(This is my weekly PolicyMic column)
Over the weekend, 30 U.S. forces and 8 Afghan Army forces were killed in Afghanistan when insurgents shot down an American helicopter. This also was the single deadliest day to date for the U.S. military since the initial October 2001 invasion. As the cost and casualties continue to rise, isn’t it time to finally end the decade-long war in Afghanistan?
Mission creep has set in. At first, the Afghan War was about defeating Al-Qaeda. Now that there aren’t any Al-Qaeda fighters left in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is using “human rights” and nation-building as an excuse to stay. Wars with no definable end — or ends that change with great frequency — are a recipe for disaster.
Even the former top commanders in Afghanistan can’t agree. Last year, former Afghan General Stanley McChrystal, in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, remarked, “for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.” Insurgent math, he calls it, which is counterproductive at best, suicidal at worst. Soon after, General David Petraeus claimed that the U.S. had reversed and debilitated the Taliban’s momentum. Tell that to the mothers of those 30 U.S. soldiers.
According to McClatchy, the U.S. is now facing a similar situation to the Soviets in the 1980’s: a population that supports the insurgency; anger over civilian killings by drone-bombings; and an expensive, high-tech military machine that is vulnerable to decentralized, guerilla tactics.
Besides the futility of subduing a country that has never been conquered, multiple scandals and corruption plague the Afghan War. There have been multiple high-profile attacks by insurgents and assassinations of Afghan officials. U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for Pashtun pedophilia, opium production, and crooked Afghan politicians. Contractors, too, are making a killing — so to speak — at the taxpayer’s expense in the classic corporatist rip-offs that always accompany war.
And although they rarely get mentioned in the media, thousands of innocent Afghan civilians have been killed, maimed, or displaced as a consequence of the U.S. invasion.
Despite all of these — let’s call them “setbacks” — in the Afghan War, the laptop imperialists in the Beltway and White House policymakers want none of the uneasiness that many in Congress and in the public have over the war and foreign interventionism. The Obama administration is claiming that any proposed cuts to the Pentagon’s $1.2 trillion a year budget — and the inevitable cuts to the Afghan war budget that cuts would contain — is a “doomsday scenario.” Building bridges and schools in Kansas instead of Kandahar is just so “isolationist!”
This is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the budget and debt talks. Obama and leaders in Congress would rather cut Social Security and Medicare than wave the entitlements of empire goodbye.
Social welfare entitlement programs have contributed heavily to our fiscal mess, but even the more principled Tea Party wing of the GOP understands that cutting the military budget is necessary.
Reassessing our interventionist foreign policy is also essential if we are ever going to seriously balance the budget and will also help us better deal with the problems that Social Security and Medicare have caused. Ending the expensive, costly, and counterproductive war in Afghanistan would be a good start.