Congress Silent on Ending the Afghanistan War
In poll after poll the American public has said the Afghanistan war is not worth the costs. They have called for removing U.S. troops as soon as possible. They have supported cutting war costs by an average of 43%.
Where do policymakers stand on this issue? It’s hard to say. Unlike their constituents, who have spoken so strongly in favor of ending the war, many elected officials are silent.
There are notable exceptions. Representatives Timothy Johnson (R-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Walter Jones (R-NC) have led the way in calling for an end to the Afghanistan war. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jim Webb (D-VA) have introduced legislation to implement the oversight reforms recommended by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which found that as much as $60 billion has been lost to contract waste and fraud in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Unfortunately, these legislators are in the minority. Other members of Congress consistently overlook Afghanistan, even working actively to extend the war. In their version of the 2013 National Defense Authorization bill, the House voted to sustain the war, voting down an amendment that would limit funds to the “safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors from Afghanistan.” Another amendment to accelerate the drawdown didn’t even make it to a vote; the House Rules Committee refused to allow it to be debated.
While House members try to extend the war, some Senators are simply ignoring it. Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein notes that of the 16 Republican candidates likely to win Senate seats, 15 do not even mention the war on their campaign sites.
The Afghanistan war likely will not be a driving issue this election season. But it should be. The war has cost over $500 billion over the past ten years, and will cost close to $100 billion in the 2013 alone. Americans believe there are better uses for taxpayer dollars. Some members of Congress may disagree, but rather than debate the issue, they are sweeping it under the rug. By quietly supporting the status quo, policymakers are spending billions on the war without justifying their strategy to the taxpayers who are underwriting it.
The Afghanistan war is too big, and too costly, to be ignored. The American public understands this. It’s time for fiscal conservatives to show they understand it too.