There wasn’t a lot of news that broke over the holiday season the past two weeks. One event that barely registered in the press that did occur was the fact that the U.S. military’s combat role in Afghanistan ended last Wednesday, though the president has authorized 10,000 U.S. troops to attack the Taliban if they pose a threat to U.S. military personnel who will continue training Afghan security forces for at least the next two years (That force will go down to 5,000 by the end of the year).
Let’s face it. The American people are burned out on our military actions overseas, and have been for awhile. Yet one of the potential interesting votes in the 2015 Congress will be if they formally endorse out current “war” against the Islamic State, a/k/a ISIS or ISIL. The administration wants a legal basis for the war, known as an authorization for use of military force, rather than continuing to rely on congressional resolution granted after 9/11 to justify the invasion of Afghanistan, wage war in Iraq and pursue al-Qaida elsewhere.
Was the 13-year-fight worth it in Afghanistan? Not according to 56 percent of the public, who told ABC News/Washington Post in a new poll that it wasn’t, while 38 percent said it was. That’s actually “improved” from a year-and-a-half ago, when only 28 percent supported that war, and 67 percent opposed.
While the 13-year fight in Afghanistan allegedly “winds down,” here’s some interesting facts, via James Fallows in the Atlantic:
After adjusting for inflation, the U.S. will spend about 50 percent more on the military this year than its average through the Cold War and Vietnam, and will spend about as much as the next 10 countries combined – three to five times as much as China, and up to nine times as much as Russia.
Fallows’ piece, “The Tragedy of the American Military,” is a must-read, as it boils down the problems we have with our military right now – including the fact that our elites in Washington and NYC don’t seem to be all that focused on it. Fallows writes that while some critics have considered the military over the years to be overfunded, underprepared or flawed in other ways, “because so small a sliver of the population has a direct stake in the consequences of military action, the normal democratic feedbacks not not work.” He concludes that public inattention to the military, born of having no direct interest in what happens to it, has allowed both strategic and institutional problems to fester.
That inattention may not be the case in the Tampa Bay area, where Central Command lives at MacDill and there are lots of defense contractors making weaponry and other technology advances for our military in Pinellas County, but it is the case for most of the country. And it’s not a good thing.