Afghanistan is Not Our Longest War.

Author:Jones, David T.
Position:OpEd - Essay

October 2017

There seems to be a new truth that whoever starts a column about Afghanistan, adds the descriptive phrase, "Our longest war." Or words to that effect.

One is not exactly sure why the writers seek to belabor this sobriquet. Perhaps they believe their readers are sufficiently ignorant that they need to be reminded about the duration of our Afghan commitment.

More likely, they oppose our commitment in Afghanistan and wish to prompt readers to protest that the United States should simply "declare victory" and depart, washing our hands of the results (a la Vietnam) from any aftermath. Or that no casualties are "worth it" in a far away land that most Amcits still would have difficulty locating on a map.

But it depends on how you are counting to describe Afghanistan as "our longest war." Some additional comparatives for those with a bit of historical memory:

* The Korean War, which began in 1950 and continues to this day (67 years and counting). Active combat with heavy casualties may have ended in 1953; however, this fighting was concluded by an "Armistice" rather than a peace agreement. Consequently, there have been alarms and excursions along the truce line and offshore waters during which soldiers and civilians have died. Active combat could resume at any time;

* The so-called Cold War, enduring roughly from the end of WWII in 1945 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This conflict ran approximately 45 years, depending upon where you start your counting. During this period, there were multiple "proxy" wars during which Washington and Moscow tested each other's commitments and willingness to sustain confrontation and containment. One obvious example was our faceoff with Cuba between 1961 and 2016. Another was Afghanistan where we funded and supplied (through cut outs) weaponry including antiair missiles for Afghan rebels fighting against Soviet combat troops. Another was Middle East conflict with Washington arming Israel and Moscow providing weapons and training for most other combatants, notably Syria and Egypt.

Or for the more historically inclined:

* Combatting insurgency in the Philippines following our seizure/conquest of the islands during the 1898 Spanish-American War. Depending on various counting rules, our efforts to suppress "Moro" rebels in Mindanao lasted between 1898 and 1913 (or 1928); and

* The "Indian Wars" which arguably including fighting between Indians and colonists virtually from the time the first...

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