On Afghanistan and American Disinterest

I’m trying to avoid politics on this site as much as possible, but I can’t not mention President Trump’s address last night. He announced a new strategy for the U.S.’s war in Afghanistan that includes sending an additional 4,000 troops to the country. We have been at war in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, and it’s not clear what we’re doing there at this point. The politics of the issue aside, what is appalling about this state of perpetual war is that no one cares. Afghanistan never came up in any of the presidential debates in 2016, and pollsters didn’t even bother to include it on the list of issues Americans may care about. For years now I have heard people fearfully discuss the prospect of the U.S. going to war as if one was not already underway.

There is a massive separation from the majority of the American public and the military class. The military is increasingly seen as expendable not only by politicians but by the rest of society. Not because troops aren’t respected, but because they are so other, so disconnected from the rest of the public, that the cultural investment in previous wars, like Vietnam, does not exist. Sending another 4,000 troops into a war with no discernible objective or potential for end will not elicit protests, not because people are supportive of the move, but because they will not remember by tomorrow.

American men and women will die in combat, receive physical and mental wounds, and will have their family life destroyed by going into war. More people in Afghanistan will die as a result of increased American military presence. Whether or not this is just or necessary is beside the point: it is a shame that the American public does not heavily feel the weight of sending our people into war.