General Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Has the United States gained anything from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Asked by SuperMouse (30772points) May 4th, 2011

Here we sit nearly ten years after the September 11th attacks still involved in these wars. Yes Saddam Hussein is dead and, while the Taliban seems to be getting a fresh foothold, they aren’t openly running Afghanistan at the moment.

Over 1,500 US soldiers have died in Afghanistan* and over 4,400* have died in Iraq. That is not even including wounded soldiers and other coalition forces. So what, in your opinion, have we gained as a nation from our involvement?

* Source

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26 Answers

creative1's avatar

I know I have missed and worried about my sister when she has gone on two tours of duty. I don’t feel that my family has not gained a thing except worry that she will be killed. She just got home from her second tour in iraq yesterday and we are all so happy and excited. I hate to think that she could be called again to active duty. I shutter to think about all the families who lost a husband, wife, son, daughter, sister, brother, mother, or father in all this. Its a sad thing that the cheif and commander took all the credit when the enemy was killed and not giving it to the men and women who serve and gave their lives everyday for this cause. So no I don’t think the US has gained a thing out of all this mess except a very poor excuse for a president.

tom_g's avatar

I suspect that you will get a wide range of responses to this one. One problem might be the question: “Has the United States gained…” and “So what, in your opinion, have we gained…”
One of the reasons you will get different responses will be that people will interpret the “United States” and “we” in different ways. For example, what is this “United States” that you refer to? Is it the administration? The whole population? Certain class(es) of people? People who work in certain industries? Certain people with religious or ideological leanings? A handful of US residents? etc.
The same could be said for the term, “we”. Who is the “we”? Members of You and I, literally? My family and friends? The entire US population? The entire world? etc.
Not trying to say that your question is garbage. Rather, I anticipate a crap-storm of responses that will vary based on peoples’ interpretation of “we” and “US”.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@tom_g, that’s an interesting point, as the community of Fluther encompasses members from all over the world, and the participation in Iraq and Afghanistan isn’t solely confined to US troops. The question should be answered both ways: what has the US gained, and what has the international community gained. The interests of the US are not necessarily the interests of the international community.

And, perhaps the question should also be answered in terms of “society as a whole” and “special interest groups.”

SuperMouse's avatar

@tom_g and @BarnacleBill because the United States started the wars, has been primarily footing the bill, has lost a huge number of soldiers and of course I am American I am asking mostly about what the US has gained. Of course I welcome different perspectives. The “we” in the question refers to the United States as a whole.

jerv's avatar

We’ve gained a lot of debt and more than a little derision from other nations.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

An extensive knowledge of blast injuries, PTSD, and prosthetics.

filmfann's avatar

We have also gained a bit of retrobution, and a bit of security we would not have if those responsable for terrorist attacks went unpunished.

Bagardbilla's avatar

Lots and lots of potentially new terrorists, for the unholy & abominal, continuous justification for the funding of the military industrial complex, in a time when all around us is crumbling to the ground and our great grand-children’s future is being mortgaged off by those bestowed to look after their well being!
I believe it was Aristotle who said that in a democracy, all people DESERVE the government they get.

mattbrowne's avatar

What about 10 more 911s after 911? Flourishing terrorist training camps poisoning the brains of thousands…

Iraq wasn’t about international terrorism. It was about WMD that didn’t exist. The only thing that was gained was getting rid of a cruel dictator. But the price was very high. Thousands of times higher than that in Libya right now.

Hibernate's avatar

Blood for oil. The loss and the gain.

wundayatta's avatar

Precious little. We botched finding the terrorists, and in the process, we created ten times as many new terrorists.

We should have treated this as a police problem, not a “war on terrorism.” We could have pin pointed various leaders and made precision strikes (like we just did), and not even claimed credit for it. We could have just done it.

Perhaps Saddam would not have been overthrown then, but ten years later, it’s hard to imagine that he wouldn’t have fallen together with all the rest of the dictators in the area. Dictators die of the ill-will they generate. It is inevitable if you take a long enough time horizon. It would have been so much better if the Iraqis had done it for themselves instead of inheriting power from us.

So, yeah. Big waste of time, lives and political capital.

tom_g's avatar

@SuperMouse: “The “we” in the question refers to the United States as a whole.”

Then I am afraid the question is rather meaningless. Saying Dick Cheney, or people within certain industries that would benefit financially due to manufactured wars, has benefited is certainly possible. And to specify that benefit would be necessary (financial). There may be other ways in which these people may not have benefited – for example, a loss of privacy or an increased threat overseas when travelling.

To say that Dick Cheney and your average minimum wage employee – or school teacher – have common interests because they are US citizens is rather absurd. There are so many variables here.

