By Frank Wessling
Americans respect the sacrifices made by our military troops for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are not united, however, in believing that the wars themselves have been worthwhile.
And the veterans who have done the fighting question whether it’s all been worth the cost – to themselves and the country.
Enthusiasm for war-making fades after 10 years. The post 9/11 rush into military action was resisted at the time by religious leaders, including Pope John Paul II, but their objections were waved aside. We had to do something.
Now we have a different perspective on the rush to war as its cost in blood, wounded survivors and wasted national treasure piles up in our vision. Will we ever learn?
The attitudes of military veterans were probed in a survey by the Pew Research Center, which found that only half of them think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting and only 44 percent think Iraq was.
When they look at both of these adventures, only one-third think it was all worth it.
Moreover, half of the veterans believe that relying on military force against terrorism creates anger and hatred that leads to more terrorism.
When the dollar cost of military force approaches $1 trillion, it also squeezes our sense of resources toward scarcity and the need to make hard choices. We aren’t doing that very well. We didn’t want to honestly pay for the post-9/11 war in the beginning 10 years ago and we don’t want to fairly share the cost now.
As a result we tolerate growing poverty, high unemployment and a sense of futility about national politics, which itself seems more and more corrupted into a branch of the entertainment industry than the arena for serious discussion of practical truths in community life.
The costs of war can never be foreseen fully. Regret should always be part of the reckoning. The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan testify to that.