“We signed up to defend our country. … We had friends killed or wounded in action; it wasn’t clear for what.”
Dan Caldwell, Marine Corps veteran and senior advisor to Concerned Veterans for America, reflects on his service with both pride and realism. He understands why the United States went to Afghanistan 18 years ago, but knows the U.S. hasn’t had a clear goal in Afghanistan for a long time.
He’s not alone.
Many Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans are starting to voice concerns about U.S. engagement around the world and whether our military resources are being wasted on endless conflicts.
‘There is no military solution’
In 2011, a PEW Research Center study found about one-third of post-9/11 veterans believed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t worth fighting. Updated polling shows those numbers have jumped to 64% and 58%, respectively.
As the years pass, veterans have a clearer picture of what they accomplished and whether their efforts were worth it.
Veterans from all points on the political spectrum spoke to the New York Times about their growing opposition to “endless wars,” citing their personal experiences and disappointment with the wars’ outcomes.
“We gave it nearly two decades, thousands of U.S. lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, and we have learned at this point there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan,” Army veteran and former Defense Department employee Amber Smith told the Times.
Marine Corps veteran Peter Lucier voiced the same frustration. “It’s been almost 10 years since we killed Bin Laden and we are still in these places. We are not moving the ball forward” he said.
After 18 years of war with no clear exit strategy, veterans are ready for a change.
Those who served know it’s time to leave
Overall, veterans tend to believe the United States should be less militarily engaged around the world. Last year, a survey commissioned by RealClearPolitics and the Charles Koch Institute found 49% of veterans think the United States should be less engaged in military action while only 17% think we should be more engaged.
At the time of the RealClearPolitics and CKI survey, 49% of veterans thought the U.S. should decrease troop levels or remove all troops from Afghanistan in the next year. When asked about the next five years, 64% believed troops should be decreased or withdrawn altogether.
“I deployed to Afghanistan in spring 2012. By that time, al-Qaida had been stripped of most of its power and Osama bin Laden had been killed,” says Army veteran Jonathan Ramirez. “Through my deployment and the years that followed, it became more and more clear to me that it was time to leave Afghanistan.”
Yet we’re still in Afghanistan, deploying troops who were toddlers when the war began.
America’s national interest is not best served by continuing to send troops to Afghanistan for vague or uncertain reasons. Endless conflicts drain our resources and needlessly endanger our service members. America’s veterans know it’s time for lawmakers to rethink our nation’s foreign policy.
Do you agree 18 years of war is enough? Tell Washington it’s time to end endless wars.