'Engagement over escalation': Black critical of Afghanistan war expansion
Written by staff reports
December 2, 2009

The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, the UCC's general minister and president, today released a statement critical of President Obama's decision to dramatically escalate troop levels in Afghanistan.

On Dec. 1, speaking at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., Obama announced that 30,000 additional troops, as well as 4,000 trainers, will be deployed to fight in the eight-year war.

"Many are concerned that a strategy relying so heavily on military escalation will not achieve the lasting peace that we are called to seek," Black said in a written statement. "An approach that more heavily invests in developmental efforts that will address the root causes of violence, corruption, poverty and injustice, and provide leadership for intensified regional diplomacy seems a more promising path to the de-escalation and eventual ceasefire of this long and deadly conflict."

Black also expressed concern for military families, saying the escalation "asks far too much of our already strained military forces at this time."

The Administration should change its strategy from "winning the war" to "finishing the job," Black said, by placing renewed emphasis on "engagement over escalation." He urged the need to address the "root causes of violence" that plague the Afghan people, such as poverty, corruption and injustice.  

The full text of Black's statement follows:

The United Church of Christ has a long commitment to advocating for just and sustainable peace. Many are concerned that a strategy relying so heavily on military escalation will not achieve the lasting peace that we are called to seek. An approach that more heavily invests in developmental efforts that will address the root causes of violence, corruption, poverty and injustice, and provide leadership for intensified regional diplomacy seems a more promising path to the de-escalation and eventual ceasefire of this long and deadly conflict. While we know that an escalation of troops to the level of 30,000 would come at an additional cost of some $30 billion to U.S. taxpayers, the cost borne by men and women serving in the military, and their families, is immeasurable. Such a commitment asks far too much of our already strained military forces at this time.

The war in Afghanistan is well on its way to surpassing the Revolutionary War as the second-longest war in U.S. history, second only to Vietnam. Instead of escalating and prolonging U.S. involvement, a change of strategy from 'winning the war' to 'finishing the job' would place renewed emphasis on engagement over escalation. Serious concerns have been raised about corruption during the recent Afghan election and in the trustworthiness of the Karzai government. These concerns offer legitimate reasons to question any expansion of U.S. military involvement in this insurgent and likely un-winnable war.

Although the President's pledge to begin a drawdown of forces in 2011 is promising, a U.S. plan for withdrawal needs real timelines that will hold the Afghan government accountable and assure the Afghan people that our military does not intend to stay in their country indefinitely.

The members and congregations of the United Church of Christ offer our continued prayers for all affected by this prolonged war, especially members of the U.S. military, their families, and the people of Afghanistan.

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Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3801
guessb@ucc.org