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National interests vs. partisan interests

“Researchers estimate that the war in Afghanistan has cost more than 171,000 lives. It has wounded more than 20,700 U.S. service members and taken the lives of 2461 more. It has cost more than $2 trillion, which adds up to about $300 million a day for twenty years.

Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, August 31, 2021

Tomorrow’s twentieth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11* should lead us to step back from the failed policies of the endless war on terror and use fact-based evidence to think through the many challenges we face, which extend well beyond jihadist terror. It is past time to sort out national interests vs. partisan interests.

And it would be nice if the major news outlets would help. But as PressRun.Media founder Eric Boehlert recently pointed out, “the same press corps that said DeSantis ‘won’ the pandemic is now sure Biden ‘lost’ Afghanistan.”

So I have my doubts.

I asked a friend — a professional journalist who teaches journalism — about the media today. She shook her head and simply said, “They never learn.” Throughout August, many who write about the media for major news outlets expressed frustration with the way the issues we face are covered.

Jon Allsop in the Columbia Journalism Review contrasts the hawkish coverage of the media in Afghanistan to the overall lack of coverage about recent events in Haiti, both places where the U.S. has a history of complicity in creating crises. Much of the outrage is driven by “Washington-based politicians and national-security pundits with well-established hawkish views — and in some cases, as The Intercept has reported, ongoing professional and financial ties to the military-industrial complex.”

Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote in August that “The Afghan debacle lasted two decades. The media spent two hours deciding whom to blame.

Throughout, the American government has lied to the American people about how well things were going in America’s longest war, as The Washington Post’s important 2019 project, The Afghanistan Papers,” made abundantly clear….’Senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.’”

Political scientist Larry Sabato suggested that much of the slant to the Afghanistan coverage came about because the media has “been waiting for an opportunity to harshly go after Biden to prove anew how ‘balanced’ they are.”

The stakes in these decisions are incredibly high, as Heather Cox Richardson outlined in writing on national vs. partisan interests. There are important questions of when it is in America’s interest to fight a ground war. They are not easy questions, and reasonable people can disagree.

But none of them is about partisan politics, either; they are about defining our national interest. 

It strikes me that some of the same people currently expressing concern over the fate of Afghanistan’s women and girls work quite happily with Saudi Arabia, which has its own repressive government, and have voted against reauthorizing our own Violence Against Women Act. Some of the same people worrying about the slowness of our evacuation of our Afghan allies voted just last month against providing more visas for them, and others seemed to worry very little about our utter abandonment of our Kurdish allies when we withdrew from northern Syria in 2019. And those worrying about democracy in Afghanistan seem to be largely unconcerned about protecting voting rights here at home.

Not to mention that many of those wanting to protect Americans in Afghanistan seem uninterested in stopping the spread of a disease that has already killed more than 650,000 of us.

Richardson’s Letters from an American series is a good place to get the historical backstory to a range of challenges we face, such as minority rule over the majority, the growth of domestic terrorism, the Supreme Court’s turning a blind eye to unconstitutional state laws, the racists origins of the Senate filibuster, and the conflict between individualism and society.

The twentieth anniversary of 9/11 is a good time to invest in evidence-based solutions to our nation’s biggest problems which, as Michael German, Elizabeth Goitein and Faiza Patel have written, isn’t jihadist terrorism any more.

When something is labeled a “national security” threat, it is often assumed that the response will require extraordinary assertions of executive power and diminished protections for civil rights and civil liberties. This assumption has dominated our government’s response to 9/11. Yet it is rarely tested, as few counter-terrorism tactics have been evaluated for effectiveness using scientific, evidence-based methods. Indeed, in many instances, there is reason to believe these heavy-handed responses have been ineffective or even harmful.…”

And their conclusion nails it for me.

“The billions wasted on military and intelligence programs that do not demonstrably make Americans safer need to be reinvested in evidence-based solutions to our nation’s biggest problems.”

More to come…


*My post Isolated mind. Dead hearts from last Thanksgiving builds on a sermon given the Sunday after 9/11 by one of my mentors, The Rev. Dr. Frank Wade.

Image by USA from Pixabay.

This entry was posted in: The Times We Live In


I am David J. Brown (hence the DJB) and I originally created this personal blog more than ten years ago as a way to capture photos and memories from a family vacation. After the trip was over I simply continued writing. Over the years the blog has changed to have a more definite focus aligned with my interest in places that matter, reading well, roots music, and more. My professional background is as a national nonprofit leader with a four-decade record of growing and strengthening organizations at local, state, and national levels. This work has been driven by my passion for connecting people in thriving, sustainable, and vibrant communities.

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