A stunted discourse on Afghanistan

In many ways, our political discourse, particularly when it comes to foreign policy, has shown signs of progress. For example, now that there’s a Democratic White House, dissent is allowed again, and questioning the president’s national security strategy is no longer equated with treason.

But as Amanda Terkel noted, so long as Republicans fear being labeled unpatriotic for being skeptical about the U.S. million in Afghanistan, the discourse still has a ways to go.

At a town hall meeting in his district on Sunday afternoon, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, discussed how his latest trip to Afghanistan reaffirmed his belief that the United States needs to withdraw its troops from there. […]

Bethel Patch reports that Murphy also revealed a comment made to him by one of the Republican lawmakers on the trip, who admitted that there is pressure to publicly avoid any criticism of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan so as not to appear unpatriotic. The lawmaker wasn’t necessarily against the war in Afghanistan but admitted that being in favor of withdrawal would be a tough position to occupy.

According to Murphy, this Republican lawmaker said that “even if he opposed the war, it wasn’t right for him to openly talk about that, [and] if you criticize the war, that you’re putting troops in jeopardy.”

Terkel does some sleuthing, trying to identify exactly which member said this, but even putting that aside, it’s astounding that such thinking persists.

The war in Afghanistan has been ongoing for nearly 10 years. It’s the longest war in American history, and there are obviously legitimate questions about the efficacy of the existing policy. Maybe those questions have compelling answers, maybe not. The only way to evaluate the policy is to have the debate.

But it appears that in some GOP circles, criticism of a 10-year-old war is, even now, grounds for suspicion. To be skeptical of the conflict is to put one’s patriotism in doubt.

The chilling effect from 2002 hasn’t gone away.