The popularity of our war in Afghanistan is heading in the same direction as that enjoyed by the invasion and occupation of Iraq, according to a new poll at the wapo.
A majority of Americans now see the war in Afghanistan as not worth fighting, and just a quarter say more U.S. troops should be sent to the country, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Among all adults, 51 percent now say the war is not worth fighting, up six percentage points since last month and 10 since March. Less than half, 47 percent, say the war is worth its costs. Those strongly opposed (41 percent) outweigh strong proponents (31 percent).
When it comes to the baseline question, 42 percent of Americans say the United States is winning in Afghanistan; about as many, 36 percent, say it is losing.
Plenty of my friends on the conservative side of the aisle still enjoy sneering at me for my long held take on the two wars. I’m one of the often maligned folks who are accused of saying that Afghanistan was “the good war” (it was) and that Iraq was “the bad war.” (It was.) Perhaps the better description, equally often bandied about, was that Afghanistan was the war of necessity and Iraq was the war of choice.
The tragedy of Iraq is drawing to a close, pretty much as predicted, but the future of Afghanistan remains up in the air. Our initial reasons for going in were and remain sound. We were attacked and our best information indicated that we would find our attackers, along with our best opportunity to strike back, in that nation. The then reigning leadership of that country, the Taliban, were given every opportunity to open their doors and work with us to root out the AQ fighters and leaders we sought. They declined the invitation at their own peril.
To this day we are left to wonder how things might have played out if they had decided to cooperate. As detestable as most of us find their policies and practices, the United States would have become a willing partner (and likely financial backer) of the Taliban as we sought out the terrorists. Such is the way that diplomatic beds are made, and everyone winds up sleeping in them eventually.
But they did not and history played out as we saw. So what now? We’ve been there for quite a while, approaching the one decade mark, and Americans are obviously growing weary of the grinding cost and damage. I find myself joining the ranks of those who have lost patience. We may not have found Osama bin Laden, (and who knows if he’s really even still alive?) but we broke the back of their organization, sending them fleeing into mountain caves and disrupting their abilities to plan and conduct terrorist activities. We’ve lost track of how many of them we’ve killed. It may be fair, at this time, to say that we’ve made our point.
The problem is that we were never, ever going to catch or kill all of them, and they remain able to recruit replacements all over the world. It was never the sort of battlefield where we could find an enemy army to defeat in one decisive battle. You don’t defeat an enemy in what is essentially a pre-industrial age country by sending in thousands of missiles to bomb their piles of rubble into smaller piles of rubble.
One of my greatest misgivings about how President Obama would handle this engagement was that he would turn it from a mission of “capture and kill” into some sort of exercise in nation building. The leaders we have found to replace the old government have turned out to be not that much better than their predecessors. I would still support a large surge of troops into the arena if our leaders could assure us that they had some definitive targets which could be taken out with one last, big push. But that doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.
I believe we may have already achieved all we’re going to manage in Afghanistan, and it’s time to start collecting our things and head home. The work which remains in that area seems best left to covert intelligence operations and diplomatic work to either ensure that Pakistan’s nukes remain in stable control or are removed from the board. Special ops can expand their efforts to monitor, track and kill the AQ units and leaders as they are identified. Keeping a huge, standing army there no longer looks productive to me and it’s time to start working on an exit strategy. If President Obama allows this to turn into a lingering effort in the mistaken belief that we can drag Afghanistan kicking and screaming into the 21st century, it’s going to be one more disastrous albatross that he doesn’t need hanging around his collar.