The Sunk Cost Fallacy of the Afghanistan War

The 16 year long war, the war that has cost me friends through primary (gunshots, improvised explosive devices, mortars) and secondary contact (suicide), the war that made me lose my innocence: Afghanistan.

The United States of America invaded Afghanistan in October of 2001, less than a month after the September 11th attacks that toppled the Twin Towers in New York City, destroyed part of the Pentagon, and took 2977 innocent American lives. The invasion seemed necessary to eradicate Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the group that planned the attacks, and the rest of the Taliban terrorist group.

Three Presidential administrations have dictated the drumbeat of this war: Bush started it, Obama attempted to finish it, and Trump just vowed to win it with an increase in troops. When is anyone going to stand up and admit that Afghanistan is the largest sunk cost fallacy of our times as Vietnam was to our parents’? When are we going to admit that the back and forth between administrations is detrimental to the overall war effort? We ramp up during Bush, we ramp down during Obama, and we ramp up during Trump. Does anyone think about the effects of the constant ramping up and down? As a Marine who built a forward operating base in Afghanistan in 2010 that was decommissioned in 2014 and as a current Department of Defense contractor, yes, I think about it. Let’s discuss the different sides of my heart and mind on this issue:

As a left-leaning Marine

I think about the literal blood, sweat, and tears of people who lived and died there for absolutely no reason. There was no purpose to the lives that were lost except to keep other Marines safe. The lack of sleep, the death, the torture, and the miles of lines dug to lay communications, the infrastructure that was built only to be torn down, all of it was pointless and expensive. We didn’t train the Afghans on how to do anything but hate Western invaders a little more when we invaded and then left and now plan to come back.

As a right-leaning Marine

Good, they shouldn’t have messed with America in the first place. We need to ramp up and destroy them once and for all.

As a Taxpayer

Holy. Fuck. Money was just thrown away and continues to be thrown away for upwards of two decades. Money that could be used to build better schools or finally pave Sports Arena Boulevard (trust me, guys, it is bad) or possibly allow better healthcare for American citizens is being used to fund the ramping up and down of these wars. It is being wasted on defense contractors who leech money from the government in a different war that focuses on bids and contracts.

As a Defense Contractor

Oh yes, give me the money. A ramp-up means higher salaries and more job security.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the presidential administrations can’t decide on one approach and we are stuck in an endless see-saw that tosses taxpayer’s money and the lives of their children into the air with each seesaw. We can’t seem to see that Afghanistan is like Vietnam, unwinnable and We.Should.Not.Be.There. America is too proud or driven by the greed of the defense contractors that have American politicians in the palms of their hands to see that we shouldn’t be a part of that war anymore. We should tuck our tail between our legs, and accept that continuing to throw money and lives at a situation isn’t going to fix anything. The more you invest in something, the harder it is to walk away, even when it is the right time to walk away. Yes, we have given 16 years of money and lives to Afghanistan, yes, some of us are emotionally invested and cried when the base we built was torn down, but how much can we throw away before we realize that the return on the investment (ROI) is negligible? Stop investing in the sunk cost.

Keep in mind that I am not a war strategist. Of course I “understand that withdrawal of troops could create a vacuum for terrorists to fill the void, thus causing a hotbed of people who will attack innocents.” Hello? It will be like that whether we are physically there or not. There is a reason Afghanistan hasn’t been united in the history of its existence. Tribal warfare is the foundation on which the people live and breathe in Afghanistan.

War is changing anyway; troop boots-on-ground is pointless. Cyber warfare and drone warfare are the new battlefields. So if you want to invest in what could possibly be the next sunk cost fallacy, throw your money at those technologies and let’s stop sending American troops to invade and die in a country that can’t be beaten because it is not united.

3 thoughts on “The Sunk Cost Fallacy of the Afghanistan War

  1. Afghanistan has always been considered the graveyard for empires. It does look like we have learned nothing from history. It is so easy to approve and get money for surges, yet it is so tough to make sure every American has access to healthcare. It just doesn’t make sense. Either these decision makers are incredibly stupid or we underestimate the evil of money.

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