"I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him."

This steadfast spiritual resolve from Rev. Martin Luther King was quoted Thursday in President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

Mr. Obama made these remarks earlier in his address.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: It merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaidas leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

I essentially agree with this passage of President Obama’s speech, although the setting is beyond irony.  So, I can support the Afghan military effort in two instances.

My first choice would be to pull all of our conventional troops out of Afghanistan in favor of employing intelligence and special forces for precise strategic strikes against Al Qaeda.  Former CBS news veteran Dan Rather just returned from Afghanistan.  He stated that there are only about 100 Al Qaeda operatives in the country. He acknowledged most of them are in Pakistan. Precision operations would accomplish the stated goal to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat” al Qaeda.  This approach would spare the quantity of American bloodshed and legions of innocent civilian lives, save us billions of dollars which could be used for sorely needed jobs and health care, plus it would create fewer terrorists.

Option two is to admit that empire nations like England, the Soviet Union and America have used Afghanistan as a pawn for several centuries and now we want to make it right with them.  In this case we will likely need 3 or 4 times the conventional troops we are currently sending and about a 25 year commitment.  We could also flood the country with humanitarian aid and organizations. This would provide a safety net for a quasi democratic system to be established and time for sane governmental, educational, judicial and security systems to take root.

Being attentive to the underlying “isness” that will actualize our “eternal oughtness” would mightily minimize the need for any of these options.  As Rev. King highlighted in his Nobel Peace Prize address;

“There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will. The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible.

Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed – not only its symptoms but its basic causes. This, too, will be a fierce struggle, but we must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task.”

Chuck Freeman

Chuck Freeman

Rev. Chuck Freeman has served as Minister of Spiritual Life with Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church in Austin, Texas since 1996. He is the creator, producer and host of the radio program “Soul Talk” in its 14 year of broadcasting. The program currently airs on Progressive Blend Radio based in Washington, D.C. http://www.progressiveblendradio.com/.

Chuck is the Founder and President of The Free Souls Project, promoting the integration of spirituality, democracy and ethics from a liberal faith perspective.
You can hear Chuck’s podcasts at www.freesoulsproject.org or peruse his blog at http://freesoulsproject.ning.com/. He is also a regular author on The Seminal, http://www.theseminal.com/.

His Op Ed Pieces have been published in the Austin American Statesman and with Austin’s NPR affiliate, KUT.

Chuck is a lively, reflective, down to earth man who combines irreverence, compassion, and a playful humor in his life and work.