Mark Greene believes we are risking the lives of our service members and our precious resources in a mission our troops shouldn’t have to take on.
The New York Times reports today that an American Staff Sergeant, accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers had been drinking alcohol and suffering from stress related to his fourth deployment.
After ten years of war, American troops serving repeated deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq are facing catastrophic levels of post traumatic stress disorder. This is due in large part to the deeply flawed nature of our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is challenging enough to deploy and carry out a combat mission half way around the world, but America chose to deploy American military power to occupy and nation-build in two separate countries at the same time. And nation-building simply doesn’t work.
Nation-building is the worst kind of foreign policy in terms of cost, effectiveness and outcomes. Doing so in Iraq and Afghanistan for ten years is nothing short of madness. And our troops are paying the price, as are the hundreds of thousands of non-combatants killed or injured so far.
Policing an increasingly hostile population, constantly having to differentiate between civilians and well-hidden insurgents, is a brutal job for our troops on the ground, raising post traumatic stress disorders to catastrophic levels. We expose them to unending hit-and-run attacks from an enemy, one of whose primary goals is to cause our troops to accidentally kill innocent civilians. Our troops do not have the relative luxury of fighting a standing army. They don’t get to do what they were trained to do. Meanwhile, a generation of children in Iraq and Afghanistan have now grown up in this terrible cross fire. But it doesn’t end there.
By engaging in nation-building, we expose our troops to partnerships with government forces that may or may not be members of the very insurgency they are supposed to be fighting.
By engaging in nation-building, we pour trillions of dollars into these foreign nations, creating sinkholes of corruption; governments that undermine our efforts even as they take our money.
By engaging in nation-building, we help the propaganda cause of our enemies, allowing them to recruit new supporters.
Meanwhile, our troops on the ground, who have conducted themselves with heroic courage and skill, continue to be redeployed over and over again. They have no clear mission but to stand in the gap between a corrupt government and a brutal insurgency.
It’s time to bring our troops home and end the madness. When we withdraw our military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, the results will not be good, as photojournalist Michael Kamber explained earlier this week. No matter how much of our nation’s treasure we continue to pour into the corrupt Iraq and Afghanistan governments, chaos will ensue. Iraq and Afghanistan will end up aligned with Iran or other extremist political movements.
But staying will not change this. It will only delay it. And at a cost America simply can not sustain. So, its time to go. Its time to bring our troops and our treasure home. It’s time to use our economic strength and the vitality of our young men and women to rebuild America. It will take a generation to heal the wounds suffered by our troops. Wounds both mental and physical. Its time we began that work in earnest even as Iraq and Afghanistan move to bury their dead and seek some path forward for their people.
And God willing, we will never attempt to occupy and nation-build through military intervention again. Because it simply doesn’t work.