By Lucas Lostoski, updated by Joseph Simnett
President Biden has stated he wants to withdraw from Afghanistan by September of this year, to much controversy. Finally, we may see an end to this two decade-long conflict. However, this is not a done deal yet, and it is not the first time the United States has made a grandiose statement on pulling out of a conflict zone, only to reverse the decision later.
“We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are…I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq…If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
This is not a quote by George W. Bush, as you might expect, but instead it is from President Obama in 2014. After the gradual dissipation of American forces in the region, ISIS activity commenced. The U.S. inched closer to another ground military conflict in Iraq when Obama announced his strategy of airstrikes in Syria, and a troop surge in Iraq of 475 military personnel.
There is a lot of political pressure to fight in the Middle East
President Obama’s ISIS strategy was immediately bashed by Congressional Republicans for not being insane enough. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) criticized Obama’s style of militarism as too weak, and stated “we have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on offense.” I guess Sen. Graham didn’t count invading Iraq in 2003, which resulted in the deaths of 750,000 innocent civilians, as “going on offense.”
The most disturbing response to President Obama’s strategy came from the top Republican in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who introduced a formal congressional authorization for America to wage war against ISIS in any nation including Syria. Essentially, Inhofe wanted to re-invade Iraq while invading Syria. That kind of war hysteria could probably make most foreign policy hawks blush.
War has an immeasurable cost with little benefit
Contrary to this frenzied war-mongering, I believe that the U.S. should remove itself from regional conflicts in the Middle East and allow individuals to govern themselves. Supporting radical sentiments such as these is unacceptable in our country, because supporting peace is taboo in America.
My reasoning is our militarized society gives rise to the grand myth that war is honorable and winnable. The truth is war can never be won. There can be no winners in organized mass slaughter; there can be no glory in killing innocent people.
War is truly embodied by one entity alone, and that is death. Millions of innocent people have died as a result of U.S. foreign policy since WWII, and over 150,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed as well. Barbarity on such a grand scale must cause us to ponder a simple question: What are we fighting for?
The only people who benefit from war are the rich and powerful
The truth about nearly every American war since WWII is that it has been fought with an imperial purpose in mind. Our government has a strong desire to maintain control over the Middle East in order to exploit the region’s natural resources, and to provide profits to politically-connected corporations.
For example, Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton received $39.5 billion in government contracts during the Iraq War. As a result their stock price rose from $20 at the invasion’s onset to $57 by 2011. CEO David Lesar saw his personal wealth increase by $150 million during the course of the war. Unfortunately, war profiteering has been widespread during the War on Terror.
This reality is often met with bitter hostility when it is brought up in America. It is much more comfortable to believe the lie that our nation is a spreader of democracy. It stings to know the truth, because the truth confirms our gravest fear.
And that fear is this: our sons and daughters who died in the war effort did not die for a noble cause. They also did not die for nothing. Rather their government sent them off to die in a land thousands of miles away from home in order to enrich the likes of Halliburton.
This sad realization leaves us in denial as a nation. We refuse to admit there is a problem with our foreign policy, and we disregard the plight of the innocents we butcher, choosing instead to live in ignorance to their suffering. Voices of dissent have been silenced in the mainstream, and anyone willing to challenge the status quo is derided as a fool.
We have to make the choice not to pursue endless war
At this point, we, as a nation, are severely lost. We are unfeeling and devoid of empathy. We refuse to admit that the growth of Muslim extremism in the Middle East is a direct result of the ruthless policies that we have employed in the region. But we as a nation have a choice.
We can choose to live in unceasing fear of terrorism, and we can cling to the fantasy that terrorists target the U.S. out of contempt for our “freedom,” or we can choose to recognize that our policies of perpetual war, occupation, and meddling in Middle Eastern affairs are what have fueled terrorism in the region.
The human death toll of The War on Terror is already too high to go back in. The blood of our soldiers and of the innocent Iraqis killed in the conflict is on our politicians’ hands. We must pressure President Biden to follow through on his promise. Because a u-turn towards war will be no different than the others: hundreds of thousands will die, war profiteers will benefit, and the people will suffer. We cannot afford to be duped again.
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This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.