Our Longest War
War’s daily reminders continue nudging the American public. It seems as though every day there is an American soldier or government employee who is killed in what has now become America’s Longest War. The war lingers, yet we still refrain from bringing it into the national conversation again.
Recently, an Afghan police officer killed an American in Kabul and American military deaths hit 2,040. Any war should be questioned, no country should ever blindly enter into a conflict, but these deaths, like what have plagued the war, force us to ask if it wise to remain in Afghanistan.
First, we must define what the war’s original intent. As most know, the invasion of Afghanistan occurred because of the September 11 attacks (i.e. the terrorists responsible were based in Afghanistan). Is this a legitimate basis for a war? Certainly. Let us then move through the other elements of the war, and question them.
Was the war fought in a proper manner? After the initial invasion, the coalition forces steadily engaged the Taliban throughout Afghanistan. In early 2002, the insurgency began, and continues to this day. Throughout this insurgency, the coalition forces (apart from American troops, including Britons, Germans, Canadians, the Dutch, and others) concerned themselves not with destroying the enemy, but with building up Afghanistan’s military and government. Ah, now we see a problem.
We must ask, then, why does our military and government consider these effective and acceptable policies? Perhaps it is history or custom. But “habit” might be a better word. Throughout recent history, it has been the policies of the American government to build up other nations. This policy can be seen throughout the world, including Cuba, South Vietnam, and the Philippines. In Vietnam, a country and war similar to Afghanistan, this American building up policy failed miserably. Millions of dollars were put into a war fought wrongly and into a corrupt government. Similarly, our government continues to pour money into the Afghan war and government. The war’s strategy is not smashing the enemy and leaving, but building up a good democracy to continue the fight. Perhaps this idea appears good in the foggy realms of theory and calculations, but the method continually fails reality’s test. The overall philosophy, apart from sounding rather global and responsible, seems very idealistic. Instead of simply attacking the enemies who attacked us, our government and military shall invade and establish a friendship with the “good guys.” Subsequent to the invasion, the American and “friendly” forces work in cooperation, helping and learning from each other. Meanwhile, members of the American government work with the new, democratically elected government, showing them how to be a good democracy. The more we examine this, the more it looks to be some utopian dream, conceived by Peace Corps-loving Cold War bureaucrats.
There is another angle that we may look at the government’s policy. This massive dumping of resources into a foreign country, that has done nothing to deserve them (though no country ever should), appears much like welfare. There really are no conditions and the aid continues even if the enemy grows stronger—the aid might even increase. So, we must ask ourselves as a nation, why we are sending military and governmental welfare to any nation, not even taking the receivers into account.
But there is something more than just the situation’s abstracts and the absolutes. Even though these matters are still of vital and central importance, one cannot forget the relative situation (i.e. this war’s unique characteristics). The war the United States was pulled into is different than what our nation has fought in the past. Where the World Wars, Korea, and the Gulf War were concerned with territory, this brave new world of terrorism is only minimally concerned with territory. It is a fact that Islamic terrorists have footholds around the globe, even in our own country. It is imperative that the United States cast off its old mentalities from World War II. The war is no longer about getting to Berlin or island hopping to Japan. Therefore, is it even wise to remain in Afghanistan? I am not suggesting that it was not prudent, in 2001, to take military action those who attacked our nation, but asking a necessary question. Our military has been in Afghanistan for over ten years now, are to believe that the enemy has not slipped out already? The border with Pakistan is especially porous. After all, Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan and Pakistan airlifted important Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders and fighters in late 2001.
The solution to much of this appears to be a withdrawal from Afghanistan. I see no rational benefit in keeping our soldiers in harm’s way, in a place where the overall strategy is flawed and the chances of victory do not exist. Although there must be a greater change inWashington. The government must abandon its ideas of nation building and instead realize the cold reality. But above all, we cannot be reckless. For, when Washington is normally reckless, it is only tax dollars—robbed wholesale from the American people—that are wasted. Though, with war and foreign policy, lives of our fellow men are lost. We have experienced this lesson far too often to not realize it.