President Donald Trump has announced that he plans to press on in the war in Afghanistan and send in more troops after previously opposing the effort as a waste of time. He says it looks different from the perspective of the oval office.
I think we’ve been down this road before. An intractable war. One we have not been able to win in 16 years and thousands of our troops dead and wounded and leaders who want to get out but feel pressure to hold out for victory — peace with honor.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson knew from the beginning of his presidency that Vietnam was hopeless. You can hear him tell an old colleague so in a phone conversation, available on the web. It caused him not to run for re-election and left him a broken man who died not so very long after leaving the White House.
Richard Nixon won the presidency on the promise that he had a secret plan to end the war. We never found what that secret plan was for sure, but the war in Vietnam continued and even though there were demonstrations and riots against it and even though public opinion, even among his reverent silent majority, turned against it, Nixon held out for “peace with honor”. But he was so depressed and angry and stymied by people he felt wanted to see the U.S. lose a war and its honor that his presidency devolved into a Nixon vs anyone who did not support him 100 percent and he wound up leaving the office voluntarily to beat impeachment and forced removal, the first president to resign.
Our active war involvement in the Vietnam war lasted about ten years and then we left and we lost it all to the communists.
One reason we lost may be we either never knew precisely why we were fighting or who we were fighting (many of our soldiers just called them all gooks, supposed friend or foe). And there was no clear strategy or the strategies just did not work. And there was never really solid public support, and what support there was withered as the long years of fruitless conflict went on.
And the poor Vietnamese peasant was faced with communists on the one side who wanted to take away his land and make him (and her) a slave, and a corrupt government, reluctantly supported by the U.S. on the other side. And then there were the U.S. forces who insisted on burning villages to save them and forcefully removing people from their homes to “safe areas”.
Now we have been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years. And nothing works. And it is even worse in a way because to me it seems like a forgotten war. Much of the public might not even realize we are still over there. We’ve had troop withdrawals and surges but we can never sustain the momentum. We’ve tried to hand it over to what we hope are the good guys but they cannot handle it. And you can probably bet once we are simply forced to leave because of the drain on our economy and lack of support back home, the enemy — ISIS or the Taliban or whatever they are calling themselves, will move right back in – and actually they already have — and we are set to repeat the whole futile process over again.
Barack Obama ran for president promising to get us out of Afghanistan. But he felt the pressure to persevere.
Afghanistan is not Vietnam.
But the average Afghan is faced with the pressure from Islamic insurgents on the one hand and a corrupt government on the other.
Who knows? Possibly under different leadership we might have won in Vietnam. It would have required the backing of the American public though.
I’m not seeing that likely in Afghanistan.
Just like LBJ got stuck to the Vietnam tar baby, I think Donald Trump has now stuck his stubby fingers into the goo of the Afghanistan tar baby.