Afew months before the United States invaded Iraq, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary at the time, was asked on a radio show how long the war would take. “Five days or five weeks or five months,” he replied. “It certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” When George W. Bush departed the White House more than five years later, there were nearly 136,000 US soldiers stationed in the country.
The number of troops has fallen since then, but Bush’s successors have failed to withdraw the United States from the region. Barack Obama campaigned on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to send hundreds of troops into Syria. For years Donald Trump described America’s efforts in Afghanistan as “a waste” and said that soldiers were being led “to slaughter,” but in 2017 he announced that he would deploy as many as 4,000 more troops to the country. “Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk of the Oval Office,” he explained. Every president, it seems, eventually learns to embrace our perpetual war.
With the Trump Administration’s attacks on affordable health care, immigration, environmental regulation, and civil rights now in full swing, criticism of America’s military engagements has all but disappeared from the national conversation. Why hasn’t the United States been able—or willing—to end these conflicts? Who has benefited from them? Is victory still possible—and, if so, is it anywhere in sight?
Read the Full Article at Harper's Magazine
More from CNAS
CommentarySharper: Day One
The Biden-Harris administration will confront a range of national security challenges from the moment it takes office....
By Chris Estep
CommentaryNow Is a Bad Time to Weaken Civilian Control Over the Military
The mob attacks on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 are a sudden reminder of just how vital a nonpartisan military really is—even in the United States....
By Jim Golby
CommentaryBiden Inherits a Challenging Civil-Military Legacy
Joseph Biden and his team will inherit a civil-military relationship as tenuous as any in recent memory....
By Jim Golby & Peter Feaver
CommentaryHow to build more resilient and innovative US special operations teams
The military is looking for the wrong solutions to support the force....
By Lt Col Kaveri T. Crum & Emma Moore