Back in 2001 when the question of going to war with Afghanistan was first being raised, it seemed like everyone was for it. Only one member of Congress voted against it. After the Dixie Chicks spoke against the war, several radio stations stopped playing their music. Anti-war celebrities were blacklisted. Anyone who spoke against the war was said to be Un-American, unpatriotic, and “not supporting the troops”. I can remember a small minority of people warning “This will be another Vietnam! This will be an ENDLESS war!” How right they were, these prophets shouting into the void.
Looking back, it’s hard for anyone to believe that people didn’t know that the war in Afghanistan was going to be another Vietnam. After all, the war in Afghanistan was originally Russia’s endless war and Russia’s Vietnam. How could we have been so enthusiastic for this war? It’s easier to understand when you put into context that just two years prior in 1999 the United States had an overwhelmingly successful victory in the Bosnian war with not a single American life lost. Even the Gulf War only lasted for 1 year and accomplished its goal of liberating Kuwait from Saddam. People thought the war in Afghanistan was going to be another Bosnia, not another Vietnam.
I come from a very patriotic family. Three of my grandparents served in WWII. My dad was a Vietnam vet with PTSD. My sister’s husband is career military and served in Afghanistan. I’m not going to say that there was nothing accomplished in Afghanistan. After all, we killed Osama Bin Laden and have captured the architects of 9/11. However, just months after 9/11, the military had Osama Bin Laden cornered in the Tora Bora mountains, but instead of sending in reinforcements to finish the job, Bush chose to instead focus on the upcoming war, allowing Bin Laden to escape. In November 2001 the Taliban was offering an unconditional surrender but Donald Rumsfeld responded “The United States is not inclined to negotiate surrenders”. It kind of seems like this whole thing could have been over before it started, but with the Taliban surrendered and Osama Bin Laden dead, how would we have experienced the glory that is war?
The war in Afghanistan was simply unwinable. We could have occupied that country for 100 years, but what would have been accomplished by that? The era of great wars is simply over. We’ve evolved past that being an option. We’ve achieved peace at the State level, and even at the national level with Western countries. At this point the only battles that are left are the civil wars happening in developing nations. Eventually they too will come to realize that oppressive governments don’t work and do the work of forming their own democratic states. Human progress is constant and cannot be stopped.
As a species, we have been becoming decreasingly violent throughout the centuries, throughout the decades. Yes, even with all the mass shootings, the 2010s were far less violent than the 90s. Crime rates were cut in half. Indeed, violence and crime are decreasing across the entire globe. It’s amazing to compare rates of violence today compared to medieval times. Back then, you would get the death penalty for just about any crime, both real or imagined. And yet, it couldn’t have been much of a deterrent since murder was rather common in those days. Compare that to now where the death penalty has been all but abolished in the United States and murder is at the lowest rates it has ever been in history. As a human culture we’re evolving past old methods for maintaining society.
War is just another one of those methods that isn’t working anymore. I don’t want to come across as such a bleeding heart that people think I want jails to be abolished and the military to be dismantled. I believe in justice and think it’s important for people to be punished. I just question if war is the most effective way of doing that at this point.
It’s hard to imagine an advanced society of any kind, even in a completely sci-fi sense, that still uses war as a means of solving problems. As a species we have grown intellectually at the same pace we have decreased in crime and violence. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, this is known as the Flynn effect. Because the average score on an IQ test must always be 100, IQ tests have to continually be recalibrated to be more difficult to get those average scores back down to 100. Since the IQ test was created in the early 1900s, human intelligence has increased on average 3 IQ points each and every decade. When I was a teenager, Calculus was something only taught in College and only if you were an aspiring mathematician. Now it is taught in High School. That’s not an accident.
This blog post is not meant to be a downer. This is an exciting time. We’ve reached a point where war no longer works and it’s time to use our advancing intelligence to come up with new solutions. My only hope is that when the next opportunity comes around to start another war that people remember Afghanistan. We can waste our time, money, and American lives on another war, or we could try to do something new; something more effective. Will it be flashy and exciting? Probably not, but it’s worth a try and if it fails it will surely be less expensive than war and still leave us with options for trying again. I vote we try something new, not because I’m unpatriotic or a bleeding heart, but because trying something new has become the only real viable option at this point.