Upon the occasion of the new year, Afghanistan and the United States have yet to nail down a U.S. troop presence beyond 2014, and the American people have concluded that the 12-year-long war in Afghanistan is not only the nation’s longest but also its least popular.
The two data points are linked. Soldiers who think about such things—and most don’t—will acknowledge that long wars and democracies don’t mix.
When the war in Afghanistan began on Oct. 7, 2001, most Pentagon officials said privately that it would be over in a year or two; some estimated six months. Double that duration for Iraq, launched 18 months later on Mar. 19, 2003. The Taliban and Saddam Hussein were ousted shortly after U.S. troops arrived. What did we do following their ouster that has been worth the added cost in U.S. blood and treasure?
Many families of fallen troops feel their loved one died for something, but they’re not sure precisely what. Many don’t think it was to keep their families safe back home, where, statistically speaking, your chance of dying from malaria is greater than being killed in an Islamic terrorist attack. (If you want to believe that it was those very wars that kept attacks so low, welcome to the military-industrial superiority complex.)