If the debate over whether the United States should continue fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq was not over before, it should be over now. Half of military veterans who have served since 9/11 believe that the war in Iraq was not worth fighting. Forty-two percent of those same vets believe the war in Afghanistan was not worth the cost in blood and treasure.
That stunning information came from the Pew Research Center, which released results of a survey of attitudes about the wars among military veterans. It found that "half of post-9/11 veterans (50 percent) say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting; 42 percent say it has not. And 50 percent of that group says Iraq has not been worth it, compared with 44 percent who view it positively."
The survey results were surprising because one would assume that veterans from the all-volunteer military would be heavily invested emotionally and psychologically in the war effort. It's hard to say that the cause for which you have been fighting was not worth the sacrifice.
The U.S. combat role in Iraq ended some months ago, and the military has begun a withdrawal from that nation that is to be complete by year's end. Simultaneously, however, the number of U.S. troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan has accelerated. The 10th anniversary of that war came and went last week, the latest milestone in the longest campaign in U.S. history.
American civilians have been war-weary from some time, although they have been asked to contribute virtually nothing to the war effort. "Only about one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population has been on active military duty at any given time during the past decade of sustained warfare," according to the Pew report. Those few Americans have carried the fight for everyone else. When a large portion of those folks say that the wars have not been worth the cost, the rest of the nation should pay attention.
While it is true that support for the wars among veterans is higher by about eight or nine percentage points than is true of civilians, vets are of the same mind as their civilian counterparts that it is time for the United States to turn its focus away from problems overseas and toward solving problems at home. About 60 percent of veterans expressed that view, virtually the same percentage as civilians. What's more, just over half of post-9/11 veterans "say that overreliance on military force creates hatred that breeds more terrorism, while just four-in-ten say overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism."
Listen to the troops. It's time to bring them home.