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A General Writes the First After-Action Report on the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq: Why We Lost |

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The nation and its military would have been far smarter to invade, topple the governments they didn’t like, and get out. “Both wars were won, and we didn’t know enough to go home” after about six months, Bolger argues. “It would have been messy and unpleasant, and our allies would have pissed and moaned, because limited wars by their nature have limited, unpalatable results. But what result would have been better — that, or this?”

The mindset persists. “The senior guys say, ‘Well, it’s not lost yet — we may still pull it out’,” Bolger said, as Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, returned from a NATO session in Brussels where Afghanistan was a topic. “I don’t give military advice to the Taliban,” Dempsey told Jim Garamone of the Pentagon’s American Forces Press Service. “But if I were giving them advice, I’d tell them their negotiating position is not going to improve, it’s going to erode.”

There was a belief in some quarters of the U.S. government that Washington and its allies were going to remake that troubled part of the world. “Don’t be so arrogant and think you’re going to reshape the Middle East,” Bolger says. “We’ve basically installed authoritarian dictators.” The U.S. wanted to keep about 10,000 troops in Iraq post-2011 (the two sides couldn’t agree on legal protections for U.S. troops, so none remain) and a similar sized force is being debated for Afghanistan once the U.S. combat role formally ends at the end of 2014. “You could have gone to that plan in 2002 in Afghanistan, and 2003 or ’04 in Iraq, and you wouldn’t have had an outcome much worse than what we’ve had,” Bolger says.

I do wonder if we had not gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistam, if things would be better at home and overall in the world.

I think so but I guess we'll never know.