Dear Mr. President:
Nicely done. We appreciate it. And we appreciate the outstanding efforts
of our intelligence community, our military and the bold members of SEAL
You are now hearing many voices telling you weve accomplished our mission
and we should bring the troops home.
I suggest we should bring the troops home not because the death of bin
Laden marks the end of our mission against terrorism but because it does
not. In fact, there is no end to this war and it is likely no such end
will ever occur during our lifetime.
Those engaged in these murderous activities are now part of a
decentralized group of individual cells located in dozens of countries.
There is no single place we can go to engage and defeat them. Their
fanatical zeal will never allow them to stop their violent rampages.
Additionally, this part of the world has been at war with itself and
others for at least 4,000 years and it is not likely theyll stop whether
were in the region or not.
Were sure someone must have explained to you that the prognosis for those
who invade the region is bleak. This lack of success has been going on for
a long time.
Afghanistan is ancient. Archeological digs have discovered traces of human
inhabitants from 50,000 years ago. Some form of urban civilization has
existed there since at least 3000 B.C. More to the point, Afghanistan has
been invaded, occupied and involved in some kind of conflict for as far
back as records exist.
Alexander the Great came rumbling through the area, made a brief stop, and
then moved along finding no real reason to stay. Genghis Khan visited,
too; raping, pillaging, plundering and destroying everything he and his
Mongols could find to destroy. They then moved along, too.
In more modern times, the British and the Russians played tug-of-war with
the place, neither gained much of an advantage and by 1920 neither
exercised effective control over the area and they left. A succession of
attempted governments followed, including a monarchy and several military
Then, the Soviet Union invaded in 1979 trying to support their Marxist
puppet regime which had come under fire from a religious insurgency. The
invasion was a bad idea.
We supported the anti-Soviet mujahideen, the so-called freedom fighters,
with money and arms. Osama bin Laden also supported them financially and
used that conflict to create and organize al Qaeda.
In nine years, the Soviets suffered at least 15,000 dead and 20 times that
number wounded. Then they went slinking back home, defeated, the invasion
serving as an important signpost on the way to their eventual collapse.
We are not likely to be the first to successfully occupy Afghanistan.
Iraq is not much better.
The Cradle of Civilization, with a history dating back to at least 6000
B.C., the area we now call Iraq has also seen an endless succession of
invading armies who came and saw but did not conquer.
Its instructive to note the first war in recorded history, between Sumer
and Elam, took place around 2700 B.C. fairly close to what is now Basra,
In more recent times, the British tried their hand as an occupying force.
They, along with the French, arbitrarily created the borders of modern-day
Iraq. They did not enjoy their stay in the country.
Winston Churchill, who was in charge of the Brits mess in Iraq long
before he became Prime Minister, might have made the most salient comments
about the area in a letter to then Prime Minister David Lloyd George in
1922, Why are we compelled to go on pouring armies and treasure into
these thankless deserts?
We know you inherited these wars, Mr. President. But you need not
The fact is outposts of al Qaeda fanatics and their affiliates will
continue to exist and continue to undertake murderous missions. The
Taliban, always lurking in the mountains of Afghanistan, will also still
be around, desperate to return some country somewhere back to the 14th
century they so love.
We will never kill them all. Never.
But modern technology does allow us to remain hyper-vigilant and to
eliminate high value targets without the cost we now pay in blood and
There is scant evidence that our staying in the area will help much,
either. The new Iraqi government is ineffective and ineffectual, a
conglomeration of folks without a clue of how to form or run a real
government. Afghanistan is even worse, a cesspool of corruption with
virtually no remaining infrastructure and with opium poppies as the
countrys primary source of income.
Were not even sure those we now support will be allies in the future. We
may well be creating something even worse than what were replacing.
Remember the mujahideen we supported against the Soviet invasion in
Afghanistan? Many of them became the backbone of the Taliban.
In Afghanistan and Iraq we are now fighting the two longest wars in our
history. Weve spent at least $1.3 trillion and suffered more than 47,000
dead and wounded in the effort. Weve routed the Taliban in Afghanistan,
eliminated Saddam Hussein in Iraq and killed the symbolic leader of al
Qaeda. Despite all of that, the terrorists, who now kill just for the sake
of killing, are still there.
We can neither stay in the region forever nor protect them from themselves
There is an old Arab saying: We will sacrifice space for time. The
tribal feuds into which weve injected ourselves have been going on for
millennia. They will continue with or without us.
Mr. President, its time for us to come home.