On September 11 of this year, those who weren’t yet born at the time of the 9/11 attacks will finally be old enough to fight in the war on terror. In 2012, U.S. Marines killed Osama bin Laden, the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks, yet American soldiers are still losing their lives overseas in the name of preventing terrorism against the United States—despite the fact that there hasn’t been another major attack on U.S. soil.
Now a new generation is set to join the conflict, even though the presence of our brave troops has actually increased the power and influence of terrorist groups—the very threat they meant to eradicate. It is time to rethink what has become the longest war in American history. We need to prevent the War on Terror from continuing forever so my generation doesn’t have to pay an even higher price.
More Money + More Lives = More Terrorists
Defenders of the War on Terror argue that America cannot afford to leave because it would risk greater instability in the Middle East and terrorist attacks on American soil. Former CIA Director General Petraeus was evidently not bothered by the idea that the United States would be at war for decades because he argued that a sustained commitment is necessary for ending the war in Afghanistan. Rather than ending it, he supported putting 3,000 to 5,000 more troops abroad and continuing the war for a few more decades.
Although special forces have moved into more countries to counter new threats, new terrorist groups continue to proliferate.
However, adding more troops does not help the U.S. achieve its goals. On the contrary, as Cato Institute policy analysts Erik Goepner and Trevor Thrall reported, terrorist attacks in countries with U.S. military presence rose by 1900 percent between the mid-80s and early aughts. Contrary to common opinion, young Afghans do not become violent because they are poor—they become violent when they are dishonored, which explains why violence continues in Afghanistan. MercyCorps, a human rights organization, found in two separate studies that, even when youths had successful jobs, they were just as likely to become politically violent as their peers who were unemployed. One of the main drivers of political violence is anger at the West and the U.S. government.
Even if sending troops overseas did successfully combat terrorism, even our strongest waves of forces could not keep the Taliban out. The only forces that were able to keep the terrorist group temporarily at bay were nearly 100,000 strong, and even General Petraeus admits those forces did not keep the Taliban away for long. Thousands of the best and brightest of the next generation were sent overseas when they could have been the next Steve Jobs.
Although special forces have moved into more countries to counter new threats, new terrorist groups continue to proliferate, increasing tenfold since the beginning of the War on Terror. Any effective strategy would have yielded better results: after 17 years of American involvement in Afghanistan, we’ve spent $2 billion, 2,403 soldiers are dead, and terrorism has only increased in the places where America intervened.
Old Men Start Wars, Young Soldiers Pay the Price
The next generation will already be disproportionately affected by the War on Terror without the added concern of sending new troops to fight our parents’ war.
What General Petraeus proposed—decades of fighting and 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops in Afghanistan—is counterproductive to American interests. Our policy should be aimed at attempting to reduce some of the harm it has already caused the next generation. Millennials and Generation Z already have to figure out how to manage the crippling national debt set to reach $187,362 per taxpayer by 2022, and the challenges of providing care for the 14 to 20 percent of veterans affected by PTSD.
U.S. military intervention does not tend to make the Middle East more stable, nor does it keep Americans safe from the results of that instability. To date, U.S. military presence has done the complete opposite. The Trump administration’s 2017 decision to send additional troops to Afghanistan is directly counter to promoting the “general welfare” of the people of the United States, even though that’s their stated goal. The next generation will already be disproportionately affected by the War on Terror without the added concern of sending new troops to fight our parents’ war.