Rasmussen reports that 52% of Americans want U.S. troops home from Afghanistan within a year, up from 43% last fall. Of course, polls are ephemeral snapshots of public opinion that can fluctuate with the prevailing political winds; nonetheless, it does appear that more Americans are slowly coming to realize the “aimless absurdity” of our nation-building project in Central Asia.
Earlier today (HT: HuffPo’s Amanda Terkel), former Republican senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: “I don’t think we can afford Afghanistan much longer.” He continued: “The simple fact is that it’s costing us. Good people are losing their lives there, and we’re losing huge amount of resources there … So I think we should have a timeframe for getting out of Afghanistan, and it should be shorter rather than longer.”
Gregg is absolutely right. It is well past time to bring this long war to a swift end. Yet Gregg’s comments also reflect a growing bipartisan realization that prolonging our land war in Asia is weakening our country militarily and economically.
To politicians of any stripe, the costs on paper of staying in Afghanistan are jarring. Pentagon officials told the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that it costs an average of $400 per gallon of fuel for the aircraft and combat vehicles operating in land-locked Afghanistan. The U.S. Agency for International Development has spent more than $7.8 billion on Afghanistan reconstruction since 2001, including building and refurbishing 680 schools and training thousands of civil servants. Walter Pincus, of The Washington Post, reported that the Army Corp of Engineers spent $4 billion last year on 720 miles of roads to transport troops in and around the war-ravaged country. It will spend another $4 to $6 billion this year, for 250 more miles.
War should no longer be a left-right issue. It’s a question of scarce resources and limiting the power of government. Opposition to the war in Afghanistan can no longer be swept under the carpet or dismissed as an issue owned by peaceniks and pacifists, especially when our men and women in uniform are being deployed to prop up a regime Washington doesn’t trust, for goals our president can’t define.