By John Hubbuch
The nightly news reported that the war in Afghanistan was finally over. Like the one in Iraq there were no parades or memorable endings. Our wars haven't always ended so inauspiciously. Every school boy was once taught that the Brits marched away at Yorktown to the tune "The Whole World Turned Upside Down" to end The American Revolution. Grant graciously let Lee's troops keep their horses for spring plowing at the surrender at Appomatox Court House at the conclusion of the Civil War.
World War I ended at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, and the iconic photo of the young woman kissing a soldier on a New York City street captured the joy and relief of VJ Day when WWII concluded. Even the ill-starred Vietnam War had the last helicopter departing Saigon.
Even though the combined cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan of $4-6 trillion exceeds the cost of all prior wars combined , there is nothing memorable about the end. No celebration. No real formal ceremony. These wars ended because the country just got tired , and both of the countries who we invaded wanted us to leave. I suppose some uncertain goals were achieved. Sorta.
We do have to wonder whether it was worth it. What if we hadn't invaded? What if we had pursued an alternate strategy? Maybe Iraq under Sadaam would have continued to act as a counter-balance to Irani power in the region. Maybe the spiit of jihad directed against the US would have cooled. Maybe the country's infrastructure, educational and health systems would be better off. A trillion here and a trillion there might have built a better legacy than the one of physically and mentally ruined veterans.
History will judge these recent wars of choice. I suspect that judgment will be harsh. Au revoir, Iraq. Au revoir , Afghanistan.
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