There are many ways of looking at the uniqueness of the war that the United States fought in Afghanistan through the past 11-year period.
It was a war without an enemy and was ‘politics by other means’; it started with a bang and is ending in a whimper. It began as a war that America (and the world) applauded and is ending as one in which the world lost interest.
Clearly, it is an unwinnable war where victory cannot be measured on the battlefield but lies in winning the hearts of men. Besides, it has come to be a strange war where success is being measured in terms of baiting the elusive adversary to come out and reclaim the trophy.
And, most important, it is the longest war in American history. If one were to take the long wars journal — Iraq, Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea, World War II, World War I and the Spanish-American War — Afghanistan outstrips them all.
By the time the war formally ends in end-2014, as projected currently, it would have been a 13-year old war. The next longest was the US’ Iraq war which lasted just short of nine years.
But unlike Iraq, Afghan war wasn’t too pricey — America spent only half-a-trillion dollars on it. According to the estimation by the Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, Iraq war cost 3 trillion US dollars.
That’s because Afghan war took long siestas or lingered in the shade, lost in reverie, giving way to the killing fields in Mesopotamia.
Yet, it will cost American economy dearly. For the upkeep of every soldier President Barack Obama decides to station in the new military bases in Afghanistan beyond 2014, US taxpayer will pay upward of a million dollar per year.
Indeed, the Great Game costs money in the era of globalization. The excursions that Captain Arthur Conolly and Colonel Charles Stoddart took in Central Asia for the British Empire in the middle of the nineteenth century were dirt cheap. The plucky Englishmen needed just a hardy horse to ride and a coolie from Calcutta to carry their spartan kit.
The best part of the Afghan war, however, has been that far fewer Americans laid their lives (over 2000) in the Hindu Kush in comparison with the other great wars in US history. But then, look at it this way: Isn’t it a single death that is a tragedy, while a million deaths becomes a mere statistic? Read the Salon article here