US troops and Taliban in Afghanistan

There was plenty of hope for change around the country when President Joe Biden’s administration finally took office in January and for the most part, they’ve been able to right the shipwreck left behind by former President Donald Trump’s incompetent administration. Plenty of improvements have been made to normalize federal government operations –– both foreign and domestic –– so everyone is feeling a little bit better. To add to this positive trajectory, the Biden administration’s recent withdrawal from Afghanistan –– after twenty years of war, bloodshed and trillions of taxpayer dollars spent –– was the right step in the right direction at a new time for America. Unlike his predecessors, Joe Biden has finally been able to accomplish what other presidents could only scale down and talk about. It took major guts.

We’ve all gone through a lot these last twenty years, from questioning our politics to questioning our own existence. And while it’s certainly a relief to not feel like the White House is on fire every time you watch TV anymore, it does get hard when you see the images of chaos and disaster coming from the streets of Afghanistan after the last U.S. troops pulled out this week. However, these images would have been inevitable whenever (or if) the U.S. did finally leave, whether that would have been ten years ago or ten years from now. At the end of the day, the financial, economic and diplomatic repercussions for our country were too much for too long to continue, not to mention the personal crises that were created for the families of thousands of dead and disabled U.S. soldiers and Afghan citizens.

Of course, the question now becomes what will happen to Biden’s military budget, which ballooned even higher than Trump’s and is currently a whopping total of $740 billion? Despite sticking to his (for lack of a better term) guns and committing to finally getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan, Biden readily approved the military budget that Congress asked for, with Republicans wanting even more. His administration is also susceptible to using the same unconstitutional airstrike strategies that President Barack Obama once embraced, which Trump obviously kicked into high gear with such blunders as the bombing of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani. Will our post-Afghanistan military strategy have the same price tag as the old one or will it finally be lower? Lord knows some warhawks must be shaking in their boots.

After all, history tells us what we need to know about when the military industrial complex wants another war and (surprise!) it’s usually shortly after the last war. They eagerly followed World War I with the sequel World War II, which was then followed by the beginning of the decades-long Cold War and its expensive extension into Vietnam. But after the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the warhawks needed a new battleground and the tragedy of 9/11 gave them a useful chance to jump at the opportunity. Now as the last troops leave what is ultimately America’s longest war –– and the military industrial complex's biggest win –– they and their media operatives are again busy on the airwaves, stoking fear into the hearts of conservatives and empathy into the minds of liberals, all to try and monetize the next war.

Yes, the war machine costs a lot to feed and it’s always very hungry – $740 billion a year can keep it fat and happy for now, but what happens when the cuts finally have to be made? Or what if the cuts never come? As Matt Taibbi recently and correctly pointed out, most elected Republicans and Democrats have repeatedly supported all the military policies to get into Afghanistan, as well as every increase in spending since the war’s inception to keep it going. Hopefully, progressives and true fiscal conservatives continue to rise through the ranks of modern day politics and acknowledge that the war in Afghanistan was an expensive, purposeful and deadly misuse of taxpayer dollars that should never happen again. Americans should all be asking what else that money could have been spent on –– for example, our own infrastructure, economy, schools, etc. –– or if it should have ever been spent at all.

While there were plenty of good humanitarian developments made on behalf of the U.S. presence –– which certainly validates the hard work done by good public servants in our various military branches and diplomatic departments –– the price eventually became too much to bear. As the last U.S. planes left what has been deemed “The Graveyard of Empires” this week, we leave behind a world of uncertainty in a region that has never known anything else before. But at least this time the warhawks are gone.