Neocons and right-wing war hawks have been attacking their Republican colleagues recently for expressing doubts about carrying on the wars in Libya and particularly Afghanistan. The neocons have alleged that Republicans calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan are drifting toward “isolationism.”
That fight was on full display on CNN last night when neocon Wall Street Journal oped writer Bret Stephens took on Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) for questioning the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. “The grownups have left the field of the Republican Party,” Stephens said mockingly. Chaffetz fired back, saying the neocons are presenting a plan to stay in Afghanistan “forever”:
HOST CHRISTINE ROMANS: Congressman, a decade and a trillion dollars, there are those who say we risk throwing away great progress if we pull back too quickly and too soon for political reasons.
CHAFFETZ: Well, there’s always an argument to stay there forever. There are those of us that believe a good conservative position is to redefine the mission. In fact, one of the failings I think the Obama administration has is that it has not defined what success is. [...] I just don’t think we should be there with our men and women and I don’t want to pay for it.
Given that Chaffetz mentioned that he didn’t want to pay for the war in Afghanistan, it’s worth it to point out that the Pentagon said yesterday that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and homeland security operations have cost the United States $1 trillion so far, which, according to one analyst, “doesn’t tell you is how much money has been appropriated by Congress, which is $1.2 trillion.” Other estimates have concluded that by 2021, the total cost of the wars will have exceeded $2 trillion. Indeed, when President Obama was deliberating the Afghanistan troop surge in November, 2009, he reportedly “received a private budget memo estimating that an expanded presence [in Afghanistan] would cost $1 trillion over 10 years, roughly the same as his health care plan.”