Richard Kann is a junior journalism news and telecommunications major and writes “Yankee Fist” for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
Another generation has passed, and another long war is lost.
But, of course, this isn't the first time something like this has happened.
Since the end of World War II, the United States has complicated foreign conflicts to further the political and personal agendas of politicians and elitists in the military industry. One only has to look back to the Vietnam and Iraq Wars to see this, and they’ll find it always ends the same way: defeat.
We're always left asking the same questions: “What went wrong? How can insurgents thwart the most sophisticated military in the history of humankind?”
The answer is simple: we can't win wars we don't believe in. This answer isn't a mystery or a riddle — it's something we've known for decades. However, as soon as a politician sparks another forever war, it gradually evaporates from the intellect of our leaders.
Is it such a trivial thought that maybe people don't want to sacrifice themselves, to kill for a cause they don't believe to be virtuous? Is it so outrageous to assume that parents don't want to send their children thousands of miles away to die?
In the context of the recent political fallout of Afghanistan, according to a July 2021 Gallup Poll, 47 percent of Americans believe sending troops to Afghanistan was a mistake. Additionally, Gallup’s research shows Americans have become far more divided on the topic of the Afghanistan War since 2011. That year, approval for the war dropped from 93 percent in 2001 to roughly 58 percent. Americans became incredibly divided on the war, yet we continued trying to win a war that had no end in sight.
At the beginning of the so-called “War on Terror,” there was an air of optimism and patriotism, the thrill of fighting evil on an unfamiliar front against a "godless" enemy that will, no doubt, inspire countless Hollywood movies. Then, the years set in, and we were faced with the question, "What exactly are we fighting for?"
Back in the early 2000s, when I was a child, I remember wholeheartedly supporting the “War on Terror.” I was young and naive. I savored stories of how we sent our brave troops to fight against the evil terrorists overseas. In my childhood, I didn't know any details about the war beyond that. As far as I was concerned, the war was a classic case of good guys versus bad guys, like in the video games I played.
However, now I'm older and wiser, and though I still fully support weeding out extremists who corrupt religion and use it as a justification to murder innocent people, I don't support a war that ends up devastating the people we're supposed to protect.
The Associated Press (AP) found since 2001, 47,245 Afghan civilians have been killed in the fighting of the Afghanistan War, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found 300 to 909 Afghani civilians, including 66 to 184 children, have been killed in U.S. Military airstrikes that were intended for terrorist combatants.
On top of this, I don't support a war I don't believe we could technically win. Growing up and watching this war, one pattern I noticed was no matter how many terrorists we killed, there was always someone to replace them.
On Monday, May 2, 2011, my classmates and I waved small flags and celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden in my fifth-grade class at Everglades Elementary School in Weston, Florida. My teacher at the time spoke to us with infectious optimism that soon, terrorism would be a bad dream, and the wars it caused would be over.
Then, in July 2011, the grown-ups started fearfully talking about something called the Islamic State and a dangerous extremist named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It would be almost nine years until the Islamic State would be militarily crippled and al-Baghdadi's assassination successfully carried out.
To me, the “War on Terror” was a lost cause I didn't believe America would win. These are just a few reasons Americans, like myself, lost faith in the war— a war we continued to fight for another decade, despite significant concerns and doubts.
However, two groups fully believed in the war until the end: military contractors and their stockholders. According to the Watson Institute of Public and International Affairs report, the Pentagon has spent $4-7 trillion on military contractors. An investigation from Sludge used House and Senate financial disclosure portals from 2018-19 to expose what members of the House and Senate possessed stocks through these contractors within their own bank accounts or through their spouses and other associates. The investigation showed that prominent politicians such as Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) own thousands of dollars of stocks in one or multiple different military contractors. Feinstein herself holds $650,000 in stocks from Boeing, who managed to secure a $500 million contract for Apache helicopters in April 2012, according to financial publication, Seeking Alpha.
The U.S. has complicated foreign conflicts to further politicians' and elitists' political and personal agendas.
Politicians and military contractors lining their pockets don't win wars. We, the people do and, as previous statistics show, we, the people, didn't have the same faith in the war as our leaders did.
Afghanistan isn't the first time Americans have participated in a war that primarily benefited politicians and elites. The Vietnam War is another good example. Like Afghanistan, statistics show Americans did not support this war. According to a 1965-71 Gallup Poll, the percentage of Americans who believed that sending troops to Vietnam was a mistake rose from 24 percent to 60 percent. The Vietnam War plagued Americans for more than a decade. And just like the “War on Terror,” we lost this war. We apparently didn't learn from it.
When we’re forced into wars we don’t believe in, we lose them. It’s an unfortunate and depressing theme that replays throughout our history, but it’s one we can’t ignore.
Weeks after the United States military withdrew, the Afghanistan National Army retreated from the city of Kabul. The democracy that took decades to establish collapsed like a house of cards, and the country returned to the hands of the extremists we fought. After nearly 20 years, another generation passed, and another long war was lost.
According to an AP report, the Afghanistan War cost us the lives of 2,448 of our soldiers, 47,245 Afghan civilians and $2.313 trillion of debt that will plague Americans for generations, all while the politicians and elites responsible for creating this turmoil currently go unpunished. The scars inflicted by this war will serve as a permanent reminder of the lesson that seems to always be forgotten: We can't win wars that we don't believe in.
Hopefully, now, we won't be so quick to forget.
Contact Richard Kann with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RichardKann.