I’m pleased an announce a special project for Public Ethics Radio. Christian and I, along with the talented producer Barbara Clare, are in the process of producing a special episode on the war in Afghanistan. The roots of this project are simple: we want to understand the war. As any observer can tell you, this isn’t easy.
My own impression, having loosely followed discussion of the war since its inception, is that Afghanistan has not received nearly the same depth of scholarly attention as the war in Iraq. This is understandable—there was a fairly wide consensus in the early years that the war in Afghanistan was just. It was straightforward self-defense against aggression. This consensus on the rightness of the war endured largely throughout the Bush presidency, but has very publicly begun to erode along with the nascence of “Obama’s war.” Clearly Afghanistan is in a very different state today than it was in 2001. But what is this state? Have the goals that were set out at the time of invasion been met? When would it be appropriate to leave Afghanistan, or ought we to have left already? Are the tactics we employ undermining our successes? Should we be trying to create a new, democratic, right-respecting government in Kabul, or should U.S. and NATO soldiers aim simply to hunt down Al Qaeda and the exporters of international terrorism?
These are just a few of the questions that spring to mind when we contemplate Afghanistan. While we slowly piece together what we hope will be an enlightening show on these questions, we’ll be posting a series of discussions of just war theory as it applies to Afghanistan. The first is a look back at 2001 and the initial discussions of jus ad bellum, or the justice of the resort to war. More will follow shortly. We’ll also post round-ups of good reporting and analysis. Stay tuned.