Vietnam and Afghanistan, Past and Present
If anyone happened to pick up the latest issue of Newsweek, I would guess that the first thing that jumped on people’s mind was the cover story. Surprise Surprise, it was another in-depth comparison of Vietnam and Afghanistan by political journalists.
Yet for some reason, I could not help but turn the page directly to the story. And much to my chagrin, the piece by Evan Thomas and John Barry was not a repeat of previous articles addressing the same mundane topics. Rather, Mr. Barry and Mr. Thomas focused on the many lessons that the United States learned in its eight-year Vietnam struggle…and what- if any- can be applied to America’s current quandary in Afghanistan.
What a great piece! I not only applaud Mr. Thomas and Mr. Barry for their extensive research on the subject…I also applaud their willingness to report what many Americans do not want to hear; namely that President Obama will sow the seeds of his own destruction if he implements a middle ground to the war in Afghanistan. With the Taliban insurgency only growing stronger, and with Islamic jihadists in Pakistan continuing to wreak havoc on Islamabad’s civilian government, the Obama administration could very well be entering into THE crucial period among a wider war. I fear that Mr. Obama is currently engaging in the same debate that transformed the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon; debates that will inevitably result in a failed war policy (although Nixon was relatively successful in other areas).
While it is easy for me to say, politics and partisanship should never dictate what resources are provided to U.S. troops on the ground. Likewise, political bickering on Capitol Hill should never pressure a wartime President into acting prematurely. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is occurring in Washington today. Thanks to the atmosphere surrounding Washington, the President has been delaying his Afghan strategy review for over a month…depriving our military with a unified and coherent strategy for pacifying Afghanistan and eventually mitigating the influence of the Taliban.
I know most Americans will most likely hate what I am about to say, but President Bush- for all of his blunders, failures, and mismanagement- was relatively resilient during the Iraq War. In fact, he not only refused to limit his choices based on partisanship; he provided the generals on the ground with a comprehensive counterinsurgency plan (albeit a little too late). Compare and contrast that with Presidents Johnson and Obama, two men who refuse to enact tactics that are unpopular. The sad thing is that these same unpopular tactics may prove to be the decisive factor in the Afghan theater; much the same way as the unpopular surge turned the page in Iraq.
Certainly, Mr. Thomas and Mr. Barry are correct to distinguish Vietnam from Afghanistan. The Vietcong, although insurgents, were much more organized compared to the Taliban. Likewise, Vietnam and Afghanistan are very different, both historically and culturally. Yet, at this point in time- when the United States appears lost in a “war of necessity”- going back to the days of Vietnam may not be such a bad thing. Perhaps we will learn from our mistakes.
-Daniel R. DePetris