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War weary America

Mark Easley | Friday, September 9, 2011

Love me or hate me, but don’t call me a liar. One of my critics recently attacked the truthfulness of my last piece. I do believe in and practice journalistic integrity even though I am not a journalist. I am an editorialist, and in my opinion columns I don’t have enough space to stick in a source. It ruins the flow.

But this time I will make an exception so I can curb stomp these vile allegations against my good name. According to icasultie.org, which mirrors closely Department of Defense official numbers, the following are combat deaths in Operation Enduring Freedom. 2008: 155. 2009: 317. 2010: 499. 2011: 310. A summation of these numbers gives you a total of 1,281 KIAs in Afganistan. In Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2008-present the number is 576 KIAs.

So actually, I was being quite conservative with President Obama about his total body count. If even one American life is valuable, then these Obama wars have been very costly.

Now I do this not just to clear my name and put egg on the face of another liberal know-nothing, but also to illustrate a bigger point I have.

America is tired of wars without a mission. We want swift and decisive engagements if we must have them. These aren’t just numbers, these are people we are talking about. When you graduate, some of your classmates will go off to fight for us overseas. They will be put in danger and their lives and their friend’s lives will be at risk. People we know now, people we eat with at the dining hall and go to class with, could potentially be slain in some hell hole far away from home.

But they signed up to do it anyway because they have a higher calling to service. I don’t want to see their sacrifice wasted, and I certainly don’t want their lives cut short with a one way ticket home in a casket. We have a duty to use our military to promote freedom abroad and protect it at home, but we also have a duty to our countrymen to not waste their commitment to our shared defense with pointless engagements.

I am the biggest war hawk I know. Not only do I believe the United States should intervene abroad to promote freedom and democracy, but we are obligated to do so. Soldiers don’t sign up for the military so they can sit around the base and drink beers and blow stuff up once in a while. They sign up to fight and eliminate the enemies of America and free people of the world, and to protect our citizens and our peace-loving and rarely committed allies. We spend the most out of anyone in the world on military technology.

Why? If we are not going to use it to rid the world of tyranny and oppression, then what is the point? What is the point of having an all-volunteer military that can fight three wars plus pirates plus drug cartels, while the rest of us go about our business? Is America going to take advantage of its blessings to share peace and wealth with other nations, or will America greedily hoard its blessings and hope others follow suit on their own terms?

The fact is there is still trouble and injustice in the world that I believe the United States can defeat single-handedly, if we only had the courage to try. However, we won’t do that if we engage and get bogged down in conflicts that eat up resources and don’t show significant results. We’ve tried our hardest in Afghanistan, but nothing can save that god-forsaken place at this point in time. One day, Afghanistan will be rich with the valuable ore locked away in its mountains, and our liberation of its people from the Taliban will be a bright spot in its history, but today they are so far behind the rest of the world it doesn’t matter how much money we poor into it.

We have to leave now. Not a gradual drawdown, but an instant pack up, like Saigon in 1975. Last chopper out. I commend Bush for his compassionate effort to try and turn the country around instead of cratering it with a nuclear response, and he made a good run, but it was setup for failure from the beginning. I guess no one clued Obama in to that fact, and unfortunately many American families have paid the price since.

There are new battlefronts opening up where the United States is needed. We must reconsolidate our forces to be able to fully engage in these new locations. The “Arab Spring” was a great opportunity for us to topple many of the enemies of freedom in the Middle East, but I fear that opportunity may have passed us by. We must prepare for the next time, where we can make a real difference in the course of human history.

These wars are no longer Bush’s wars. Obama has had three years to end the conflicts (like everyone thought he would) and instead he has either escalated them or has been extremely timid in drawing down our troop strength. It is a fantasy to believe that he deserves his Nobel peace prize after what we have witnessed over the course of his term. The takeaway from this: If you inherited a war you don’t agree with, don’t keep fighting it. American blood is too precious to waste on combat without a mission.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Mark Easley is a senior computer science major. He can be reached at measley@nd.edu