The Common Good

New Tools for Peace in Afghanistan

Sojomail - November 12, 2009


Whether it’s self-medicating, anger or violence, these are the consequences of war, and you have to think about all the people affected by soldiers coming home, the parents, spouses, children, brothers, sisters, aunts and cousins.

- Cynthia Thomas, an Army wife who runs a private assistance center for soldiers in Killeen, Tex., called Under the Hood Café. (Source: The New York Times)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" -- our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

New Tools for Peace in Afghanistan

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Become a Facebook Fan of Sojourners
Become a Facebook fan
of Sojourners

Follow Sojourners on Twitter
Follow Sojourners
on Twitter

When all you have is a hammer everything seems like a nail. No famous line more aptly applies to the president’s current dilemma of seeking the best solution for Afghanistan. When it comes to foreign policy, if all you have are military options, then every situation becomes an argument for a troop escalation. For Afghanistan, President Obama has been presented with four options -- all hammers -- ranging in size from 10,000 to 40,000 more troops. Fortunately, he has sent his advisors back to the drawing board to come up with some new options.

The Times of London reported that President Obama also spoke with Karl Eikenberry yesterday, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, who has raised concerns about increasing U.S. troop presence without clear progress from President Karzai in cleaning up corruption and mismanagement. Without a dependable and reliable partner in Afghanistan, our ambassador to the country is raising fundamental concerns about adding more forces. As a former general himself, Mr. Eikenberry is well aware of the military issues at stake in the country, having commanded the U.S. troops in Afghanistan from 2006-2007. But that experience has also increased his concern that the U.S. is failing when it comes to a strategy vital to our success in that deeply battered country: development. The Washington Post reports:

Eikenberry also has expressed frustration with the relative paucity of funds set aside for spending on development and reconstruction this year in Afghanistan, a country wrecked by three decades of war. Earlier this summer, he asked for $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending for 2010, a 60 percent increase over what Obama had requested from Congress, but the request has languished even as the administration has debated spending billions of dollars on new troops.

The Japanese government, directly preceding President Obama’s visit, has announced a 5 billion dollar investment in aid for Afghanistan over the next five years. This is part of Japan’s “New Strategy to Counter the Threat of Terrorism.” It recognizes the need for security forces but focuses primarily on humanitarian assistance and development aid:

... to improve Afghanistan’s security, political measures will also be required. Among the insurgents, some moderate groups seem to be willing to put their arms down in exchange for security assurance and economic independence.

For the Government of Afghanistan to obtain confidence from its own people and to lay the grounds for long term political reconciliation, it is essential to stabilize people’s lives and establish economic foundations. Tangible outcomes recognized by the people will be critical in areas of agriculture and rural development, infrastructure development, and education, health and other basic human needs.

The very candid and insightful statements by Ambassador Eikenberry are already changing the conversation here in Washington. And the clear signals from the president that he is unhappy with the narrow range of options he has been given clearly presents us with a real opportunity -- to offer a better way. I would call it a humanitarian and development surge in Afghanistan; we laid out the elements of it in a recent blog post. Since then, several leaders from both faith and development community organizations, some of whom are working on the ground in Afghanistan, have shown great interest in a new direction for Afghanistan and in offering some new options for the president.

Development and humanitarian assistance can no longer be an afterthought; they must be central to any strategy the U.S. government puts forward. It is time to stop arguing about the size of the hammer needed and begin looking at what other tools we might have in our belts.

In the meantime, pray for the president not to succumb to the logic of the hammers, but with patience and perseverance, to wait until we can find the better solutions we need for Afghanistan.

E-mail E-mail this article to friends
Facebook Share this article on Facebook
Comment Comment on this article on the God's Politics Blog


Audio Interview with Farmer Joel Salatin

joel-salatin-audioAn outspoken advocate for organic, sustainable, and local food, Virginia-based farmer Joel Salatin is dedicated to honoring God through his farming. Listen in on our audio interview with Joel, or read the interview in this month’s issue of Sojourners.


Global Compassion Charter Unveiled

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). These words were spoken by Jesus, but the truth and call to respect and honor one another can be found in numerous traditions and religions.

Today, Nov. 12, marks the unveiling of the Charter for Compassion, which brings together voices from around the world, from all religions, nations, and backgrounds to remind us all that we share a common call to put ourselves in the shoes of the other. The Charter seeks to bring compassionate action and compassionate thinking back into the center of religious, moral, and political life.

Join the movement to act with compassion.


