Tuesday, the U.S. "stood down" in Iraq, finalizing the pullout of 140,000 troops from Iraqi cities and towns -- the first step on the long path home. After more than six years, most Americans are war-weary, even though a smaller percentage of us have been involved in the actual fighting than in any major conflict in U.S. history. We have relegated the car and suicide bombings to the inside pages of newspapers, accepting at face value that the "surge" has calmed things down enough so we can finally leave the whole sorry Iraq adventure behind us. But not so fast. The conflict that began in 2003 is far from over for us, and the next chapter -- confronting a Taliban that reasserted itself in Afghanistan while the U.S. was sidetracked in Iraq -- will be expensive and bloody. The death toll for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan reached 5,000 in June. An additional 80,000 Americans have been wounded or injured since the war in Iraq began. More than 300,000 of our troops have required medical treatment, and Army statistics show that more than 17% of our returning soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bilmes, Linda J., and Joseph Stiglitz. "The U.S. in Iraq: An Economics Lesson." Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2009.