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What do we lose if we "lose" in Afghanistan?

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Our mission in Afghanistan is doomed. Another thousand American soldiers will die but their courage and sacrifice won't change the terrible truth: That war is lost.

If even Michael Steele stumbles to that conclusion, you know the game us up. It's all over, over there.

When we finally leave Afghanistan, we'll count up the cost in precious blood and wasted treasure and the price will be very high.

But the cost of losing? Not much. Our enemies left Afghanistan nine years ago; the fight's not there anymore. And here in America things will be pretty much the same, win or lose.

Here's a rule of thumb: Don't worry about losing a war, unless, if you lose the war, you lose. Anything less isn't a war. It's an expensive hobby.

I can hear the screams of those who make a fetish out of "supporting our troops" from comfortable couches in the suburbs and comfortable seats in Congress. "Are you saying they died in vain?"

Well, of course I'm not. Only a heartless idiot would denigrate their valor and the unending pain of their amputated families. But "did they die in vain?" is the wrong question.

The right one is, "Did they fight in vain?" That's the question our leaders need to ask before shipping the body bags overseas. What happens if we don't fight this war? What happens if we fight and lose? Will America be hurt, invaded and occupied, or merely embarrassed?

Here's another rule of thumb: Never wage a war unless the cost of losing it exceeds the cost of fighting it.

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Isn't that the true lesson of Vietnam? We "lost" that war, but what did we lose? It was hard on the vets and the Viets, but those were self-inflicted wounds; they wouldn't have happened if we'd never gone there. When the dust cleared our defeat brought us a lot of nice Vietnamese restaurants, a few good movies, and an "enemy" that was too busy trying to feed itself to cause us any problems. And now we're buddies. That was the cost of losing the war in Vietnam.

The cost of fighting the war in Vietnam was 58,000 American and millions of Vietnamese lives. The cost in money was steep, the cost in morale severe, and the cost in cynicism incalculable. In many ways we've never recovered.

War is killing people and breaking things. That's the stark truth we can no longer face, since the trauma of Vietnam. Now, when we fight, we have to fool ourselves with humanitarian fantasies.

Like how we're going to bring a decent government to Afghanistan on backs of the 10th Mountain Division.

It would be noble, what we're trying to do in Afghanistan, if it wasn't so foolish. Making that country whole and even minimally democratic is impossible. As far as their leaders are concerned, the war can go on forever, with pallets of American cash flying from Kabul airport right into their Swiss bank accounts.

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We have to get over our humanitarian fantasies about war. War is killing people and breaking things, and it's a perfectly rational, even moral, response to unprovoked attacks, like Pearl Harbor, or 9/11.

Japan attacked us, not just in Pearl Harbor, but all around the Pacific in December 1941, and they kept on doing it until we stopped them by killing people and breaking things until they couldn't fight anymore.

Al Qaeda attacked us before, during and after 9/11, and they keep on trying. When we use special ops, bombs and allies to kill their people and break their camps we do the right thing.

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San Francisco based columnist, author, gym rat and novelist. My book, "The Confessions of a Catnip Junkie" is the best memoir ever written by a cat. Available on, or wherever fine literature is sold with no sales tax collected. For (more...)

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What do we lose if we "lose" in Afghanistan?


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