43,000 NATO-ISAF soldiers, and 68,000 Pentagon contractors, the long-term has arrived. When all is said and done, we are easily on track to have been there for a decade or more propping up a corrupt government run by warlords who share the Taliban's desire to keep women down.
According to CostOfWar.com, a National Priorities Project, the US has spent $232 Billion funding military related operations in Afghanistan since our invasion in 2001. This figure represents over $8,000 per Afghan citizen, or about $1000 a year for each person. With Afghanistan's per capita yearly GDP at about $450, this amount would represent a tripling of the income of the average Afghan. This figure is even more striking when you consider that we haven't delivered on the $5 Billion in aid we pledged to help Afghanistan rebuild.
We could have devoted a fraction of what our military has spent occupying Afghanistan on promoting economic development, education and health as well as building a native Afghan nonviolent resistance movement. Would we have overthrown the Taliban by now? Possibly. People who have enough to eat, a job with a decent income and the ability to read have much more ability to organize and use nonviolent tactics to undermine the support of their leaders. We forget when we judge the success of a nonviolent resistance that, after eight years of violent resistance to the Taliban, there is very real prospect that they may yet reestablish themselves as the rulers of Afghanistan.
By taking a long-term nonviolent approach, one that focused on economic development, education and improving the health of all Afghans, we would have left Afghanistan a far better place than we have so far. Even if a nonviolent resistance movement had not succeed by now, it would have a good chance of succeeding in the future. Obama's choice to double down on the Bush strategy doesn't look like its chance of success will be any better, but the cost in lives and debt will be immensely higher.