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Recently a discussion I was having with a friend turned to the question of the war in Afghanistan.

I tend to think that Afghanistan war was justified – by which I mean that launching it prevented more suffering than it caused. In 2001, the then Afghan government, the Taliban, actively sheltered Al Qaeda. It was thus legitimate to hold them responsible for the 9/11 attacks. It lessens suffering to reduce the number of places from which such attacks can be launched. To qualify, though, we should also use “soft power” much, much more than we do. USAID can do a lot more in the end to both protect the United States and to benefit others then the US Armed Forces.

I’m more conflicted about when we should have ended the Afghanistan war. On the one hand, we should not bash things up and take off. We also should not develop allies in a country, and then leave them in the lurch – girls’ schools and other positive projects. On the flipside, as my friend pointed out, every moment of continued war is an opportunity for more innocent civilians to be killed. Also, by and large people really hate to be occupied, even if their previous government was horrendous, or their following government is likely to be. So I have no clear sense of my own position on the question of the right moment to withdraw.

There was also much discussion of drones, or as another friend in the discussion called them, “flying death robots.” But I’ll leave the morality of drones for another time (and another internal struggle!)