Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently offered a candid assessment of America’s involvement in counterinsurgency warfare. These are wars where the aim is to gain support of the population rather than control of territory. Reflecting on the times we have used military force since Vietnam, he says we have a perfect record: “We’ve never gotten it right, not once.”
The lessons learned from the Vietnam debacle were quickly forgotten. Over a period of nearly 20 years, the United States has spent about $5 billion per week on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 6,500 U.S. military personnel have died in these wars, and over 42,000 have been wounded.
Sadly, the mortality rate among veterans returning from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan continues after the conflict ends. The Veterans Administration estimates that every year 6,500 veterans take their own lives. Honor the warrior, not the war.
Barry L. Reece