Andrew Bacevich Asks Congress If We Can Afford the "Long War"

This past week I covered the bold testimony of Ret. Cpl. Rick Reyes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, drawing the comparison between Reyes's anti-war testimony and a young John Kerry alerting the nation to the horrors of the Vietnam War 38 years ago. I certainly wasn't the only one to connect the dots between Vietnam and the current quagmire in Afghanistan, as you can see from this video with excerpts of Andrew Bacevich's testimony.

Bacevich, a retired Colonel who served in Vietnam and is now professor of International Relations and History at Boston University, has become one of the most vocal critics of the "Long War," as Defense Secretary Robert Gates dubbed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Paraphrasing General Bruce Palmer's account of the Vietnam War, Bacevich said that our country is once again "mired in a protracted war of an indeterminate nature, with no foreseeable end to the US commitment."

The Long War, as Bacevich exclaimed, has become the second most expensive war in US history (second only to WWII). Now that we our facing trillions in debt, Bacevich urged Congress to question the reasons for escalation in Afghanistan. "We just urgently need to ask ourselves whether or not the purposes of the long war are achievable, necessary, and affordable," Bacevich claimed, "and Afghanistan is a subset of that longer set of questions." Congress needs to address questions of cost before they vote on President Obama's $83 billion war funding bill in the coming weeks. And the most direct way to follow Bacevich's lead and confront Congress is by calling your Representatives as soon as possible, urging them not to vote until we have more oversight hearings like these, and more questions answered.

To me, putting Afghanistan in the context of the "Long War" is perfect, because it reclaims the frame first used by the Bush administration, lumping in the appallingly high economic and human costs of the deeply unpopular war in Iraq with the growing costs of operations in Afghanistan. It's a far better frame for progressives to use than "war on terror," as Derrick Crowe pointed out in his scathing critique of why Center for American Progress's Lawrence Korb is wrong on Afghanistan.

Ironically, when I interviewed Bacevich a couple months ago, he was skeptical of seeing any oversight hearings because thus far there hadn't been any institutionalized effort to rein in the Long War. That made it all the more gratifying to see Bacevich lead the charge this week before Congress.