Veterans of the United States military say that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a waste of time and not worth fighting, joining the consensus of the greater American public, says an article (“Most Veterans Say America’s Wars Are a Waste. No One’s Listening to Them;” July 12, 2019) in The New Republic, by Scott Weinstein, who writes:
The “Long War” that began on September 11, 2001, added to veterans’ already-outsize role in the American narrative. Worship of military service has become an indispensable cog in every politician’s and corporation’s endearment strategy. But on the actual subject of war, almost no one in mainstream politics is actually listening to “the troops.”
That’s the main takeaway from the Pew Research Center’s latest rolling poll of U.S. veterans, published Thursday, in which solid majorities of former troops said the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria were not worth fighting. The gaps between approval and disapproval were not even close to the poll’s 3.9 percent margin of error; barely a third of veterans considered any of those conflicts worthwhile:
Among veterans, 64% say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States, while 33% say it was. The general public’s views are nearly identical: 62% of Americans overall say the Iraq War wasn’t worth it and 32% say it was. Similarly, majorities of both veterans (58%) and the public (59%) say the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting. About four-in-ten or fewer say it was worth fighting.Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars. And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.
The only meaningful variation pollsters found among vets was by party identification: Republican-identifying veterans were likelier to approve of the wars. But even a majority of those GOP vets now say the wars were not worth waging.And, yet, the politicians in Congress, with the exception of Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq veteran, have thus far failed to heed either the troops or the general public, still stuck in their war machine.What will it take to think in a different way? Body counts and images of dead bodies do not seem to matter. To tell you the truth, I am not sure what will move the hearts of politicians.
How about the fact that the American defense budget is unsustainable? In an article (“America’s Indefensible Defense Budget;” July 18, 2019), in The New York Review of Books, Jessica T. Matthews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace from 1997 until 2015 and is now a distinguished fellow, writes that 60 percent of the federal budget’s discretionary spending (or unrestricted funds) is allocated to defense.
If the United States faced acute threats, allocating 60 percent of the government’s unrestricted funds to defense might be necessary. We do not, but we still spend more on defense than the next eight largest spenders combined—China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain, Germany, and Japan—and four of those countries are treaty allies. The disproportion has held for decades.This means much less money for everything else. That means taking money away from badly needed domestic programs.This is what happens when you have decades of war; war becomes normalized and itself becomes a justification, as does funding the military programs to sustain. And what about the successes, you ask. Well, there is not much to write about or boast about, Matthews notes:
During this nearly thirty years of sweeping diplomatic withdrawal, America has been engaged in conflict for all but a few months. It has undertaken nine large-scale military actions, including three of the five major wars it has fought since 1945. Of these, the brief Gulf War of 1990–1991 was a clear success. The war of choice in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake. The now eighteen-year-long war in Afghanistan will almost certainly end in failure—if we can ever bring ourselves to let it end. Afghanistan is the longest war in American history and, with Iraq, the most expensive (in real dollars). We have spent more on reconstruction there than we did on the Marshall Plan (again, in inflation-adjusted dollars), with almost nothing to show for it.
This is a sobering thought, or I hope that it is. What a waste of money; what a waste of human effort; what a waste of human lives. And for what? To show and prove America’s military might, which then ratchets up the need for other nations to imitate it. It’s a race to the bottom, where brutality, cruelty and inhumanity are seen as virtues, wrapped up in religion, flag and country. I would say, that war might be the most evil invention of humankind. War is a crime against humanity, since its powers to harm are phenomenally great. Its effects are immediate, long-term and universal.
It touches the physical, social, emotional and psychological person in a way that exceeds our understanding. It wreaks misery on individuals and families. Its total costs are incalculable, and I am not here talking only monetary. Have there really been any “good” wars? Isn't it true and factual that one war lead to another and so forth in a never-ending cycle of wars, conflicts, violence? There is really no moral justification for war.
A leader, particularly of a powerful nation, ought to think gravely about such things before signing the executive order for war. One would hope that he would also ask himself, with a clear and honest conscience: What will this war, for the most part, accomplish? If it is to bring unwanted death and misery to millions of people, he should consider other more humane options.
For more on this article, go to [TNR]
For more of my views of war, from 2010, go [here]