The war in Afghanistan started on Oct. 7, 2001 with an invasion ordered by President George W. Bush, and ended on Aug. 26, 2021 with a withdrawal ordered by President Joe Biden. It lasted for 19 years, 10 months and 19 days, and resulted in the deaths of 2,402 American servicemen and women, including 13 during the withdrawal.
The war in Iraq started on March 20, 2003 with another invasion ordered by President Bush, and ended on Aug. 31, 2010 with a withdrawal ordered by President Barack Obama. It lasted for seven years, five months and 11 days, and resulted in the deaths of 4,431 American servicemen. In both wars, far more than that came home with physical or mental wounds.
The war in Ukraine started on Feb. 24, 2022 with an invasion ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin. It has lasted for about one year and seven months thus far, and resulted in the deaths of no American servicemen.
We don’t know when the war will end, but we do know it won’t come at the order of an American president. And we know the number of American servicemen killed and wounded will not change.
Some of those who led the call for war in Iraq and Afghanistan are now leading the opposition to our support for Ukraine. They apparently like their wars made in America.
Republican hard-liners in the U.S. House of Representatives went into last week’s budget showdown with a long list of demands, ranging from border security to defunding federal prosecutors. The only thing they won was removal of funding for Ukraine. For now.
The initial Russian invasion of Ukraine went so poorly that I fear some in Congress underestimated the capacity of Russian leaders to subject their citizens to sacrifice and suffering - especially those from the less desirable parts of the country. They thought wrongly that the war would end quickly, and lost all patience when it didn’t.
At this point, it seems highly unlikely that Putin will follow through on his numerous threats to use nuclear weapons, or that our assistance to Ukraine will lead to an escalation resulting in direct war between the United States and Russia.
But there is the real possibility that the war could bog down into a long and bloody slog that doesn't end for several years. That would, of course, be incredibly expensive if we continue to support Ukraine at current levels.
I don’t think we have a choice.
We’re spending $816 billion this year on defense. While China is an emerging threat, Russia has long been our greatest military threat. We have the opportunity to diminish that threat without risking American lives.
Beyond the geopolitical aspects, our support for Ukraine has the added advantage of being the right thing to do. Ukrainians have a right to self-determination. A message must be sent to Putin and to all despots with designs on attacking their neighbors.
I’m confident that a majority of our leaders understand that, and the setback last week will be temporary.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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