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

An Evangelical Trojan Horse in the Democratic Party?
by Brian McLaren

Evangelicals like me who have migrated away from the Republican Party have done so not as part of a Trojan horse conspiracy, but because we embraced a broader range of moral issues than just the three anti-s imposed upon us by conservative Evangelical and Republican leaders.
+ Click to continue

Why the Big D Needs a Justice Revival
by Catherine Cuellar

Residents of the Lone Star state are known as proud folk, but there are a few startling facts that should make everyone -- not just residents of the third-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. -- stop and think faster than you can say "Don't Mess With Texas."
+ Click to continue

Remembering Native Americans -- Beyond November
by Randy Woodley

Even in November, which is officially Native American Heritage Month, most Americans don't think about the massacres, land thefts, boarding school oppression and anti-native religion laws carried out against Native Americans throughout U.S. history and even right up to the present day. But this year on Nov. 5, President Barack Obama remembered! This president has already shown that he may be the first president in a while who intends to keep his promises to Native Americans.
+ Click to continue

How to Stop the Next Food Crisis (It's Easier than You Think)
by Elizabeth Palmberg

Here's the secret: We need to put back the ground rules that, until 2000, prevented big-money types from turning food prices into a high-rolling casino, with people's daily bread/rice/tortillas as the chips.
+ Click to continue

For God and Country (in that Order)
by Logan Laituri

I am fortunate to be part of a community of fellow former warriors (well, actually, one of us is still in the National Guard) who wrestle alongside me with the political implications of our shared faith. Centurion's Guild members have all, as part of our communal covenant, agreed that our service is "For God and Country (in that order)."
+ Click to continue

What Do You Get When You Cross Micah 6 with John 3:16?
by Chuck Gutenson

How many of you have experienced the disappointment of finding that those who are most concerned about creating just societies are so often inattentive to inviting folks into relationship with Jesus? Or, on the other hand, experienced the frustration of seeing those who put such a strong emphasis on evangelism that they forget the biblical emphasis upon issues of justice?
+ Click to continue

More Walls Need to Fall
by Becky Garrison

As we celebrate the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, let us reflect on walls that are currently being built across the U.S.-Mexico border as well as in Bethlehem and the West Bank.
+ Click to continue

Push Pause Now!
by Cathleen Falsani

I took an online quiz called "The Power of Pause Online Assessment." I scored a 38 out of 50. And that's nothing to brag about. "Push Pause Now!" was the cautionary message I received with my assessment score.
+ Click to continue

Conservative Evangelicals and Immigration
by Matthew Soerens

While Congress might expect support for immigration reform from liberal-leaning mainline denominations, this panel was not composed of the usual suspects: four of five witnesses were theologically (and, for the most part, politically) conservative evangelicals.
+ Click to continue

Beat the Defense Budget into a Plowshare
by Shane Claiborne

Military spending is the elephant in the room any time we speak of health care for all or reforming the broken education system; one wonders how much good we can do when nearly half of every tax dollar goes to the military.
+ Click to continue

Freedom from Fear in the Health-Care Debate
by Valerie Elverton Dixon

The opponents kept saying that health-care legislation would take away our freedoms and lead to a "government takeover" of health care in the United States. Some dressed this argument in patriotism and in pathos. They sounded an alarm to be wary of a behemoth of federal government, a beast standing in our doctor's doorway.
+ Click to continue

The Struggle of Our Environmental Neighbors
by César Baldelomar

Marvin Gaye once sang, "Oh, mercy mercy me/Oh, things ain't what they used to be/No, no/Where did all the blue sky go?/Poison is the wind that blows/From the north, east, south, and sea/Oh, mercy mercy me?" This song came to mind after reading a horrifying story by The Miami Herald on the obscene number of birth defects caused by coal ash pollution in the small rural town of Arroyo Barril, Domincan Republic.
+ Click to continue

Missing from Wall Street's Calculations: Sin
by Ernesto Tinajero

The idea that humans are sinners was left out of their models. That greed could blind someone into making disastrous choices never entered their calculations.
+ Click to continue

Thanking the Refugee (The Plank in Australia's Eye, Part 2)
by Jarrod McKenna
_[continued from part 1] Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas reminds us that "the other" is not an object for us to control but a subject of the Holy One for us to encounter that will inevitably leave us different. In welcoming the stranger we cannot be left the same.
+ Click to continue

The Deadly Viper Conversation Moves from Authors to Publisher
by Soong-Chan Rah

While the reaction from Mike and Jud was quick in the form of a public apology and concrete action, we have yet to hear publicly from Zondervan. They have stated that they wish to take the time to gather as much information as possible before issuing any sort of public statement. They are planning to meet with the authors this week and will continue to process input from many. At this point, the ball is in Zondervan's court.
+ Click to continue

