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Afghanistan—The 'Who Cares?' War

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
August 28, 2012
Wall Street Journal

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In 2006, the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran published a 336-page indictment of the Iraq war, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City." According to Nielsen BookScan, it sold more than 120,000 copies in hardcover and paperback. Two months ago, he published a 368-page indictment of the Afghanistan war, "Little America." It has since sold roughly 5,000 copies in hardcover.

So little attention is the public paying that even attacks by best-selling authors on the current conflict are dismissed with a collective shrug.

Yet there are still more than 80,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and every day soldiers and Marines, sailors and aircrews walk, drive and fly into harm's way. News coverage is sparse—save for occasional disasters such as "green on blue" attacks by Afghan security forces on coalition personnel or terrorist attacks in Kabul that only serve to confirm the popular perception that the war is lost.

The public's disengagement isn't all bad (more on that to come). But it is a bit surprising given that at its inception, in October 2001, this was one of the most popular conflicts the U.S. had ever undertaken. Despite the conventional wisdom that toppling the Taliban would be neither fast nor easy (remember the dread "Afghan winter"?), almost all Americans supported the decision to fight after 9/11.

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