The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may finally be taking new directions, the former for the worse and the latter for the better.
In Iraq, the U.S. troop withdrawal appears to be progressing on schedule and will hopefully finish this summer. But that will not be the end of the U.S. presence. The State Department has announced plans to spend $3 billion annually employing 5100 armed contractors to protect departmental employees. This commercialization of military force substitutes the profit motive for national service, will probably cost more in the long run than using military personnel, and exacerbates danger to democracy from established private armies. (History has several examples of private armies enabling a tyrant to supplant democratic government, e.g., in Rome.)
Congressional and other calls for expediting the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan have grown since the death of Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, the Afghan government remains corrupt, controls little of that deeply fragmented land, and affords little realistic basis for hoping for significant improvements. The U.S. should declare victory and exit, as Richard Nixon did in Vietnam.
Almost 10,500 American personnel have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The overall death toll is much greater. Now is the time to end the carnage.