Would someone please tell me what just happened in Afghanistan? According to President Biden, it was time for America’s longest war to come to an end. The first question I have is, does anyone recall Congress issuing a declaration of war? Let’s call it what it actually was. It was an attempt on the part of our government (Republicans and Democrats) to provide the American people with a bold and aggressive act to punish those who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.

In the ensuing 20 years, the mastermind of that attack on this country was relentlessly hunted down and eventually killed. Yet during that same period, $2 trillion was spent with the objective of denying terrorists a base to operate from. But what was even more costly was the number of American military personnel killed to achieve this objective: close to 2,400, with the majority of those deaths resulting from hostile action.

When Biden ordered the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, he said it was time for the Afghan people to take responsibility for their own future, and I agree with him. At some point, you have to be responsible for your own destiny.

Biden was confident that after providing that government with tremendous amounts of military equipment and probably the finest training available, the Afghan people had the means to defend themselves from a radical religious group who went into battle on motorcycles and pickup trucks. Yet in less than a week, the Taliban had control of major parts of the country and by week’s end were in Kabul, forcing the Afghan president to flee.

How do we as a nation face those who have lost loved ones and say to them that they died for a just cause? Precious lives have been lost and money that could have been earmarked for our own domestic projects — the homeless, repair of deteriorating infrastructure, mental illness are just a few that immediately stand out — wasted, to what end?

The argument used by both political parties over the past two decades was that we had to stabilize the country so that it could no longer be a haven for the Taliban, and the end result would be that we would be protecting our own borders from future terrorist attacks. Additionally, we would champion such things as the rule of law, women’s rights and religious tolerance, with the goal being to bring the nation into the 21st century. How well did that work out?

I firmly believe that if the Afghan people wanted these things, then when America’s departure was imminent and knowing the Taliban was still a force to reckon with, then every man and woman capable of doing so should have stood shoulder to shoulder with their soldiers, letting them know that they did not want to live under the yoke of religious fanaticism and would fight for their liberty, even if all they brought to the battle were rocks and sticks.

Unlike past wars, where nations fought nations, the conflict we currently face is a nation fighting against an ideology. In my humble opinion that cannot be done by using 20th century solutions. We have to find 21st century solutions to 21st century problems.

I do not argue that the Taliban had to be dealt with and those responsible for the attack on 9/11 had to be held accountable. But we have to shoulder some of the responsibility for this Afghanistan debacle. For 20 years we went along with our elected leaders as they led us to this sickening conclusion. What is the answer? I have some ideas, but no one is asking for my input. However, let me suggest this: Like many of my fellow Americans, I believe that when our country is attacked, our response must be decisive and well planned, but sometimes victory can be achieved without resorting to the use of a sledgehammer. I know that we have the means to disrupt, demoralize and diminish an organization’s ability to conduct terrorist operations. Maybe serious consideration should be given to more effectively using these methods. Who knows, they may be more successful than bombs, bullets and blood.

Richard E. Lubow is a resident of Greeneville.

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