Brett Wilkins Economy Forever Wars International Military Politics

Anti-War Voices Say Afghanistan Shows Need to Stop Any Further March to War

Peace advocates emphasized the imperative to pursue diplomatic over military solutions to regional problems.
U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan
U.S. Soldiers depart Forward Operating Base Baylough, Afghanistan on June 16, 2010, to conduct a patrol. (DoD photo by Staff Sgt. William Tremblay, U.S. Army/Released)

By Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams

Amid the lightning collapse of Afghanistan’s U.S.-backed government and the all-but-certain return of Taliban rule, anti-war activists on Monday stressed that diplomacy, not bombs or the military-industrial complex, is the only path to lasting peace.

The stunning but predictable Taliban reconquest of Afghanistan marks the end of the nearly 20-year U.S.-led war that cost the lives of more than 200,000 Afghans, displaced over five million more, and diverted at least $2 trillion in American taxpayer funds that progressive critics said could have been better spent on programs of domestic and international social uplift and well-being.

As the war ends where it began—with the Taliban in control of most of Afghanistan—the prospect of the country becoming a so-called “failed state” and haven for militant groups like al-Qaeda has prompted numerous observers to speculate that U.S. troops will return, and not just in the “over-the-horizon” operational capacity touted by President Joe Biden and Pentagon brass.

Peace advocates, however, emphasized the imperative to pursue diplomatic over military solutions to regional problems, with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)—the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization for the invasion of Afghanistan and so-called War on Terror—asserting that “there has never been, and will never be, a U.S. military solution in Afghanistan.”

Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War, said in a weekend statement that “the United States can best help mitigate violence today not with bombs, but with diplomacy, and by supporting efforts to build peace.”

“Nearly two decades of military intervention and occupation did not build lasting peace,” said Miles. “No number of bombs dropped, no length of time occupied, would have.”

“Our responsibility toward Afghanistan does not end with the end of our military occupation,” Miles added. “Just the opposite: Only now that we may finally recognize the failure of the war-first approach can we fully start down the long, difficult path of peace.”

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the women-led peace group CodePink, demanded accountability for “those responsible for 20 years of epic failure,” while warning that “now we have to stop the military-industrial complex from dragging us into new wars.”

Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore echoed Benjamin’s call to slash U.S. military spending, tweeting: “Defund the military-industrial complex (increase funding for veterans!), defund the NSA, defund Homeland Security.”

Warren Gunnels, staff director for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), argued that “the only thing that we ‘accomplished’ by going into Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan was to put trillions of taxpayer dollars into the military-industrial complex and destroy millions of lives—period, full stop.”

“It’s time to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again,” Gunnels asserted.

Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director of the racial and economic justice group Project South, tweeted that it “should be clear by this point that the only ones who benefited from the U.S. war on Afghanistan were war-profiteering politicians and corporations while countless lives were destroyed.”

“Remember this,” added Shahshahani, “the next time the U.S. war machine is pushing for yet another invasion.”


  1. I was infantry with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam in 1967-8. Exactly 14 days before my arrival I’d turned 18. I was a part of an “Emergency Levy” aboard a Boeing 707 stuffed with never again to be Screaming Eagles. Two hours before we’d been camping out in an Kentucky ice storm sleeping in shelter halves and playing war games during the day humping M-14s. We got airborne sporting jungle fatigues, jungle boots and M-16s. 27 hours later we’d arrive at the other side of the world and drop into a deep dark hole.
    Gullible enough to listen to my elders about the Mighty Reds out to rule the world, my experiences ripped my heart out. We lost the war because we couldn’t win–had no right to win–and the natives won because they couldn’t lose. Like Fossil Fuel Man and Consumers, warriors are obsolete. Ever notice how everybody starts their war in the name of God? Nobody ever starts a war in the name of Satan. You can guess why

  2. There being such shock, confusion, disbelief and patriotic nicety on the one hand, and gull patriotic credulity on the other, I intend to offer other reasons for the collapse of Afghanistan… and perhaps America as well. To complain that the Afghans wouldn’t fight for their country is a bit delusional.

    Afghanistan is not a country, but lines on paper, first drawn, I suppose, by the English imperialists. Afghanistan is, rather a steaming tribal cluster. It’s government can only be shadow, at best. The best they could do, in terms of control (for better or worse), would seem to be a religious autocracy.
    If America was not wrong for going in initially, it certified failure by diverting resources to Iraq (and on top of that was itching and scheming to have at Iran as well). In this arena, the crazies of the Bush / Cheney administration were far worse than Trump, or anything else in American history.
    The war pitted Afghans fighting like Afghans versus Afghans fighting like Americans, with American arms and support – on paper, no small advantage. But In Afghanistan. Home field advantage to the Taliban.
    The Americans pile in and take over and take charge, putting their hosts in a position of (material and) psychological dependence, like the father / son relationship. It’s inhibiting and crippling, and can be shaken off only through some form of violence. The Americans quit first, you know… daddy going, going, gone, the sons reacted as might have been expected.
    Finally, hierarchy (especially military) and hubris (especially American) fix it such than warnings and bad news go uncommunicated (this runs throughout the system). The ease and comfort of those on top are priority… under these circumstances (and in a place like Afghanistan) you’re going to get a good few surprises. Big ripe ones. That for some reason are inexplicable.
    America never really had a chance. Yet I hear so much about Afghan corruption.

  3. The people should try something different going forward: defund the millionaires in the peace movement to actually allow peace to break out and prevent future violence from occuring.

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