Never Start a Land War in Asia

Just FYI: Afghanistan in the news again–you know, that country whose most famous gross domestic product is blankets. I always wondered how Osama managed to fund his sprawling terror operation and then it dawned on me that trade in afghans must be really lucrative. It seems like every American household has one draped over the couch. In fact, my in-laws have several that are just for decorative purposes. If I want to keep warm, I have to use the ratty blanket stuffed in the closet, as afghans are off limits for conserving heat. 

To be honest, I’m not sure what the difference between a blanket and an afghan is and I’m not sure why American troops were in Afghanistan for twenty years. You know a war is a bit dated if it gives you feelings of nostalgia, but, in a strange way, it kind of does. When Osama decided to send his minions into the Twin Towers and Pentagon, I was in eleventh grade English class. My brother had just finished college and was working in Washington DC. The teacher said she needed to tell the class something, that there had been bombings (turns out, it was hijacked planes) in New York and Washington. I remember getting called out of class so my mom could talk to me on the phone and tell me my brother was okay. I remember walking down the stairs to the school cafeteria that day and a girl who I didn’t know just turned to me and asked, “Do you think we’re going to war?”

And that camaraderie with complete strangers extended over the whole country. For once we weren’t democrats or republicans or city dwellers or country folks–we were Americans, united, and hellbent on avenging those who died. We wanted that lunatic with a turban on his head, dead. And it’s that fleeting unity that I look back on with nostalgia. 

At the time, everyone rallied around our president as he stood in the rubble with a bullhorn, and I suspect that even the most anti-war among us watched proudly as we lit up the Afghan sky with bunker busters. 

Now, there’s a certain irony to the ending of the war in Afghanistan: once again it’s uniting us. Republicans and even democrats are asking existential versions of WTF!?–Why are people falling from planes? Why are we negotiating with the Taliban–the bad guys, remember? How were we defeated by thugs in Toyota Tacomas? (We have tanks, big tanks.) Why did 2,000 American soldiers have to die? At least, these are some of the questions running through my mind.

Personally, I don’t blame Bush for going over there, and I don’t blame Biden for getting out. But it just seems sad. Sad for my classmates who served and came back physically or mentally scarred. And you can’t help but have a visceral reaction to desperate people clinging to the sides of cargo planes. And you can’t help but wonder, What was it all for?