After America was attacked on 9/11, common sense said we must invade Afghanistan to hunt down those who had murdered our fellow citizens. When we found them, they could either surrender or be killed. That was the mission – or it should have been.
Somehow things got more complicated than necessary. Instead of focusing on capturing or killing Osama bin Laden and crushing Al Qaeda, we embarked on a quest to build a new, modern, democratic Afghanistan. If we had simply allowed our military to focus on destroying the enemy that attacked us, then the job could have been finished in a few months. We could have dusted off our hands, brought the troops home in victory, and left a clear message: “If you attack us again, we will return.”
But we didn’t do that. We made the bold and foolish decision to try and pacify a nation of people who are barely out of the Middle Ages, who have no concept of democracy, whose religion is the basis of their entire lives, and who despise all foreign invaders – well-intentioned or not.
The goal of nation building may seem like an honorable one. Unfortunately, our own standards are based on western ideas and values. We are so arrogant that we think everyone should live like we do, even if they have no idea what an American-style democracy should look like.
During my first war in Vietnam, corruption among the South Vietnamese leadership was rampant. These greedy politicians spent more time figuring out how to line their pockets with American dollars than how to build a strong, self-sustaining democratic nation. They did not have the strength of spirit of their enemy, the communist North Vietnamese. When it came to the citizens, they just wanted to be left alone to till their rice paddies.
The current Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, is just as corrupt as those money-hungry Vietnamese leaders of the past. He acknowledges receiving bribes from Iran, he threatens to join the Taliban, he accuses America of working with the enemy, and he tries to control when and how our missions take place. What about the Afghan people? They just want to be left alone to live quiet lives in their villages - just like those poor Vietnamese a generation ago.
Unfortunately, the complications don’t stop there. Even the people we are trying to help are doing their best to kill us, and the murders of our troops continue by Afghan soldiers and police officers. The infamous Afghan drug trafficking – including by relatives of the Afghan president – also thrives, and our troops end up protecting the lives of drug dealers.
Now that our own president - the military expert - has announced to the enemy that we are withdrawing anyway, it is time to cut our losses and pull out of Afghanistan now. This barbaric nation is not worth one more American life or one more of our hard-earned dollars. It took the Russians ten years to figure this out. America has taken twelve years to learn that this war will not be won.
It is time to tell people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham - who want to get involved in every little war around the world - that sometimes there are no good guys. This has certainly been the case in Egypt where the radical, anti-American, anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood has seized power. It is also the case in most of these other little wars in the Middle East where the dictator is on his way out, but Islamic fundamentalists will replace them. These people smile at us, pat us on the back, and we even help them go through our pockets looking for money.
Nation building didn’t work in Iraq either. We removed a dictator who kept Iran at bay and installed a government that is now friends with Iran. Iranian arms are shipped through Iraq – with the help of the Iraqis – to the struggles in Syria and elsewhere. In many ways, we helped create the foundation for the caliphate that is the ultimate goal of Iran.
It is not that Americans have not done a million good deeds. As in Vietnam, American soldiers and civilians have made friends among the people, we have helped them improve business and agriculture, and we have taught them that our intentions are honorable. Unfortunately, most of them are not in power.
The Islamic fundamentalists hate us, and they will always hate us. If we are stupid enough to keep throwing money into the cages of these animals, then we shouldn’t be surprised to find out that we have paid for the very rockets and bombs that will kill our own people.
Nation building has been an abysmal failure. It has cost the lives of thousands of Americans, and it has squandered billions of dollars that Americans need at home.
This failed policy must end now.
Charles M. Grist