Now We All Agree the Afghan War Was Not Worth Fighting

For the first time since we invaded Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, a majority of Republicans say that the war was not worth fighting. Even the superpatriots, the military do-or-die-ers, the America Firsters, the my-country-right-or-wrong crowd, have come to the conclusion that this war should never have happened. They're right.

At this point, more than a decade on from the events that inspired us to invade Afghanistan in the first place, the burning sense of rage and desire for retribution and need to just do something have all faded away. We are more clear-eyed now. For almost every American that died in the Twin Towers, another American soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. Fifteen thousand more have been wounded. And tens of thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded in the fighting as well.

And was it worth it? No. It was not worth it. It was clearly not worth it. No rational person could say it was worth it. September 11 was a horrible tragedy. Our response to it, starting with a decade-long war in a nation that Americans neither know nor care about, was a tragedy as well. We have poured our blood and treasure into a desolate, poverty-stricken and already war-torn country halfway across the world—not to improve it, but to further destroy it. For this, we have gained nothing that we could not have gained with a much more limited and rational response.

You don't send in the U.S. Army to invade an entire nation to find one man. You don't send in the U.S. Army to invade an entire nation to deal with one numerically small terrorist group, for the same reason that you don't use an M1 Abrams tank to tackle your household mouse infestation. You don't cause tens of thousands of violent deaths to poor civilians to prove some vague notion of national toughness on a world stage. It is insane. The urge to lash out in a muscular fashion after 9/11 is perfectly understandable. But it is not rational, or ethical, or even, it is now clear, to our own national benefit. Such impulses are the reason that we need strong leaders. To prevent us from doing things like invading Afghanistan.

In the end, it turns out, America's entire post-9/11 response was exactly wrong. The much-derided idea of treating the terrorist attacks as a crime would have been the rational thing to do. Doing our best to launch a world war was not to our benefit. It was not to the benefit of geopolitical stability. It was not to the benefit of the kids who entered the military, full of patriotism and love for their country, and ended up dead halfway around the world. It was not to the benefit of Afghan civilians, people who had nothing to do with any of this, who ended up bombed, shot, maimed, driven from their homes, victims of circumstance. We can fight, if we like, another decade in Afghanistan. When we leave, Afghanistan will still belong to the people who live there, and they, not us, will determine its future. Our stated goal took far too long to accomplish. Now that it's been accomplished, we're still in Afghanistan. And we'll be there for years more.

A small group of bad men attacked targets in America. For this, we invaded an entire nation. Where they weren't. Let's not do that again.

[Photo: AP]