Today is my eighth Veteran’s Day as a veteran of war, and my fourth since getting out the Marines in 2007. Like most Americans, I’ve taken on the role of concerned-but-overwhelmed-and-frustrated citizen when it comes to the wars, while they continue to slow boil in the background, especially the war in Afghanistan.
Shutting off our brains to the clutter is all we can do sometimes to keep our sanity it seems. Think about it: 10 years already, one of the super villains (and main objectives) killed, thousands dead on both sides, trillions of dollars spent, vastly unpopular domestic support in the polls, and we’re still over there, fighting. And I’m not convinced anyone has a definitive answer for why we’re fighting anymore.
As a veteran and patriot, I’m not one to easily criticize my leaders. And indeed, I do believe there are many good reasons for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; I just think those many reasons, especially for Afghanistan, are overshadowed by the innumerable reasons to leave.
Scott Bates, former secretary of state of Virginia and national policy expert, once told me that, despite the fact that we’re trying to create a strong central government in Afghanistan, many Afghanis have never even left their valley in their entire lives. Considering this, how can we expect them to have any allegiance to Kabul? How can we expect them to have a national patriotism? Is it not more reasonable to assume their vision for themselves is more myopic – tribe and family, and not Afghanistan first? Additionally, unfortunately, the average Afghanis’ level of education is so poor that our reconstruction efforts usually fall flat because, instead of training them and preparing them to run their own country, all we can ever do is prop them up by doing that work for them.
And is the cost of all that worth it? All the years? All the death and sacrifice? I don’t think so. Not anymore.
So this is what I’m thinking about on my Veteran’s Day. I’ll always be somewhere between a normal citizen and man who’d be eager to defend my nation if ever called upon again, but I don’t know if I can continue to embrace or even tolerate this war anymore. I don’t know how long I can pretend those aren’t my brothers and sisters out there and remain silent.
I think at some point we veterans need to speak up and speak out. I’m far from an activist or hyper-political person. But someone needs to keep up the dialogue of the obvious question: For Afghanistan, what are we still doing there?
And maybe that should be us veterans who keep that dialogue alive. What do you think?
Photo Credit: Dario DiBattista