FIRST THINGS February2013
AFGHANISTAN, JUSTICE, AND WAR
Paul D. Miller outlines a moral rationale for staying in Afghanistan.
fghanistan is a just war, and a just victory requires the re-
construction of the country. So I have argued for more than ten years with friends, family, and colleagues. My belief in its justice led me to fight in it as a soldier with the U.S. Army in 2002, study the region as an intelligence analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency, and advise two presidents on its conduct as director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council staff.
After the attacks of 9/11, few needed convincing. The initial campaign to overthrow the Taliban, who chose to harbor and protect al-Qaeda, was plainly justified self-defense. The Taliban refused to hand over members of Paul D. Miller is assistant professor of international security affairs at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. The views expressed here are his own.
AFGHANISTAN, JUSTICE, AND WAR
al-Qaeda and thereby became active abettors of the terrorists' aggression. But even then I felt that defending ourselves was not the end of the matter. Justice involves more than overthrowing the Taliban and getting Osama bin Laden.
Even after our success in removing the Taliban and killing Osama bin Laden, the war still can be justified as self-defense: of ourselves, our allies, and the global liberal order. It can also be justified as the requirement oí jus post bellum, our duty to establish a lasting peace that we incurred following the initial invasion and overthrow of the Taliban government. Finally, it can be justified as a defense of the op- pressed, punishment of the wicked, and restoration of the moral order. This is not a call for an American empire. The United States cannot simply provide or- der unilaterally-if we could, we would be a world government. Nor am I echoing the realists' call to sustain American hegemony for its own sake. It is not realpolitik that should drive American policymakers to sustain American hegemony, but moral duty.
The Taliban retain ties to al-Qaeda andhave consistently refused, even today, tosever their relationship with or denouncethe group. If the Taliban retake power inAfghanistan, they are likely to invite or tacitly permit al-Qaeda or like-minded groups to re- establish a presence in Afghanistan, an outcome that surely will threaten the safety of Americans.
A number of foreign policy experts disagree. Some believe al-Qaeda has been effectively defeated, others that the Taliban are unlikely to allow the group back into Afghanistan. Perhaps, but we must not adopt an overly narrow understanding of self-defense. All acknowledge that the Taliban pose a direct threat to the current government of Afghanistan and that we should share in its entirely just desire to defend itself. Our government has made repeated and ex- plicit promises to the Afghans that we will help them defend their country, most recently by...