Somehow our leading representative of the anti-anti-McGovern coalition failed to link to this Washington Post op-ed (H/T Lee McCracken), in which the ex-Senator pleads with our new President to hold off on his promise to use the U.S. military to remedy things in Afghanistan:
I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East — our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel — that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere. We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment.
And what to do then? McGovern goes on:
As you have noted, Mr. President, we take pride in our soldiers who conduct themselves bravely. But as you have also said, some of these soldiers have served two, three and even four tours in dangerous combat. Many of them have come home with enduring brain and nerve damage and without arms and legs. These troops need rest, rehabilitation and reunions with their families.
So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war — unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?
During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in Afghanistan and other poor countries. Such a program is now underway in several countries approved by Congress and the United Nations, under the auspices of the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Act. (Forgive the self-serving title.) Although the measure remains painfully underfunded, with the help of other countries, we are reaching millions of children. We could supplement these efforts with nutritional packages for low-income pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants from birth through the age of 5, as is done here at home by WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Is this proposal pie-in-the-sky? I don’t think so. It’s food in the stomachs of hungry kids. It would draw them to school and enable them to learn and grow into better citizens. It would cost a small fraction of warfare’s cost, but it might well be a stronger antidote to terrorism. There will always be time for another war. But hunger can’t wait.
A tad idealistic? Perhaps, but then again so is the notion that the American military can succeed in a region where those of so many other great powers have failed so miserably. In any case, the whole thing is worth reading, and while McGovern’s talk of “sending our youth into needless conflicts that weaken us at home and abroad, and may even weaken us in the eyes of God” doesn’t quite rise to the level of the famous “damnable war” speech that Dan excerpted in his essay, it’s certainly the sort of rhetoric that American conservatives could do with a bit more of.