We all saw the madness of the Afghan war. What kept us there?

Fewer U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan than in Vietnam, resulting in fewer grieving families seeking justification for their loved one’s ultimate sacrifice. With fewer soldier deaths comes less political pressure for change. And although fewer soldier deaths are, obviously, a good thing, any time soldiers are dying in aimless wars—irrespective of the number—it should register as “unacceptable” in the national consciousness. The lack of a draft has played a role, too. “Without a draft,” writes the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), “99 percent of the nation had no skin in the game, preferring to subcontract it out to a professionalized military cadre so civilians could ignore it.” That the burden of war is shouldered by a few, of course, does not make its total weight any lighter. We never felt the pain in our pocketbooks, either. Government obfuscated the financial costs of war by funding it through debt, rather than tax hikes. As Robert Hormats, the former vice chairman of Goldman Sachs, has pointed out, it is unprecedented in U.S. history that we pay for a war entirely from debt. Indeed, we cut taxes repeatedly during wartime (as the George W. Bush administration did in 2001 and 2003 and the Trump Administration did in 2017). Deferring war costs into the future reduces public awareness of those costs and reduces the likelihood that citizens will sue for peace. Frankly, the public got bullied into silence.