To the editor:
I take exception to the recent piece by the commander of the American Legion Department of Minnesota regarding the views of American veterans of the Afghan War, and of veterans in general. He claims to speak for all veterans when he criticizes the decision to withdraw American troops and the manner in which the withdrawal has been conducted. On the decision to withdraw, he does not speak for the majority of veterans. According to a survey of veterans done by the Pew Research Center in the fall of 2019, 58% said the Afghan War wasn’t worth it, and only 38% said it was. There are 19 million of us veterans, and only 2 million belong to the American Legion.
He asks a lot of questions about how life will be under Taliban rule. The answer is: too soon to tell. He asks why we still have troops in Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, Turkey and other countries. One difference is that the governments we support in these countries have not been steadily losing a civil war for years.
I share the commander’s bewilderment about why after 2,500 American dead, thousands more wounded and over 2 trillion American dollars the army and government of Afghanistan collapsed so fast. This sudden collapse does go a long way to explain why the last few weeks of our withdrawal have been chaotic. Congress is going to hold hearings to examine this question, hopefully in a serious way.
It may be some consolation to remember that although we lost the Vietnam war, we won the Cold War, even though our government mistakenly thought at the time that Vietnam was a vital battlefield in that war. American intervention in Afghanistan weakened Al Qaeda and killed bin Laden, but we failed to create a lasting modern liberal government. Why we failed will be debated for years to come. Let’s hope that debate is more honest and useful that the one about who lost Vietnam and before it the debate about who lost China.