In this holiday season, as Christians all over the world remember the advent and the birth of their Messiah, it is appropriate to look at these words of Jesus the Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, from the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God."
In one of the many tributes to diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who recently died on the job, a news writer commented that he was deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in bringing the conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo to an end. Holbrooke was mightily engaged in another "near-impossible" task this year as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. His last words before his final 20-hour surgery - to his Pakistani surgeon - were about ending the war over there.
Yesterday the President reported to the nation on the state of the Afghanistan War effort. And yesterday 135 protesters, organized by Veterans For Peace, were arrested in front of the White House for "disobeying lawful orders" at the gates.
The history of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York and our Nation's response to that attack, directed from Afghanistan, is now nine years old. The embattled history of this primitive country, termed "The Graveyard of Empires" with British, Soviet, and American occupiers, goes back more than a century. Unravelling the adventurers, the conquerors, and the retaliators is not simple. But today the simple question has become "Is the current Afghan Conflict now a vital interest for America - for which we must sacrifice thousands of additional lives and hundreds of billions in treasure, years into the future?"
As a veteran of 17 years of naval service, I have concluded that it is not, not any longer. This is instead a time for diplomats of Richard Holbrooke's caliber. It is a time for Peace-makers. Whether or not the Afghans can govern themselves, we can defend our national interests adequately without occupying Afghanistan beyond 2011. This will be ten years after our retaliation against al Qaida and the Taliban who gave them shelter.