Jim Cason: “Don’t Replace Big Wars with Small Ones”

Written by: David Wiley

Primary Source: Africa Militarism Watch

President Obama’s speech on foreign policy last week at West Point succeeded in uniting the Washington Post, NYTimes, and Wall Street Journal in opposing his formulation of a post-Afghanistan foreign policy.  “Ludicrous … uninspiring … disturbing,” said the NYTimes, which went on to back his proposal “to spend spend $5 billion to train and support armies in places like Libya, Mali, Yemen and Somalia to combat terrorists and thereby …to avoid having to use American troops…”  The Washington Post editors accused Obama of the “…binding of U.S. power… at odds with every U.S. president since World War II. In effect, he ruled out interventions to stop genocide or reverse aggression absent a direct threat to the U.S. homeland or a multilateral initiative.”

Contrary to these editors, who appeared to want a more definitively hawkish policy that is quick to respond to perceived compromises of U.S. interests, veteran Africa observer Jim Cason proposes a different perspective to protect long-term U.S. interests as well as those of African nations.

Cason at FCNL argues on 05/29/2014 :

President Barack Obama new vision of the U.S. role in the world offers a shift from fighting large wars in a few places to mounting small scale military engagements in many more countries. I think the president got this new vision half right.

I was glad to hear the president report that U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan will decline to less than 10,000 troops by the end of this year and will come to a complete end by the end of 2016 (although I agree with Jim McGovern’s caveat). “Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came …from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.”

“Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail,” he added. “We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development, sanctions and isolation, appeals to international law, and, if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action.”

The president has been building this argument for several weeks: “Why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous cost to our troops and to our budget. And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?” he asked at a press conference.

We need to speak out loudly in support when we like what the president says. Our voices are especially important now because these reasoned statements have provoked a sustained series of attacks on the president’s foreign policy, first from unnamed spies and administration officials who believe the president’s weak foreign policy is somehow to blame for Russian aggression in the Ukraine and then yesterday from the Washington Post that ran an editorial headlined “President Obama continues his retreat from Afghanistan…” –continue reading–

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David Wiley is Professor Emeritus of Sociology and African Studies at Michigan State University (MSU). He served as director of the African Studies Centers at MSU (1978-2008) and University of Wisconsin-Madison (1972-77). He has worked in Rhodesia and, with research on urban and rural environments, in Zambia, Kenya, and South Africa and participated in the struggles for democracy and majority rule in Southern Africa. He has been President of the national African Studies Association; Vice-Chairperson of the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO; and co-chair and co-founder of the Council of National Title VI Centers and the Association of Concerned Africa Scholars. He is a member of the U.S. Africa Network and has chaired international committees of the National Science Foundation, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Sociological Association. His recent research concerns environmental issues in South Africa, militarism in Africa, and international education in U.S. universities.