As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I am a supporter of our armed forces. That might seem obvious - aren't we all. Well - no, not really. A lot of people, especially politicians, will say that they support our armed forces, but they don't really. If they truly did they would ensure that they are armed, equipped and supplied as well as they possibly can be - but they'd rather spend billions on a sporting event then national defence.
I was also a supporter of our action in both Afghanistan and Iraq - but I've always had my doubts about the idea of nation building. My view was that taking military action post 9/11 was the right thing to do, but the way we did it was very wrong - and I don't believe it was a strategy that military leaders came up with or even endorsed. I believe we should have gone in hard and fast, deposed the regimes that were there, disabled the bulk of their military capability and then withdrawn just as quickly - leaving those nations with no doubt that should anything emanating from that region ever threaten our nation again we'd do the same.
I agree that there is some value to remaining in Iraq and Afghanistan - it gives us a battleground to fight Moslem terrorists well away from our own shores and our troops are becoming battle hardened veterans through contact with real action - but other than that it is pretty pointless us being there. The belief that we will create some sort of western style liberal democracy in the region is misguided - it won't. Both Iraq and Afghanistan - should they ever become stable enough for us to pull out - will rapidly descend into a despot ruled hell hole once we leave.
It would never be enough to make one or even two nations in that region even semi-democratic as long as they remain surrounded by the autocratic dictatorships and theocracies which dominate the region - and this is where I feel we have missed an opportunity following the initial invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
As soon as we began these adventures the shock waves were felt throughout the Middle East. Previously belligerent nations - Libya and Syria for example - quickly made moves to placate the west and the people of Lebanon rose up against their own oppressors (Syria) and demanded they leave - but by hanging around and "nation building" that momentum was lost and with it the possibility of real progress in the region.
The "Cedar Revolution" of 2005 quickly evaporated and instead of improving prospects for that nation they were launched instead into the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war as Islamic insurgents, buoyed by the various "victories" in Iraq and armed by the Iranians, displayed their new found confidence.
This may sound callous, but I do not care about the people of Afghanistan or Iraq. If they want better lives it is their responsibility to do something about it other than flood into our country from their piss pot nations. Our only consideration for those nations should be how they effect our own - and they should have learned from a short, sharp but very resounding military action that if they try and mess with us they will pay for it very dearly. Again and again - until they stop.