By James P. McGovern and Walter B. JonesFriday, February 18, 2011; 12:00 AM
No one, it seems, wants to talk about the war in Afghanistan. This week the House debated a budget bill that is touted as reflecting new fiscal restraint, yet borrows tens of billions more for the war. In an hour-long State of the Union address last month, President Obama devoted less than one minute to the conflict. Given the investment and sacrifices our country has made for nearly 10 years, the phones in our offices should be ringing off the hook with calls from those who are tired of being told that the United States doesn't have enough money to extend unemployment benefits or invest in new jobs.
But by and large, Americans are silent...
What are we giving up to maintain the status quo? Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz told the House Veterans Affairs Committee in September that the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, including interest payments on the money borrowed for these wars and care for our wounded soldiers and veterans, is likely to total $4 trillion to $6 trillion.
Simply put, we believe the human and financial costs of the war are unacceptable and unsustainable. It is bankrupting us. The United States should devise an exit plan to extricate ourselves from Afghanistan, not a plan to stay there four more years and "then we'll see." This doesn't mean that we abandon the Afghan people - rather, we should abandon this war strategy. It is a failure that has not brought stability to Afghanistan and has not enhanced our own security. As the retired career Army officer Andrew J. Bacevich has written, to die for a mystique is the wrong policy.
It is easier for politicians to "go along" rather than make waves. But we were elected to do the right thing, not what is politically expedient. The discussion of Afghanistan shouldn't be about politics, which we acknowledge are difficult, but what is right for our country. And the right thing is to end this war.
James P. McGovern, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts's 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House. Walter B. Jones, a Republican, represents North Carolina's 3rd Congressional District.