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We were told by President Bush that we should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and because he was in cahoots with al Qaeda in the 9/11 attack. Besides, Saddam was a bad guy. Okay, at least he got the bad guy thing right. So we attacked a nation that had done us no harm. In fact, they had been our ally just 20 years earlier.
Before that we invaded Afghanistan. At the time I thought about the British, who tried to subdue that country (1839-1842) and were humiliated, with thousands of British killed. A hundred years later the Soviets tried to subdue Afghanistan and gave up after ten years of frustration, death and enormous expense. How is it that our leaders didn’t see the pattern? How is it that they still don’t?
We were told the invasion of Afghanistan was to go after (i.e. kill) the al Qaeda members hiding there, plus to deny al Qaeda safe haven – as though preventing their use of that geography would somehow prevent any further al Qaeda training for attacks on America. Then the purpose was somehow stretched to include driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan, or at least removing them from power. We weren’t given much of a reason for the stretch; the goal posts were just moved to include waging war against people who had not attacked us. It was the same song as with Iraq a couple of years later, including that they had been our ally just a few years earlier.
Afghanistan is a country that has never had a strong central government and which was mostly a bunch of tribal clans within Afghanistan’s geographical borders. Oddly, after deciding that we were going to drive the Taliban from power we once again adjusted our purpose for making war there to include planting a national democracy. What could possibly go wrong with that? Oh wait – that’s exactly where and how we failed in Iraq.
President Obama campaigned in 2007-2008 promising to end the war in Iraq. At least most of our troops were withdrawn, but we left behind the chaos that the world continues to deal with now. Then we were going to have all of our troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. That didn’t happen and now the President has informed us that not only will at least 5,500 troops remain in Afghanistan through the end of his second term in office, but that he will be leaving the entire mess for the next president.
What remains perfectly opaque is the reason that the U.S. should have any troops in Afghanistan. What is the compelling national security purpose of putting our troops at risk, such that some number of them will be killed and about 8 times as many will be wounded? How are we better off by intervening in that country, killing some of its people and continuing to be the chief recruiter for yet more angry Islamists to want to attack the U.S.? What is the return on our investment of trillions of dollars?
Somebody please tell me why we should continue to be at war in Afghanistan.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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