If I was asked – and I of course I have not been – to rephrase your question, I would ask it in a series of questions, specifying the subject (who benefits/suffers), and the variables (in which ways do the subjects suffer/benefit – financial, etc).

klutzaroo's avatar

A bad reputation and a mountain of debt. No positives.

Qingu's avatar

@Hibernate, there is little oil in Afghanistan, and we sure didn’t make out with much oil from Iraq.

At risk of agreeing with the Bush administration (puke) I think it’s too soon to tell what we’ve gained from these places. I don’t think Iraq was worth fighting, and Bush’s mismanagement of Afghanistan turned it from a just invasion to a complete clusterfuck. But in the long term, both of these countries may well end up better. It might take a generation to get over the hard feelings, though.

SuperMouse's avatar

@tom_g I am afraid that rather than the believing the question is “meaningless” I believe you are misunderstanding the question. I intentionally worded the question the way I did because I am wondering what The Collective sees as the gains for the United States of America from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The cool thing about this site is that you are welcome to ask your series of questions and generate the discussion you are hoping for.

tom_g's avatar

Sorry, @SuperMouse. My wording was insensitive. I suppose you are correct. I am misunderstanding the question.

tedd's avatar

We have gained things that aren’t negative…. But not necessarily the ones we had sought in the first place.

One big thing we have now is a true military understanding of what future wars are going to be like. The military has always had the problem of “fighting the last war.” That was true with this one. We sent in 100,000 troops, tanks, jets, cruise missiles, battleships, aircraft carriers, etc….. When our enemy was hiding in the shadows, making raids and leaving bombs. We wasted entire cruise missiles on empty camp sites that could be rebuilt in a day. Today we know how stupid a lot of stuff we had (and were building) was. We’ve modernized our military to the threats it will likely face in the future, and it wouldn’t have happened (at least not to the scale it did) without those wars.

We did put a democratic government in Iraq. As much as its a rather unstable one, it is currently maintaining itself (our troops there are just for “back-up” and are involved in few missions these days). Now whether or not that nation will survive in the long haul, remains to be seen, but the events of the past few years there do give hope. Its an entire question all together as to whether or not we should have gone there in the first place. Saddam was clearly a bad man and the world is far better without him, but we went after him on clearly false pretenses (WMD’s, aiding al-queda, etc).

We did remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and install A government. This is less of an accomplishment because the Taliban are still a strong force in that part of the world, and the government we installed is riddled with corruption and shortcomings. If we left today, it would likely collapse into civil war. BUT, for the moment at least the Taliban are gone.

Without the wars we likely wouldn’t have obtained the intelligence that led to OBL, or KSM, or countless other terrorist masterminds. Not to say we may not have got them in other ways, but the people picked up in the wars made that far easier to do (despite Bush and co having screwed it up for so long).

Now obviously there is a list of negative things (which many people before me have expanded on)... but there were some good things to come out of it.

SuperMouse's avatar

@tom_g don’t get me wrong, I agree with your points about the devil incarnate Dick Cheney, I just wanted to get an idea how Americans feel about what we might have gained. Thanks for the apology.

flutherother's avatar

The US gained nothing from invading Iraq but a lot of casualties. Invading Afghanistan was necessary as the Taliban were protecting Al Qaeda but that was ten years ago. The danger is that if we declare victory and move out Al Qaeda will move back in and we will have gained nothing.

dabbler's avatar

Afghanistan has deposits of rare earth minerals and has potential for a gas pipeline that are useful for the usual suspects.

Qingu's avatar

@dabbler, good luck developing the infrastructure and economic services to take those resources.

Geopolitics is actually much more complicated than Settlers of Catan. American foreign policy is not reduceable to economic resources; nor is ideology an epiphenomenon of class/resource struggles.

woodcutter's avatar

With Afghanistan, an example was made of a regime that harbored plotters of terror. If a regime wants to be left alone and not deal with air strikes sending them scattering into the hills, they better not allow these kinds of people in their country. The world community has witnessed the predator drones that can see everything and erase things off the map. The people who know they are being sought after can never really relax. There is no escape. A small team of highly specialized soldiers can suddenly pop in on a target anywhere, any time and dust them. They will know they will be on TV, with many other people watching them from the other side of the world as they die, in real time. It has to be terrifying to be a terrorist. Even a host country will be in the dark until its too late. A country’s leaders would need to be very stupid to allow jihadists anywhere near them.
As for Iraq, I haven’t seen any upside to that one. If it all pans out for the better some day in the future then we might know.

manolla's avatar

More enemies.

dabbler's avatar

@Qingu I totally agree it’s a fool’s errand in that part of the world but it hasn’t stopped several empires from trying.

_zen_'s avatar

@mattbrowne Libya isn’t over yet. Syria is next in line; unfortunately there is still a lot of work to be done. These are the worst kind of breeding grounds for international terrorism.

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