Walking, Chewing Gum, and Confronting Racism and Sexism at the Same Time
by Ryan Rodrick Beiler

What we need to be most careful about is getting defensive when someone points out our blind spots. The tendency is to explain what we meant -- that we didn't intend to hurt. But though explanation of intent can help, it doesn't remove the impact of the offense.
+ Click to continue

Will Violence Have the Last Word at Fort Hood?
by Logan Laituri

As Christians, we know violence is not part of God's intent and that in every form it counteracts Christ's redemptive suffering on the Cross. It is with that knowledge we must also pray for the shooter himself.
+ Click to continue

The Plank in Australia's Eye
by Jarrod McKenna

"F%*# OFF! WE'RE FULL!" read the bumper sticker I saw this morning, written within the outline of the Australian continent. The offense of the bumper stickers I felt twice as hard after hearing that another boat of people fleeing horrific circumstance had sunk off the Australian coast. This is the side of Australia you won't see advertised in our tourism campaigns.
+ Click to continue

Deadly Viper: Personal Apologies and Power Structures
by Soong-Chan Rah

I'm tired of the stereotypes. I'm tired of hearing that I need "to get over it," that I'm the problem and not the ones who have committed the offense. I'm tired of hearing that "this wouldn't be an issue if you would not raise it as an issue." And I'm tired of the lack of progress in the larger evangelical power structures.
+ Click to continue

Afghanistan: Women and Children First
by Laurel Frodge

They are not concerned with statistics, ideas, or qualitative arguments about gender equality; they are concerned with the safety and education of the girls we only glimpse through plasma screen -- their daughters, their nieces, and their sisters. In order to address the question of security and counterinsurgency, the U.S. must first look at the state of affairs and the people behind the screen.
+ Click to continue

Crossing the Lines: A White Reporter's View of the Civil Rights Movement
by Becky Garrison

In Crossing the Lines: A Novel, author Richard Doster enabled me to enter the world of Jack Hall, an idealistic white reporter based in the South during the late 1950s who struggled between his need to report the truth with his concerns for his family's safety.
+ Click to continue

Big Oil, Corporate Greed, and Social Sin
by John Gehring

Last Friday, I attended the premier of Crude, a powerful documentary that chronicles the 16-year lawsuit waged against the oil company on behalf of nearly 30,000 indigenous people living in the rainforests of Ecuador.
+ Click to continue

Fort Hood Shootings and the Prophetic 'IF'
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The prophetic question today should be a challenge to power and convention: "What effect should the Fort Hood shootings have on the American public's perception of the Afghanistan war?"
+ Click to continue


+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail -- the latest headlines on critical issues

Top Stories:

Justice Revival comes to Dallas
The Dallas Morning News religion blog
Sojourners, the Washington, D.C.-based social ministry, put on its first Justice Revival last year in Columbus, Ohio. Dallas got the nod for the second, and planning has been underway for more than a year. About 1,000 churches and ministries have offered at least some support, and some 200 are actively involved. The social justice focus is on supporting public schools and reducing homelessness. +Click to continue

Justice Revival starting tonight aims to unite Dallas-area churches, community
The Dallas Morning News
The Justice Revival that begins tonight in Dallas might be thought of as a thousand points of light shining in the same direction. That's the hope anyway as large numbers of Christians gather across the usual dividing lines of race, denomination, theology and politics to focus attention on supporting public education and reducing homelessness. +Click to continue

After Election Day, the Vote Everyone Has Been Waiting For
Christianity Today

Another Great Awakening?
The Baptist Standard

Is it time to let Afghans sort out their own country?
BBC World Have Your Say

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way -- whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.


Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Finding More Ways to GIVE
Maryknoll Sisters
Making God's Love Visible

Wisdom for your commute: Download audio talks by Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, Lucy Winkett and more. Shop the SojoStore.

Preaching the Word is Sojourners’ web-based Bible study and sermon prep service. Let leading voices on faith and social justice inspire you: Walter Brueggemann, Jim Wallis, Richard Rohr, Julie Polter, Ched Myers, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Paula Gooder, and more.

Dorothy Day says, "Food for the body is not enough...there must be food for the soul." You can say it too as you shop with Sojourners’ exclusive stuffable, reusable, and durable Shopping Bag. Order yours.

Scared to talk politics in church? Get the conversation going in your small group with Sojourners’ discussion guides. Lots of topics and great talking points on challenging aspects of social justice. Learn more.

Gift subscriptions for Sojourners magazine: Buy one subscription, get the second one free. Plus, we’ll send your recipients a hand-signed holiday card announcing your gift!

Click Here!

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: | Advertising: | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.