Our nation has been engaged in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for a dozen or so years. Americans are very patriotic while they await a resolution of the wars. Our volunteers in our Armed Forces are as brave and committed as Americans who fought in any of our wars. They are well trained and believe in their missions. We are proud of them.
They are fortunate compared to some of our troops in other wars. They are treated as heroes and with respect when they return from the war zones. Many have been deployed twice and as many as four or five times. Many are reservists and to be deployed once and then sent back several more times is physically and mentally stressful.
In other wars, treatment of returning troops was different. Troops in the Korean War were ignored when they returned. They call it the forgotten war. Then we had the long, unpopular Vietnam War. That war is remembered for the protests against it at home, an unclear mission, disgusting politics, and the disrespect shown to our troops when they came home.
There are two main reasons for the different attitude today and then in regard to the fighting. Today there is no draft. Volunteers are waging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second is that the mission was to retaliate for the attacks on America by terrorists from the Middle East. In Vietnam, the mission was foggy, we had an unfair draft that was resented and the war was too long.
If the draft had been reinstated, would the attitude about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan be different? Would there be protests about the wars?
The mission is different in that we are “striking back” at terrorists who have inflicted damage and killed Americans. But the question remains, if we would have drafted men to strike back, would the situation be the same as it is today?
There is a growing attitude that it is time for us to leave Iraq and Afghanistan. We have pulled most of our troops out of Iraq and there is a timetable for us to get out of Afghanistan regardless of whether the terrorists have been defeated. But one can sense a feeling of a loss of hope in accomplishing total goals we have set, in particular the training of security forces in the two countries and to establish stable governments.
Have we learned anything from our wars in the two countries? We have failed to heed lessons from past wartime experiences intermingled with politics. Will history repeat itself in that regard?