McGovern seeks reversal of Afghanistan policy
George McGovern wants President Barack Obama to not only reconsider a proposed U.S. military buildup in Afghanistan, but also to remove troops and military bases from throughout the Middle East, call a five-year "time-out" on war and boost effort...
George McGovern wants President Barack Obama to not only reconsider a proposed U.S. military buildup in Afghanistan, but also to remove troops and military bases from throughout the Middle East, call a five-year "time-out" on war and boost efforts to feed children in impoverished countries.
The suggestions were offered in an "Outlook & Opinions" piece authored by McGovern and posted Thursday on The Washington Post's Web site.
"Mr. President," McGovern wrote, "the bright promise of your brilliant campaign for the White House and the high hopes of the millions who thronged the Mall on Tuesday to watch you be sworn in could easily be lost in the mountains and wastelands of Afghanistan."
McGovern, a Mitchell native and resident, was the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee. He endorsed Hillary Clinton in the early-going of last year's Democratic presidential primary campaign but switched his endorsement to Obama shortly before the South Dakota primary election.
There are about 34,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 17,000 in a NATO-led coalition and another 17,000 fighting insurgents and training Afghan forces, according to The Associated Press. Obama is expected to send up to 30,000 more this year as his administration shifts its focus from the war in Iraq to Afghanistan.
McGovern said shifting troops from Iraq to Afghanistan would amount to "a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire." Citing the failed historical policies of the British Empire and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, McGovern, who has a Ph.D. in history, said a surge in U.S. troops might cause a repeat of the past.
"With belligerent Afghan warlords sitting atop each mountain glowering at one another, the one factor that could unite them is the invasion of their country by a foreign power, whether British, Russian or American."
McGovern said shows of military strength in such regions only fuel hatred of America. He said the United States should minimize, rather than grow, its military presence in countries that are thought to produce terrorists.
"This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere," McGovern wrote. "We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment."
Playing on the title of an Obama book, "The Audacity of Hope," McGovern suggested "a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war -- unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?"
During those five years, McGovern wrote, the U.S. should turn its focus from warfare to feeding children around the world. McGovern plugged the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Act, which he said is underfunded but is delivering school lunches to millions of children. He said such programs encourage children to attend school and grow into better citizens.
"It would cost a small fraction of warfare's cost," McGovern wrote in closing, "but it might well be a stronger antidote to terrorism. There will always be time for another war. But hunger can't wait."