These past few days, the war in Afghanistan became the longest war in US history, surpassing Vietnam with the dubious honor. Often times, while the media and the public focused on Iraq, Afghanistan was forgotten, and thought of as “that other place in the mideast people are fighting terrorism.” But to this date, we’ve been there 8 years, 8 months and 9 days.
But the reasons for our invasion were hasty and born out of a climate of angst, torment and passion during the throes of the post 9/11 nation. Merely a month after the hijackings and crashes, the US commenced military operations against the Taliban government of Afghanistan. The region had a long history of foreign interference going back to 1839, with a destabilized and poor population lacking basic resources and infrastructure. Up until the 1990s, the Afghan people had served as a “poker chip” in a struggle for dominance in the region between superpowers situated around the globe.
Though the focus of the war has shifted to outing the Taliban, the original reasons for entering the Afghan theater was to eliminate protective cover for al Qaeda, which along with Osama Bin Laden, was credited with the 9/11 attacks. However, there is significant speculation that al Qaeda does not exist. Not that there are not radical, violent men with weapons out in the desert somewhere – but what we call al Qaeda is a “way of working,” as Tony Blair phrased it, and the intricate, highly organized terrorist network we have come to fear and loath is a myth – and myths are powerful vehicles for people to derive meaning from. Whether men now openly claim to be part of the organization or officials label targets as al Qaeda operatives/agents/terrorists/fighters/whatever, the term is a powerful, recognizable term, like a glittering generality with as much charm as Benito Mussolini.
Still, the US is out there, for whatever reason. Now it’s eliminating the Taliban and their record of oppressing women. But do you want to solve human rights crises around the world? Pick your issue, spin a globe, close your eyes, and point. You could wind up anywhere from Israel to your backyard. People will always find a political reason to wage war. One clothes the stain of shamefulness with the cloth of righteousness. And while innocent people die, angry men take up arms, and misguided Christian soldiers continue to march onward, and blood continues to be shed around the world.
As a friend joked to me, we’re making progress in sustainable warfare. It used to be that things were rationed and the entire nation’s resources went towards the cause. The role of propaganda on American civilians was more important, and conscientious objection was a big deal. But today, it’s an all volunteer army, America’s GDP still exceeds everybody else’s (for now), and we play lots of video games filled with simulated atrocities, even glorifying the heroic eddas of our past.
Are we getting used to being at war? After all, the US has been involved in some sort of military conflict at any given place on the globe since we got out of WWII. But this is a sustained action; so long as we’re comfortable, nobody notices. But Christians must consider their place in these times. Given that there are those who still croon about the US being a Christian nation, we must consider how the state would behave if the people who ran it were in fact Christ-followers.