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October 7th, 2011
08:58 PM ET

Letters to the President: #991 'Afghanistanding still!'

Reporter's Note: The president has been trying to catch up with the runaway unemployment problems, but as I note in today’s letter, sometimes just keeping the challenge in sight can be enough for the moment.

Dear Mr. President,

Ten years. We’ve had troops in Afghanistan for ten years. Just think of that. There are kids who are going to school, playing soccer, listening to music, and texting their friends for whom that war has been as permanent as the Statue of Liberty, or the Grand Canyon, or the great ocean that stretches between here and there. They have never drawn a breath that Americans were not fighting in that distant land.

The war is not permanent, of course. One day the fighting will end, and we’ll pack up our things, and head home for good. And then we’ll ask what people always ask at the end of war: Was it worth it?

The problem with such questions is that they are unanswerable. Was it worth it in the beginning when we were all scared, and 9/11 loomed so large, and we wanted to unseat the people who’d given Al Qaeda a nest in which to breed their hatred? I suppose a lot of us would say yes.

Has it been worth it to remain there in all the years since, chasing the Taliban and other bad guys back and forth across the Pakistani border? That’s when, I imagine, the answer gets murkier for a lot of Americans.

Despite what we may hope in our most ideal moments, I am afraid war is a natural part of human existence. It’s brutal, awful, horrifying, and inhuman in its realization; and yet history tells us as a species we are drawn to it and always will be.

So what are we to do while we wait for the best, most positive exit we can find from this war? I guess the same thing people have always done with troops at war: We can work toward making sure their sacrifices, the dangers they have faced, and the lives they have lost, produce a worthwhile result. We can support their efforts, whether we are pleased with the situation or not…after all, we sent them there. And we can pray for our troops and remember them every day, even as the days drag on and we are tempted to forget.

I hope your weekend is off to a good start. Call if you please.

Regards,
Tom

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