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Rand Paul

If more people had listened to my father our war in Afghanistan would have been less tragic

By Sen. Rand Paul

After America was attacked by al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, my father, Republican Congressman Ron Paul, voted for a U.S. strike on the Taliban in Afghanistan for harboring the 9/11 terrorists.

We were attacked, so we struck back. This is the reason we have and need a strong military: Actual national defense.

But our military is not meant for nation building. Not for policing the world. Not for imposing democracy in places that have never known it.

Not only are these bad ideas, but they aren’t the point of our military and they do nothing for our national defense.

Unfortunately, that was the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney neoconservative vision of perpetual U.S.-led wars around the globe. We know how that worked out in Iraq. Now we are learning how it ends in Afghanistan.

But this isn’t hindsight.

It was always doomed for failure, and some have said so for a very long time, and proved right time and time again through our recent foreign policy disasters.

It was my father, often alone in his party, who said for decades that the neocons’ endless wars would always come back to haunt us.

He did it early, and often. Over the weekend, a video compilation of warnings my Dad issued years ago went viral. Why was a 13-year-old video of a Congressman who retired in 2012 going viral?

Because he was right and more people should have listened to him, to me and to others who have been saying for a decade that this war needed to end.

Ron Paul asked questions like, “What if occupying countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and bombing Pakistan is directly related to the hatred directed toward us?” The scenes we see coming out of Afghanistan today are rage-filled. We honor and respect the brave men and women who served there for so long, but to ask them to stay another year there would be unconscionable. They did their duty.

“What if all wartime spending is paid for through the deceitful process of inflating and borrowing?” Dad asked. Considering that we were never able to afford the trillions spent in Afghanistan and we are now more concerned about inflation at home, Dad seemed ahead of his time.

My father asked, “What if we finally see that wartime conditions always undermine personal liberty?” Thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, we have a clearer picture of how our government abuses our constitutional liberties every day, often using post-9/11 jargon to justify it.

And again, on Afghanistan, my father had long urged to bring American troops home after the U.S. accomplished its original mission early on.

If the neoconservatives and others at the time had listened to Ron Paul back then, the tragedy in Afghanistan would not have been prolonged. Most importantly, it would have saved thousands of American lives and also money that we don’t actually have.

During the Tea Party-era ten years ago, I and other libertarian-leaning Republicans followed in my father’s footsteps and managed to change some formerly hawkish minds about war. When Donald Trump became president by blasting the Bush administration’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and condemning “endless wars,” Dad’s foreign policy message had come full circle within the GOP.

Yet, if the Republican Party had been more like Ron Paul than Dick Cheney throughout the aughts, it would have saved our country a lot of heartache. If Barack Obama had actually ended the wars he promised too, like Dad had long urged, we would have been better off.

Now the same people who still defend the Iraq War and who also wanted to stay in Afghanistan forever are some of the loudest voices criticizing the Taliban retaking control of that country. If after 20 years of preparing Afghanistan to govern itself, it immediately bends to extremists the moment we leave, what did hawks think we were going to accomplish over another decade—or ever? Was two decades not enough time?

The fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban is sad but the blame should attach to the naive neocons who thought they could create a Jeffersonian democracy in a land clinging to the Stone Age, not to those who warned that it would inevitably end in a mess.

What’s clear today is that no one with the last name Cheney should even be speaking publicly right now. This origin of this debacle lies at their feet.

What’s even clearer, is that unfortunately the warnings of a Republican congressman from Texas years ago now feel more prescient than ever.

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