The Exhaustion Of Doing Nothing About The War In Afghanistan
The United States did not just stumble into Afghanistan. George W. Bush's senior advisors were not unaware that the country bares its cruelly mountainous terrain like jagged teeth, nor that even native Afghans are severely limited in what they can navigate in their own country.
We went in decisively without a care about whether we'd ever come out. That was not the point. Of course Afghanistan was going to be a quagmire. These days, America seems to like it that way.
As we head into our tenth year occupying the precariously positioned state, neither force nor diplomacy has achieved much in the way of making anything safe for democracy, eliminating terrorism, stabilizing the region, or, God forbid, finding Osama bin Laden.
The American taxpayer has spent more than $200 billion in Afghanistan, though at this point these astronomical sums mean little to the public. With $700 billion bailouts being thrown around with little accountability, who's really counting anyway?
We're in Afghanistan these days not because the Taliban (or is it al-Qaeda?) harbored bin Laden after 9/11 or because the country really has all that much to do with terrorism (if it ever did). We're there because it's exactly the kind of thing America does these days.
We find places to deploy our troops, our missiles, our attention, our private contractors. We go to war and stay that way. We occupy. We intimidate and kill not just because it enriches some of our largest corporations to do so, but also because we don't know what else to do. We may not make that many cars these days, but we can still make war.
This is not to say that many Americans aren't troubled by our abject failure in Afghanistan, coupled with our abject failure in Iraq. This includes our President, Barack Obama. His now-famous "I'm done doing this!" quote, documented by Bob Woodward in "Obama's Wars," reflects the frustration of a leader grown exhausted with the suck of endless war.
But, like it or not (and who likes a perpetual state of not winning?), the United States has become addicted to creating and maintaining quagmires around the world. We can't help but make nasty, expensive messes, make money partially cleaning them up, and then make another mess. Perhaps this is life as the world's sole superpower?
It's not like all Americans want the country to go to war. We've got a whole lot of non-violent people here, and many have been willing to publicly say that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are a bad idea. But when was the last time you saw a big group of people get really angry about the fact that both happened anyway, and they're both still happening? Are we afraid of what will happen if we get angry, or if we don't flex the military's muscles every chance we get?
It's an exhausting mix of fear and confusion.
That is the legacy of nine years and counting in Afghanistan: we're too tired of not winning - of hearing about some amorphous War on Terror, of hundreds and thousands of troops and civilians dying in wars that can apparently never be won - to be angry.
The scary part is that we've come to accept that this is just the kind of thing America does. And worse, that it doesn't have all that much to do with us.
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