Our longest war marches on

Our longest war marches on

June 7th, 2011 in Opinion Free Press

Stones with the word "hero" written on them lay on grave stones in Section 60, where many soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are buried, at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Stones with the word "hero" written on them...

The American Revolutionary War lasted from 1775 to 1781.

Our tragic War Between the States raged from 1861 to 1865.

U.S. participation in World War I was from 1917 to 1918.

We were engaged in World War II from 1941 to 1945.

The Korean War stretched from 1950 to 1953.

Formal U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War was from 1964 to 1973.

But do most Americans realize that we have been engaged in the war in Afghanistan since 2001? It's the longest war in U.S. history.

It began on Oct. 7, 2001, in response to the Sept. 11 attacks on our country by al-Qaida terrorists based in Afghanistan.

The war was justified, and it dealt the terrorists an awful blow. But today, no clear end is in sight.

In a trip to Afghanistan last Saturday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared, "The most costly thing of all would be to fail." He said the "success of the mission should override everything else."

It's true that "In war there is no substitute for victory." But what is the mission of the United States in Afghanistan? Most Americans don't seem to know, except that we don't want to lose. But we have paid - and are still paying - a tremendous price in lives and taxes.

Our Afghan enemies apparently do not expect to "win." Instead, they are trying to wait us out - still committing terrorist acts, causing us and the Afghan people casualties and rising costs. Is it worth it to us?

Opinions differ. What if we stay? What if we pull out? Unfortunately, neither alternative is desirable.