President Donald Trump has been largely silent on the issue of the Afghanistan War, but top advisers are planning to recommend an increase in the number of troops stationed there. Currently, there are 8,400 troops present, and the proposal would increase that number by 3,000-5,000. In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, large majorities agreed that the war in Afghanistan was not only justified, but necessary. In November 2001, 80 percent of people favored the invasion, and in early 2002, several months into the fighting, 93 percent believed it was the right decision to go to war. Only one member of Congress voted against it. A decade and a half later, with the conflict still ongoing, that number dropped to 54 percent, and those who believed it was a mistake had risen from single digits to 42 percent.
Whether or not a majority of people ever believe the conflict should never have happened, the evidence is clear. The Afghanistan War is a failure. It’s time to give up this fight once and for all, and bring everyone home. Re-escalating, as stalwart hawk Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have advocated, will simply waste more blood and resources in a battle that can’t be won.
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As chaos reigns across the Middle East, Americans can rest easy knowing that President Obama is keeping the U.S. from sliding into another quagmire in the region. After all, the president has assured us that there won’t be any boots on the ground in the fight against ISIS.
Of course, this is only true if you don’t count the 5,000 soldiers in Iraq and the 300 soldiers in Syria as being “boots on the ground,” and ignore a military campaign in which several combat deaths have occurred.
Yet the Obama administration continues to deny that this large and increasing American presence in Iraq and Syria counts as a ground force. Pentagon officials have attempted to qualify the president’s previous statements by saying that the Americans who are deployed do not take the lead in combat operations, even though they may find themselves in combat. Of course, such qualifications are only used in instances when government officials aren’t flat-out denying that there ever was a “no boots on the ground” policy in the first place.
Such astonishing word acrobatics and bald-faced lies have sadly come to characterize the Washington foreign policy establishment, also known as “the blob.” They call to mind George Orwell’s famous essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which Orwell argues that “political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.” Because the American public would not be pleased with an honest answer about America’s involvement in the Middle East, the foreign policy elite’s “political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.”
Could you imagine the reaction if the president gave a press conference and admitted that the United States doesn’t have a Middle East policy? If he conceded that the U.S. has squandered thousands of American lives, wasted trillions of dollars, and been directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people? Such an admission is of course inconceivable since it would undermine the “Washington Rules” that are sacrosanct to the D.C. foreign policy establishment.
Thus, it is no surprise that, being unable to freely speak the truth, our elites are left with little more than vaguely chanting—again, and again, and again, and again, and again—about the necessity of American “leadership” all over the world. Yet, for all this talk of leadership, there’s been very little reflection on where the past 15 years of American leadership have gotten the Middle East.
American foreign policy is plagued by words not corresponding to things. Platitudes have taken the place of genuine debate over American national interests. The time has come to reflect on the vocabulary that’s being used by the foreign policy establishment and how closely it corresponds with reality.
Until that reflection takes place, America will continue to be dragged into more and more conflicts in the Middle East and around the globe, all the while insisting that war is peace, freedom is slavery, and U.S. boots on the ground aren’t really U.S. boots on the ground.