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It's Time to Get Serious or Get Out of Afghanistan

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

I watched President Donald Trump’s address to the nation on Monday with great interest. What would he propose to do in Afghanistan? Send more troops, pull more out, use private contractors, etc. Now we know. But there are really only two options to consider: actually going to war the way we used to, or simply leaving.

We went into Afghanistan for a very specific and justified purpose – to go after the leadership of al Qaeda after the September 11th attacks. Once we removed the Taliban, the ruling cabal that sheltered Osama bin Laden and his evil fellow travelers, we have been continually moving further away from our mission toward nation building.

But in Afghanistan, there is no nation built and, honestly, no foundation upon which to build one.

Afghanistan is a nation out of time – stuck in a world more than a millennia gone. Americans, especially those with political power, like to think the rest of the world yearns for the liberty we take for granted; that they’d embrace freedom if only given the chance. There is no evidence to support this idea.

Throughout most of the rest of the world the concept of liberty and representative government is as foreign as haggis would be at your Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not to say the people in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., couldn’t thrive in a constitutionally limited republic, it’s that they have zero understanding of the concept. That makes attempting to introduce it, or any semblance of government in that direction, nearly impossible.

The reason the United States has worked is our Founding Fathers had centuries of knowledge from which to draw when formulating a government. They’d seen what worked, and more importantly what didn’t, and they had a deep respect for individual liberty. These were concepts the western world had experimented with and philosophized about since the dawn of civilization. Very little of that curiosity and tradition penetrated deeply into the Third World.

We can’t unleash the spirit of liberty in people if that spirit isn’t in them.

We like to think all people want to be free, but we don’t accept the reality that there are literally billions of people who have no idea what freedom is. Moreover, while their lives seem like hell on Earth to us, they are content.

In the United States, millions of people live paycheck to paycheck, no matter how large their paychecks are. They do so, in a lot cases, because they want “more.” Of what doesn’t matter, just more. More house than they can afford or need, a nicer car than they need or can afford, etc.

We do this because our liberty and our country affords us the opportunity to move past our needs and embrace our wants. A new Cadillac is not only not needed by a goat farmer in the Third World, they don’t have a desire for one. They aren’t trying to keep up with the Joneses, they’re trying to feed their family, period. They don’t long for American television and movies, or big houses. They are, for lack of a better word, content.

That contentment is foreign to Americans because we have the luxury of modernity. If we get sick we have access to the best medicine in the world and are back to work as soon as we feel better. If they get sick, there may be some medicine, but someone has to pick up the slack of their work or they go hungry. We buy our food, they grow theirs.

We can obsess with what others have that we don’t. And we think everyone wants to be like us.

Maybe they would if they were exposed to it for long enough, but it’s not our job to drag people happily living in the dark ages into enlightenment. And when those lives in the dark ages are based in religion, especially religious fervor, it’s downright impossible.

And, quite honestly, liberating people was not our purpose in Afghanistan. Nor should it be.

The divisions in Afghanistan are as old as time. No external force is going to dissolve tribal hatreds and animosities. Nor should we try.

Our goal in Afghanistan was, and still should be, to kill as many terrorists as possible. If we aren’t going to do that, we should leave.

And politicians in Washington have done more to obstruct that goal than any opposition on the ground could.

Rules of engagement that handcuffed the military put in place by politicians afraid of bad press back home had dragged what should have been a short-term military action into the longest war in our history. If we aren’t willing to unleash our military to fight the way they are capable, we should bring them home.

Our military could wipe through all resistance and terrorist enclaves in Afghanistan quickly if we’d free them to fight how we fought in World War II. It was brutal, there were massive civilian casualties, but we won.

We leveled Dresden and many more enemy cities, inflicting untold civilian deaths without regard to how it might hurt reelection chances.

Of course, the media was on our nation’s side back then. Now they’re not. So if politicians are more concerned with holding their job than winning the war, we should leave.

We can’t be concerned for the lives of dinner guests of terrorist leaders when the prospect of killing a terrorist leader presents itself. If someone is bringing their kids to dinner with a terrorist monster they knew the risks, and they aren’t all that innocent anyway. Anyone sitting down for a meal with bin Laden, even if they’d never take up arms, knew what kind of man they were dining with and went willingly. We would’ve had no hesitation to bomb a Hitler dinner party, why would our enemy now be any different.

Wipe them out or accept their existence.

We are wasting too much time, money, and American lives with half-measures. Unleash the military, or bring them home.

What happens in Afghanistan if we leave is not our concern. It will revert to the hell-hole it was before, people will be as oppressed as they were under the Taliban. If they don’t stand up for themselves it is on them, not us.

We’ve given them training, exposed them to modernity, if they don’t continue down that path, so be it.

That may necessitate us launching raids back into the country, but that would be a better option than a perpetual state of self-imposed stalemate and the costs in lives and money that go with it.

We need to either flood Afghanistan and wipe out any and all resistance or leave before another American soldier gets killed.

We have the greatest military power the world has ever seen, and we should exercise that power in the smartest way possible. Sometimes it’s smart to leave, other times it’s smart to go in with both barrels. Never is it smart to go in hoping locals will pick up your fight or embrace concepts foreign to them and change their ways.

The military should never play for a tie, it’s total victory or nothing. It matters less which of those two options President Trump chooses than it does that he doesn’t choose more half-measures. Living in those half-measures for 16 years has not worked, because fighting for a tie never works.

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