I remember the first time I heard the name “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Sounded good. Catchy. Something to throw your lot in with. Something worth fighting for.
It didn’t occur to me at the time: It’s not the ‘freedom’ that will endure – it’s the ‘operation’.
Our stated objective was to wipe out the al-Qaeda terrorist organization and remove the Taliban regime from power to create a vibrant and democratic Afghanistan.
Fast forward… no…slow forward ten long and painful years later. President Obama has made good his promise of withdrawing 10,000 U.S. troops. An additional 23,000 troops have been slotted to leave the country by this summer. The cost thus far has been over $470 billion and 2,767 soldiers - 2 friends.
I joined in 2004. Studied Arabic so I could join the fight - 'head of the spear' they called us.
I'm not going to bad mouth anyone. I'm not going to turn activist and join rallies and demonstrations against the war. I'm not a 'make love-not war', stick flowers in gun barrels type of guy. I will ask a question, though - what did we get out of all this?
The intention, I believe was pure. That is, more pure than going into a country that wasn't involved and just happened to have some black liquid we had grown fond of. Democracy is a blessing and should be shared. At times, it is worth fighting for and dying for - even for someone else to have it.
When an investment goes bad, how long do you hold? Do you keep on shoveling money into it, hoping it will take an upturn and become the cash cow you wanted it to be? Once it has gobbled up your life savings, your house, your car, do you hold on to your dog and old records, or let it have those too?
I remember my dad once told me the story of a man who dug for gold. Spent every last dime digging and one day, got so tired he just threw down his shovel and walked away. Someone else bought the land and dug where he had. They struck gold only 3 more feet down. The guy had stopped three feet short.
Is that what we would be doing if we left? I think the analogy breaks down a bit when one realizes that it is not us (the US) who would directly benefit. Maybe a 'good job' or an 'attaboy'.
I took my turn over there. I remember the days of sand and sun and ‘dear god, what is that on the side of the road?’. Can we hold up anything to show for it? Can we point to something and say, ‘This is what we fought for’?
And do we keep on fighting until we can?