June was another brutal month in Afghanistan. More than 100 soldiers lost their lives. Scores of Afghan civilians were killed. A country that has seen war and bloodshed for almost 10 years is still no closer to peace, despite billions of U.S. and international dollars that have poured in to rebuild Afghanistan. To add “insult to injury,” as it were, millions of Americans still have little idea of the war’s history, complexities, and even why U.S. troops are there. Think about it: For a majority of Americans, Afghanistan is an abstract mess – a geographical footnote to their lives; a place that comes alive when a U.S. general is sacked but otherwise is muddled, confusing and (here’s the worst part) uninteresting.
Here’s how I know this: A poll taken by the Angus Reid survey firm asked Americans, “Do you feel that you have a clear idea of what the war in Afghanistan is all about?” Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said, “No, I do not.” Fifty-one percent. The same survey found that (no surprise) a third of all Americans aren’t sure how the war will end up. These survey results, released two weeks ago, say as much about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan as the sacking of General Stanley McChrystal, the elevation of General David Petraeus, and the continued debate in Washington about how to defeat the Taliban. The ongoing tragedy of Afghanistan includes how uninformed people are of the tragedy there.