Afghanistan: Spending For What?


The Republican-controlled House voted 321-93 against a resolution calling for an Afghanistan troop withdrawal and a reduction in our wasteful federal spending. Only 8 Republicans voted to cut the budget by reducing discretionary appropriations for that optional war.

Has the conflict in Afghanistan become a permanent part of our budget? Do we plan to fight there forever? What is our goal in that mountainous landlocked Asian state?

Are we there to find Osama bin Laden and those involved in 911? That would be acceptable, if they were still alive, and we knew where they were. After 10 years of searching, perhaps it is time to give that approach a rest. It hasn’t worked.

I hope our goal is not to change their religion. 99% of Afghans were Muslim when President Bush invaded, and nothing our military has done, or will do, will ever change that. We cannot prohibit the use the Koran. We can’t stop Mullahs from interpreting Islamic law. We cannot change their culture by force.

Russia tried to promote a secular government, but the Muslims revolted. The Soviets invaded, because they feared an Islamic regime, like the one that emerged in neighboring Iran (1979). For 10 years, the Mujahedeen waged a guerilla war against 115,000 Russian troops, until Gorbachev finally gave up (1989). In the civil war that followed, the Mujahedeen, later known as the Taliban, ousted the secular government (1992). After more bloodshed, they imposed a harsh Islamic theology (1996). The Soviet effort made the question of religion worse, not better.

Is our goal is to create permanent bases? That isn’t going to work. Afghanistan has a long history of resisting foreign intervention. British troops tried to occupy Afghanistan in the 19th Century, but they were massacred in Kabul and eventually gave up.

I hope our objective is not to starve out our perceived enemies with sanctions. Following the 1998 bombings against U.S. embassies in Africa, President Clinton launched air strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Afghanistan in an effort to get them to surrender bin Laden, but that did not work, and when the Taliban was accused of sheltering and training terrorists, sanctions were imposed, but they also yielded no results.

Finally, I hope we do not seriously expect a military victory. There never will be a Victory over Afghanistan Day. Thousands of unshaven men are not suddenly going to emerge from their caves carrying white flags with their hands up.

When Bush invaded Afghanistan, the UN refused to authorize the American war, because there was no evidence anyone there had anything to do with 911 and no proof U.S. forces would be acting in self-defense.

The Taliban has pledged there will be no peace, until the foreigners leave. Ho Chi Minh said something strikingly similar. It’s time to bring our boys home. It’s time to regroup and save our resources for a winnable mission.

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