Generals, ex-generals, and assorted defense functionaries order American soldiers to fight and die in wars where they have already accepted defeat. Despite the scale of our two-decadeslong failure in Afghanistan, they will always have work, in or out of government, within the permanent military bureaucracy. To buck the system and take a stand by demanding a change to failed policies could save lives and save America’s fading military supremacy from being further squandered, but it would threaten the benefits package in the Pentagon tenure pipeline so it doesn’t happen. Congress is happy to chop off the limbs of the American soldier if it makes for a good headline or scores a few points against political rivals. Taxpayers are preoccupied by more immediate concerns like pandemics, rent payments, and unemployment checks. Afghanistan is faintly troubling but so distant it hardly registers. Or else they are lost in the dreamland of online; too distracted by social media and video games to give a damn; too atomized and diffuse to muster the will to imagine themselves as part of a national community and exercise their responsibilities as citizens.
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