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David Herbst, Americans for Prosperity

DAVID HERBST

In his famous 1962 farewell speech at West Point, Gen. Douglas MacArthur told the Corps of Cadets that “the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

Our veterans and their families have borne the brunt of our nation’s wars. They’ve served selflessly and courageously, often taking on multiple tours of duty while spending months or even years away from loved ones, missing birthdays and graduations, and losing their brothers and sisters in arms.

Around here, these costs hit home — veterans make up 10.6% of our state’s population, the third highest percentage in the country. It’s all too common in Montana to know a veteran who is dealing with post-traumatic stress, debilitating injuries or a difficult career transition.

These challenges make painfully clear the price of the unending wars that continue to rage in places that are no longer vital to our safety or our strategic interests.

Our continued involvement in Afghanistan, Syria and a host of other less-noticed locations have sapped our collective strength, drained $6 trillion from our treasury, and distracted us from more important issues.

The time has come to end our participation in these conflicts.

In the case of Afghanistan, we rightly invaded shortly after 9/11 because the Taliban provided safe haven to al Qaeda. Since then, we’ve overthrown the Taliban, severely degraded al Qaeda and killed Osama Bin Laden. We’ve accomplished our primary goals, and there is insufficient reason for indefinite involvement in a war that is already the longest in American history.

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At Concerned Veterans for America, we believe in a strong military to defend our country and protect our freedom. We also believe that we are at our strongest when we objectively assess our nation’s limited resources and restrain our military engagement based on the reality we live in. We owe it to our troops to use force only when:

  • Our vital national interests are at stake.
  • A clear objective exists along with a strategy that can reasonably achieve it.
  • Congress has authorized the use of force, as the Constitution demands.
  • A clear exit strategy exists.

At this point, our military presence in both Afghanistan and Syria fails this test. It’s time to bring our troops home and refocus our resources toward strategic priorities such as deterring great-power conflict.

We have heard the calls from those who insist we must “stay the course,” lest our heroes’ sacrifices prove to have been in vain. We believe that honoring those heroes means not putting them unnecessarily at risk in wars that do not serve our nation’s interests.

That’s why over the coming months we’ll be hosting events that tie together three related issues: ending U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, lowering the $22 trillion national debt that is among the greatest threats to our national security, and providing health care choice within the VA system for veterans of all conflicts.

The American people, including veterans, are questioning the value of these endless conflicts. A YouGov survey commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute and RealClearPolitics reports that 57% of respondents support a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Pew Research found that a majority of veterans believe that the war in Afghanistan wasn’t worth the cost.

Americans know the agony of war. We hope that our nation’s leaders are listening.

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David Herbst, of Bozeman, is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Montana. Nathan Anderson, of St. Paul, Minn., is executive director of Concerned Veterans for America. Both organizations have been funded by Koch Brothers entities.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.