The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for 17 years, the longest war in our nation’s history. Yet the Taliban, our adversary, is stronger than it’s ever been since the American invasion. By now it’s clear to all but those wearing rose-colored glasses that America has lost another war. It just refuses to admit it. So it will spend billions more and suffer who knows how many more casualties before eventually conceding defeat. Just like Vietnam (although with fewer American casualties).
I’m constantly surprised by how little many of my fellow Americans are bothered by such massive squandering of life and treasure. And how accepting they are of war. Yet I suspect this isn’t a new phenomenon. Roman and English citizens felt much the same way. It seems to be a common trait among empires.
The U.S. has benefited economically from the exercise of military might around the world. But not always.
We spent over $2.5 trillion and incurred over 36,000 casualties in Iraq and the principal geopolitical outcome was the strengthening of Iran’s influence in the region.
Many Americans went to Southeast Asia to fight the Vietnamese but 58,220 didn’t come home alive. And we ended up fleeing in helicopters to the safety of aircraft carriers, with our tails between our legs.
We overplayed our hand in Korean in the 1950s and ended up not only with a costly stalemate that has persisted for over half a century but also with an adversary that now possesses nuclear bombs that could obliterate entire U.S. cities.
Yet America still clings to the idea that war is the solution. And is quick to fall in line anytime a president calls the nation to arms, whether or not the nation is actually threatened.
Perhaps none of this should be surprising considering we’re a country that killed off 2 percent of its own population — more than 620,000 people — in a bloody civil war. That’s not unusual, of course. History is replete with civil wars, many of which were far deadlier and longer than the one in America.
“Live by the sword, die by the sword.” It’s a proverb that goes back to ancient Greece. I wonder if it will be America’s destiny.
I hope not, Vera. I hope with all my heart and soul that you will grow up and live during a period of peace and prosperity. That you will have a good life. And not have to bear witness to the cruelty and banality of war. I hope.
Yet I am not blind to history. Or blind to the dispositions and ambitions of men.
I don’t understand. I probably never will. All the senseless killing. The brutality. The needless suffering.
But apparently it is whom we are. As a species. It is as if we have no choice in the matter.
Can we change it? There is no evidence to suggest we can.
So what is one to do?
We can refuse to participate.
We can be peacemakers.
We can work to eliminate or at least ameliorate the forces that stir the winds of war.
We can refuse to succumb to the temptation of dominance and control.
We can build and maintain an alternative societal model that embodies values and principles antithetical to the premises of fascism and totalitarianism.
There is much we can do.
Can our efforts succeed? Might Afghanistan be the last war we lose? The last war we fight?
That’s unlikely. Perhaps impossible.
But is it not worth the effort?
I suspect I am no different from most parents and grandparents when I say, it most certainly is.
No one wants to bury their child. Or grandchild. Or to be the cause of any other parent or grandparent’s grief. Especially when the death was avoidable. And senseless.
I dream of the day humankind comes to its senses and understands war is not inevitable. That it’s a choice.
I hope you see that day, Vera.