How can we win in Afghanistan when we have already made in clear to the enemy that we are not in it for the long haul? The very idea of telegraphing our intentions to the enemy, i.e., planned withdrawal, is absurd. What if we would have told Hitler and Tojo, “we will give it four years but if we don’t win by then we quit”? (I know, it’s been ten years in Afghanistan, but our political leaders have been half-hearted in the matter and the public indifferent.)
I want to comment on the here and now, primarily the Afghanistan war, but for war, Vietnam is always my analogy or point of comparison.
The Vietnam war was not necessary and it accomplished nothing, except the communists did eventually take over South Vietnam (all of Vietnam), and how that, the commie take over, hurt the U.S. I have no idea. In fact, today Vietnam is a prosperous nation and a trading partner with the U.S. and has adopted a primarily capitalist economy (as has communist China).
Even if nation after nation had indeed fell to communism, as the prevailing “Domino Theory” of the time had suggested, it would not have necessarily adversely affected the U.S as a whole (some capitalists perhaps), I would not think, and eventually those communist governments would see their economic system fail as they always have under communism and look to more capitalist style business models.
But due to our Cold War doctrine we were pre-disposed to fight communism wherever we could. JFK said “we will fight any foe…”
Today the threat of communism has been replaced by the threat of terrorism, primarily terrorism that claims to carry the Islamic banner (even though the whole religious community of Islam itself is not necessarily arrayed against us).
The modern threat seems a little more real, though. Terrorists have struck all over the world and of course struck the U.S. big time on 9/11, with other incidents from those who apparently were inspired by the Islamic terrorists, since then (e.g.,Ft. Hood ect.).
With our predisposition and our rhetoric of the time of the Cold War, we were in some ways looking for a fight, and we got one in Vietnam. There was an ongoing communist insurgency in South Vietnam aided and abetted by Communist North Vietnam and the Soviet Union, and China to some extent as well.
For sure, I suppose, if communism were left unchecked the fear was that it would eat into the free capitalist markets and enslave whole nations under iron socialist, extreme leftist, rule, which ironically is the same as iron right wing (capitalist) fascism or Nazi control. Both ends of the political spectrum demand totalitarian rule — dictatorships (I am not sure why, except they are totally intolerant of independent thought).
And if modern so-called Islamic terrorists had their way we would all be enslaved under harsh Sharia law.
I’m going back and forth here, but way back in the early 60s there had not been a direct invasion by North Vietnam of South Vietnam but we were itching to fight the spread of communism — it was taught in our schools that the USSR wanted to rule the world with its communism and that it was ready to nuke us at any minute and short of that or meanwhile it was attempting through subversion and outright warfare to take over countries one at a time (and of course there was some modicum of truth here mixed in with all this). The USSR had already forced Eastern Europe under its umbrella as a kind of spoil of victory in World War II, during which it was our ally.
Our trigger finger was so itchy that LBJ used the pretext of a couple of our gun boats being fired upon (questionable what really happened) to wage war against the communists in South Vietnam. But apparently there were mixed feelings about the war from the beginning and it was found that a resolution giving the president power to use military force rather than a formal declaration of war was more practicable (politicians could both wage war and claim we were not really at real war at the same time, thus appeasing both sides of the issue. And that is the model we have followed since, except that nowadays we do call it war most of the time — we just don’t go on record as officially fighting a declared war so that we feel obligated to forgo normal activities for the war effort).
There were continued mixed feelings about Vietnam. So we fought what became an all-out war with one hand tied behind our back for fear of something called “escalating a war”. I still don’t know what that really means. War is war. The side that fights the hardest, with the most skill, the most determination, and above all does not give up, wins.
Eventually the losses were too high; we took too long to realize that. We quit and the other side won.
Oh, and there is an analogy and/or comparison here (more than one really). It was said that Vietnam was not a conventional ground war. But the North Vietnamese eventually sent in regular combat troops with uniforms and everything.
It is said that Afghanistan is not a conventional war. But real bullets and shells are being fired and people are getting killed.
In both wars we found it necessary to work with corrupt governments that were supposed to be on our side. In both wars we were trying to train domestic troops (of the respective nations) to do their own fighting — but they often seemed reluctant (it is sometimes hard to save people who have no stomach to be saved).
Not long after we left Vietnam, the unconventional war, the North Vietnamese quite conventionally rolled into Saigon with their quite conventional tanks and eventually renamed the town Ho Chi Minh City, after the legendary North Vietnamese leader.
What I am trying to note here, among other things, is that once we leave Afghanistan, an unconventional war, the Taliban/Al Qaeda forces will take over in a quite conventional manner (although they might fight among one another).
As we got into Vietnam by a pre-disposition to fight communism, Bush 2 moved into Iraq and Afghanistan to fight his War on Terror (terror is a tactic not a person or an identifiable entity — that makes it rather open-ended and hopeless — kind of like waging war on “meanness”).
The 9/11 terror was staged from Afghanistan, and the government there refused to hand over the master mind, Osama Bin Laden, so we invaded and meanwhile for good measure Bush 2 invaded Iraq, a nation not necessarily waging direct terror against us but whose government was controlled by a very bad man, Saddam Hussein, who was sympathetic at least to the cause of hating us.
This issue is so complex with so many contradictions that I am only touching on what are some high points as I see them. And since I was writing all of this off the top of my head, I neglected to mention the obvious point here is that all of our current fighting (to include Libya, which I note at bottom) is tied to our need for oil. The garbage about trying to fight for freedom is primarily just that, garbage, although most would certainly hope the end result would be a free and democratic world (you know, no matter what, eventually anything might happen no matter what we do or don’t do — you know, like the freedom and democracy movement in the Middle East indpendent of us).
Looking back, it seems absurd that we invaded a nation to catch one man, missed him, and that he hid out in plain sight in Pakistan, which is supposed to be our allied nation in all of this, and that we got so many of our own people killed and have killed and still kill so many civilians, to include many innocent women and children.
With our modern technology we probably would have been better off going after the Al Qaeda leadership using Navy Seals and various other elite military special units (Delta Force, Green Berets, Rangers (and so on) and drones.
On the other hand, as I continue to contend, as so many others have too (I hear people talk), if you fight a war, fight it to win.
But to achieve victory you have to define it and you must have the will and the resources to win.
There really is no such thing as unconventional war — war is war.
Quitting is an option too. We did it in Vietnam. We survived, but with much continuing harm to our national psyche and pride. But we could and should quit now. We can claim some success in disrupting Al Qaeda. And we could actually let them know that if they menace us again — We Will Be Back! And this time like we mean it.
(This is in no way meant to disparage our military. From all appearances we have the best fighting force we have ever had, but they are hamstrung by namby pamby political leaders — you might read that cowards — and by the public at large, not affected, not interested — unless their son or daughter is in it.)
But for those who say we cannot abandon the fight — well then let’s do it right then.
However, to do it right might actually require sacrifice of the American people and create shortages of fuel and consumer goods and desired services. We might even have to reinstitute the military draft (a good way to reduce unemployment?).
I thought not. Let’s just declare victory and withdraw our forces.
I’m not saying we have to fight World War II in order to win, but we would have to be prepared to do so, financially and mentally and politically. We don’t appear to be.
I did not mention Libya, but it is just another example of using war to secure an oil supply and for geopolitical purposes (dying for oil and politics — worth another essay).