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We Are Asking the Wrong Questions About Afghanistan

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The raging debate now about Afghanistan is whether or not we should send more troops, and if so, how many. But the real question that no one is willing to articulate: How many more dead and wounded American soldiers and Afghan civilians are we willing to sacrifice and tolerate to attain this elusive goal? I have no military expertise. I know about the law, not about war. I have not read Sun Tzu's Art of War, but I do not think one needs to be an expert to know that sending more troops increases the chance of winning a battle or a war.

What the experts do know is that we are fighting a war with an enemy unlike any other. They have no uniforms, no permanent place of command, possibly no centralized leadership, and certainly no one person or group who can surrender on their behalf. To me, trying to rid Iraq and Afghanistan of terrorists is like the impossible task of trying to capture all of the criminals residing in New York City or any other major city. Although unlike New York, except for a few major potholes, Afghanistan's terrain makes the feat near impossible, and the lessons of history certainly militate against it.

Despite some minor differences on the statistics of the dead and wounded to date from both Iraq and Afghanistan, there is substantial agreement that about 4600 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq and about 1500 in Afghanistan. The numbers as to wounded are not as clear, but over 150,000 disability claims have been made. As to civilians, Unknown News website claims in Afghanistan roughly 7500 killed and 14,000 injured, and in Iraq about 700,000 killed and 1,250,000 wounded. These numbers can be disputed because some are based on estimates, but if they are right, approximately 750,000 people have been killed in both wars and over one million wounded. Whatever the number, there were and will be too many American and civilian casualties.

Because of the unfortunate diversion of our resources to Iraq, we may have missed the time for revenge and retaliation for 9/11. Now it is impossible to eliminate the terrorists. We can reduce their numbers and their influence, but we can not eradicate them. If we do so in one location, they shall inevitably appear elsewhere -- Pakistan for instance. I recognize and concede that sending more troops to Afghanistan as the military leaders request will win us more battles, but not the war. And so I repeat -- the question we must ask and the President and Congress must answer is how many dead and wounded American soldiers, contractors and Afghan civilians are we willing to sacrifice and tolerate to attain such an elusive goal? And I cannot help wondering whether our answer to this question would be any different, if we had the draft rather than an all volunteer army.