Clip File: Is Afghanistan Obama's Vietnam?

"It was always a bad year to get out of Vietnam." -- Daniel Ellsberg

Here's Newsweek speculating at the beginning of this president's term. The analogy between the two adventures, the authors say, isn't exact. But in the months since this analysis was written, it has become only clearer that the U.S. has neither a coherent plan nor a convincing rationale for opposing the Taliban and that there are no good choices for moving forward.
About a year ago, Charlie Rose, the nighttime talk-show host, was interviewing Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the military adviser at the White House coordinating efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. "We have never been beaten tactically in a fire fight in Afghanistan," Lute said. To even casual students of the Vietnam War, his statement has an eerie echo. One of the iconic exchanges of Vietnam came, some years after the war, between Col. Harry Summers, a military historian, and a counterpart in the North Vietnamese Army. As Summers recalled it, he said, "You never defeated us in the field." To which the NVA officer replied: "That may be true. It is also irrelevant."

Vietnam analogies can be tiresome. To critics, especially those on the left, all American interventions after Vietnam have been potential "quagmires." But sometimes clichés come true, and, especially lately, it seems that the war in Afghanistan is shaping up in all-too-familiar ways. The parallels are disturbing: the president, eager to show his toughness, vows to do what it takes to "win." The nation that we are supposedly rescuing is no nation at all but rather a deeply divided, semi-failed state with an incompetent, corrupt government held to be illegitimate by a large portion of its population. The enemy is well accustomed to resisting foreign invaders and can escape into convenient refuges across the border. There are constraints on America striking those sanctuaries. Meanwhile, neighboring countries may see a chance to bog America down in a costly war. Last, there is no easy way out.
The rest of the story: Obama's Vietnam by John Barry and Evan Thomas (Newsweek 2009-01-31).

Other links:

"....If counterinsurgency, according to current doctrine, is all about securing the population, if securing the population implies not simply keeping them safe but providing people with good governance and economic development and education and so on, what then is the requirement of a global counterinsurgency campaign?...Are we called upon to secure the population of the entire globe? Given the success we've had thus far in securing the population in Iraq and in Afghanistan, does this idea make any sense whatsoever?" -- Interview with Col. Andrew Bacevich, Ret. (Frontline 2009-09-21)

Obama's Choice - Failed War President or the Prince of Peace? by Nick Turse (TomDispatch 2009-10-22): "While the armed forces can do many things, the one thing that has generally escaped them is that ultimate endpoint: lasting victory." (see, also: The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives by Nick Turse, an expose of the pervasive impact of the military-industrial-entertainment complex on the, uh, homeland)

Another indication of the moral bankruptcy of American policy: "The US military in Afghanistan is to be allowed to pay Taliban fighters who renounce violence against the government in Kabul," although it could be argued that those willing to be bribed will probably feel more comfortable in the company of the corrupt Karzai narcogarchy, anyway. -- U.S. to pay Taliban to switch sides (BBC News 2009-10-28)

More troops? Seriously: Troops In Afghanistan Outnumber Taliban 12-1 by Slobodan Lekic (Huffington Post 2009-10-27)

And, finally, a rare act of principle by a U.S. government functionary: U.S. official resigns over Afghan war: Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why his nation is fighting by Karen DeYoung (Washington Post 2009-10-27)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In answer to the question in your headline: Yes.

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