If the Pope Called for a Christmas Ceasefire in Afghanistan, Could "Ceasefire!" Enter Mainstream Debate?
When the Israeli military sharply escalated its attacks on Gaza and threatened a ground invasion in late October, the demand for ceasefire entered mainstream public and media discourse in relation to the conflict immediately. The same thing happened when the Israeli military attacked Gaza in late 2008, as it did when the Israeli military invaded Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, the demand for ceasefire has never been able to maintain a strong foothold in mainstream public and media discourse. This is particularly striking now that the war has clearly entered its zombie, autopilot phase. Western leaders have largely given up trying to explain or justify why Western troops are still in Afghanistan and why they are still killing and being killed. Why are we there? What do we realistically hope to accomplish through further killing and dying? Who knows? Who cares? We're there today because we were there yesterday. We'll be there tomorrow because we were there today.
Osama bin Laden is dead, but the war in Afghanistan is alive.
Shouldn't Americans of every faith tradition band together to stop the war on Christmas? Let us call on President Obama to announce that on December 24th and 25th, the United States will observe an offensive cease-fire in Afghanistan, and urge others to join the cease-fire, as a goodwill gesture to promote peace talks.
Far from being utopian, I claim that this is a pragmatic political proposal, with little cost and significant potential benefits; indeed, according to recent press reports, a US-initiated Christmas truce would complement peace efforts that the Obama Administration is already pursuing.
The political cost would be negligible. Would Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and John McCain denounce President Obama for announcing that US forces in Afghanistan will stand down to mark the birth of the Prince of Peace? If they did, would anyone take them seriously?
This is a decision that President Obama can make unilaterally as Commander-in-Chief. He does not need the permission of Lindsay Graham, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, or the Washington Post editorial board. If President Obama decides that US forces in Afghanistan will not take offensive military actions on Christmas, so shall it be.
Already, Reuters reports, the Obama Administration is contemplating confidence-building measures to promote peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, including transferring Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo to Afghan government custody and supporting the establishment by the Afghan Taliban of a political office in Qatar for the purpose of participating in peace talks.