Vet­erans who vol­un­tarily join the mil­itary abound with courage. But vet­erans have sep­arate inten­tions from the political class. Men and women join the mil­itary to defend their country and make the world a safer place (among other reasons). Unfor­tu­nately, politi­cians distort this noble purpose by using the mil­itary to fight per­petual wars or attempting to “nation-build.” Oper­ation Iraqi Freedom and the Vietnam War are classic examples of the United States’ failure to establish free gov­ernment through the use of mil­itary force. Iraq is less stable today than when the U.S. first entered, and Vietnam still has an author­i­tarian gov­ernment.

Not only does nation-building fail, but it is an immoral use of force that triv­i­alizes the lives of sol­diers. The U.S. does not have the moral authority to tell foreign coun­tries which style of gov­ernment is best. The U.S. lacks the financial sta­bility to con­tinue fighting costly wars. Above all, the U.S. cannot risk the lives of American men and women to set up a gov­ernment that the cit­izens of foreign coun­tries do not even desire.

Michael Aavang (‘Vet­erans are not victims,’ Sept. 10) claimed that “the terror and pain a soldier expe­ri­ences often serves to expand, not diminish, the potential greatness of his soul.” But 20 percent of those who served in Oper­ation Iraqi Freedom expe­rience post-trau­matic stress dis­order, as do 12 percent from the Gulf War and 30 percent from the Vietnam War, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. Even if war truly makes man’s soul better, which is unlikely, human lives cannot be risked for an abstract sense of greatness.

We must have the courage to look back and admit that sac­ri­fices made by sol­diers have not always reaped pos­itive ben­efits on a global scale, and we must stop sense­lessly sending our troops to die in unwinnable con­flicts.

Aavang said that the vic­timhood men­tality of sol­diers orig­i­nates from post­modern, rel­a­tivistic, and pro­gressive thought. In reality, the idea that mil­i­taries can forfeit sol­diers’ lives to spread democracy or to merely champion a noble yet unde­fined purpose stems from Woodrow Wilson, a pres­ident who was as pro­gressive as they come. Only in recent history have con­ser­v­a­tives adopted the idea of “righteous battles,” as Aavang used the term. The only wars that are morally jus­ti­fiable are those that are fought in self-defense. Mil­itary occu­pation for even the noblest end is immoral.

War does not bring out the best in society. Aavang said, “[War] realigns the soldier’s moral par­adigm with what is truly important and higher.” But war does not refocus society on morality. It rather strips people of what makes them human. Aavang also claimed that “in peacetime expe­rience it is so easy to mistake what appears to be higher for what is higher in actu­ality.” If this were true, then humanity should have been focused on the highest morality for thou­sands of years prior to the modern era, when men and women were in con­stant strife with one another. But this was not the case. Recent history shows that peacetime allows people to develop morality and strive for what is good.

Since the ter­rorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. mil­itary has fought many battles and lost many sol­diers. In the 14 years since, global ter­rorism has increased by a factor of five, according to the 2014 Global Ter­rorism Index. Aggressive war does not make the world a safer place. War does not make men and women better. War is not glo­rious. It should always be our last resort.