US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Does bringing home troops mean peace?

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A question came to mind reading reaction to President Obama’s announcement that he’d bring 33,000 troops home from Afghanistan by next year: Are we pro-peace or are we pro-isolationism?

Numerous people have complained that bringing home 33,000 troops by next year is not enough. The general public seems to agree more on wanting out of Afghanistan than they agree on anything else.

Tom Hayden, though, still sees the announcement as a victory for the peace movement. “So I say congratulations to the crazy rainbow of peace networks out there who have fought the last two years to cut funding or force an exit strategy from Afghanistan,” he writes.  

But is forcing an exit strategy mean creating more peace? If it is, the “peace movement” needs to think about how it defines peace.

According to Maryann Cusimano Love (interview in our upcoming September issue), state entities define peace as the absence of conflict. Take our troops out and there’s no conflict—or more accurately, we’re not involved in the conflict. 

But Cusimano Love and her colleagues in the Catholic Peacebuilding Network are working to create a definition and strategy for “just peace,” a peace that is sustainable and focused on the individual and community. All stakeholders must be able to participate, the intention must be for the common good, and reconciliation is key.

To achieve a “just peace” and not just take ourselves out of the conflict, the peace movement needs to think beyond just the removal of troops. 

“Please do not let Afghanistan fall back to the years of civil war, to the years of injustice and inhuman acts against all sectors of society, most especially women. So for once, let’s listen to the women and take their suggestions seriously,” Afghan-American entrepreneur Rangina Hamidi told The PBS Newshour. 

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.


Significantly, Cusimano Love reports that 98 percent of U.N. peace negotiations (which don’t have a great track record) have not involved women. In Hamidi’s opinion, the troop withdrawal should be gradual, but it is a good thing, sending the positive message that Afghans have to reconcile among themselves.

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani administrator and our May interviewee, refers to the power balance in “one of the most important geopolitical areas in terms of its economic needs and foreign policy needs” as the “Great Game.” China, India, and Iran are looking to fill in the vacuum in this region should the United States give up on the game. 

“The American aim should be to remain in the Great Game but to play it differently: This time around not so much with drones and tanks, but scholars and scholarships,” he says.

Bring our troops home? Yes. Call that peace? No. It might not be popular, but we have a responsibility to work with the country we’ve occupied for 10 years to achieve a just peace.

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