Editor's Note: This editorial was published in the September/October issue of the magazine.
An important new consensus is forming against America's endless wars, shaped by an important constituency: the military veterans who have sacrificed so much to fight them. A Pew Research poll of veterans released contained results that contradict the cherished talking points of the bipartisan Washington foreign policy blob that sees "leadership" and "engagement" as being synonymous with bombing and regime change.
Sixty-four percent of veterans said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting when the costs to America are weighed against the ostensible benefits to the region and our national security. Just 33 percent concluded that George W. Bush's Baghdad democracy adventure was worthwhile in retrospect.
That's not much different than the prevailing view among the American public, where 62 percent said the Iraq war wasn't worth it versus 32 percent who still think it should have been fought. Perhaps more surprisingly, 58 percent of veterans believe the Afghanistan war—now America's longest, despite two consecutive presidents of both parties advocating retrenchment—wasn't worth fighting. That's only a point behind the 59 percent of Americans as a whole who say the same.