Ask the question; “why are we fighting in Afghanistan?” and some people might answer it with another question; “what else is new?” It’s no secret why we first went there. That’s where the people responsible for 9/11 called home. Hunting them was a logical response, although collateral damage to innocvent people from our bombing raised questions. But now that the guys we're after have moved next door the operation has ceased to make sense.
I think much of the problem has to do with our fixation on” winning” of which we had a century long streak with victories in the Mexican, Spanish- American and both World Wars. We hadn’t had another before Iraq, unless you count Grenada, which may explain our continuing hunger for one.
A lot depends on what one considers winning. Having taken the land we wanted from Mexico, driven the Spanish from the hemisphere and caused the surrender of the Central Powers and Axis in both World Wars, we had every right to feel that when it came to winning wars we were number one. Korea turned out to be a push and Vietnam, considered a defeat was, in my view, a highly impractical occupation which we abandoned. At this time winning In Afghanistan appears to involve establishing a stable government in a nation that has never had one in recorded history.
There also remains the question of what constitutes war. I take issue with the belief that a large conflict, that causes people to kill each other, fills the bill by itself. A case in point is the Boer War. I see it as a British Expeditionary Force sent to South Africa to purloin another nation’s newly discovered gold, a striking similarity to our invasion of Iraq, with barrels of oil replacing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Having lived as a teenager through World War II with rationing and something called brownouts, I find the notion of our current conflicts as war to be comical. Now we don’t even have a draft which we had as recently as Vietnam. I don’t mean to disparage the loss of five thousand plus lives in our current conflicts. But we lost half a million in a much shorter time fighting Germany and Japan.
But I digress, and at some length too. In discussing Afghanistan with two Democratic Congresswomen who opposed our presence there, Chris Mathews played devil’s advocate by asking them why they would let our enemies return to the place from which we were attacked. They responded reasonably that Yemen and Somalia are alternate safe havens. If they’d taken him literally they might have questioned the wisdom of attacking Boston.