Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
I don’t consider myself a pacifist by any means. I believe that a nation must have the will and the means to protect themselves from those who intend to do them harm. The fact is there are a growing number of fanatical organisations and rogue states with negative intent. So we should be ready and prepared to both defend and, where warranted, preempt any hostile threat with all our commitment and skill.
But I am a also a realist and I believe in facing facts and fixing problems, not just “kicking the can down the road” for someone else to solve at a later date. So, let me lay out my solution and the facts as I see them.
We would save hundreds of lives and we could use the billions spent in Afghanistan here at home to fix our own economic challenges. Why does Mr. Fixit propose such a finite step?
Here’s how I see it:
- This is not a winnable war. Ask the Russians about their Afghanistan “experience”. Then look through history and you will see that nearly every outside force trying to invade or conquer the region has come to the same bloody conclusion.
- It has been 12 years since the US and Allied invasion of Afghanistan and the US death toll alone has passed 2,000, with nearly 500 UK military deaths. And the civilian casualties, an unfortunate result of any war, are estimated at well over 12,000 between 2007 and 2011, not to mention several thousand Afghanistan army and police killed in action or by terrorist suicide bombers.
- Currently the war in Afghanistan has cost the US taxpayer over $600 Billion since 2001 ($1.4 trillion if you include Iraq), with UK taxpayers footing a bill of nearly £12 billion. I expect there are many more hidden costs not reported, like soldier salaries, medical rehabilitation for the wounded, financing of Special Operations, etc.
- There is a growing number of US and UK military deaths as a result of murder by “friendly” Afghanistan soldiers and police. The people we are training and trying to help are shooting our own troops in cold blood. Recently a young lieutenant was shot dead while coaching a soccer game of Afghanistan boys. Green on Blue deaths are rising at an alarming rate. According to one Afghan military official, “I understand why our men are shooting U.S. and NATO soldiers,” the Afghan National Army officer tells Newsweek. “I too have been personally hurt by the way American forces behave towards my soldiers, our villagers, our religion and culture. Too many of them are racist, arrogant, and simply don’t respect us.”
- And I understand why US and Allied troops behave this way. They are deeply frustrated with a war that is unpopular, unwinnable, and with lopsided rules of engagement that seem to favour the terrorists, who don’t fight by any rules of engagement other than murder and blowing up innocent civilians and shooting soldiers on soccer fields.
- Let’s fact the fact that the Afghan people don’t want us there. And the longer we stay the less resolve they have for solving their own problems. It’s time they decided their own fate.
- We are there for two reasons. The official one to eliminate the Taliban and Al Queda terror organisations and to help prepare the country for freedom and democracy. The other reason is to eradicate the drug trade (opium and heroin). Neither of these are winnable with the current strategies.
- A great amount of the taxpayer money sent to Afghanistan (estimates of around $60 billion) winds up missing and ultimately in the pockets of Afghan officials or used by the insurgents. I hesitate to think how much Hamid Karzai and his cronies have stashed away in Swiss and Saudi bank accounts. The financial aid sent to the region certainly isn’t being used in rebuilding infrastructure.
- Those Afghans we are training are loyal soldiers by day and terrorists by night. Reminds me of Vietnam all over again and we know how that ended.
- There are far more cost effective ways to deal with terrorist groups and bad guys. The special forces units and drones are far more effective and economical at eliminating terrorist targets than thousands of troops patrolling dusty streets in Hummers and Armoured Vehicles, perfect targets for snipers and IED roadside bombs.
I don’t believe that at this time, with the current economic disaster in both the US and UK, that we should be acting as the “world’s policemen”. Sure we should do what is needed to protect ourselves and eliminate the threat, and judicious use of technology monitoring, drones and Special Operations seem to be far more effective. In reality, little of Afghanistan’s future will be determined by current military operations. So why then should Americans, Brits or Afghans continue to die needlessly?
Let’s put those billions, and those young men and women, to work at home to rebuild the economy, pay down the national debt, and once again become a positive beacon of peace and prosperity for the world. Unfortunately, too many people around the world now hate the US and see her as a warmonger. It’s time to be a peace and prosperity monger, and we can only do that by fixing our own problems first.
John R Childress