Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam? -- A Commentary From The WNU Editor

President Barack Obama (center) with Afghan President Karzai and Pakistan President Zardari during a US-Afghan-PakistanTrilateral meeting in Cabinet Room May 6, 2009.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza )

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — President Obama had not even taken office before supporters were etching his likeness onto Mount Rushmore as another Abraham Lincoln or the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Yet what if they got the wrong predecessor? What if Mr. Obama is fated to be another Lyndon B. Johnson instead?

To be sure, such historical analogies are overly simplistic and fatally flawed, if only because each presidency is distinct in its own way. But the L.B.J. model — a president who aspired to reshape America at home while fighting a losing war abroad — is one that haunts Mr. Obama’s White House as it seeks to salvage Afghanistan while enacting an expansive domestic program.

Read more ....

My Comment: From 9/11 onwards President Bush always enjoyed majority support from the American people for his Afghanistan policy. President Obama .... in less than 8 months, has completely reversed this sentiment.

The question that needs to be asked is why? .... and it is the answer that makes me realize that Afghanistan will become America's Central Asian Vietnam.

After the invasion and destruction of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. maintained a small footprint in the country. This was a deliberate policy to not give the impression to the Afghan population of being an invader and occupier ... in particular to the Pashtuns who occupy the South of the country.

The reason were not because of Iraq, or geopolitical politics with the Russians or Pakistanis .... the realization was that Afghanistan was a destitute country, and that nation building would entail an entirely new commitment of men and resources. A prospect that had no appeal in 2002 .... and even less so today.

Afghanistan is a country that is made up of numerous ethnic and religious tribal groups. Most of them have been in conflict with each other for generations .... and most of them will keep up with this tradition long after we are gone.

My uncle summed up his Afghanistan tour to me best (he was a senior officer in the Soviet Army, and he served in Afghanistan for a better part of 4 years in the General Staff). The Russians threw in billions in aid, reconstruction projects left and right, and brute military muscle to back it up. But the people they helped .... the families they saved with food aid and medicine .... these same families would slit their throats if given the chance. In the end the Soviets killed and wounded a million (plus) Afghans, and forced 4-6 million to flee to Pakistan .... but the mighty and invincible Soviet Army had to leave Afghanistan in the end.

Culture, religion, and tribe is everything in Afghanistan, and hatred of the foreigner is what unites them. To undo all of this is impossible .... they are what they are .... just as we are for what we are. And nothing is going to change that.

My father and uncle summed up the Afghan mentality best by comparing it to their own experiences. When the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, they came in by saying that they were liberators, that they would kill the Communists and bring prosperity and a better life to all. But while both my father and uncle hated Stalin .... and I mean a real deep hatred of Stalin .... they hated the invader and all of his promises even more.

The Afghans feel the same way.

President Bush's policy of keeping a low profile and footprint for 7 years in Afghanistan was the right one. I know that this is probably heresy for most pundits who are specialists in military and strategic policy and analysis .... but those seven years did keep the violence and casualties to a minimum (from a historical Afghan perspective).

President Bush's failure was in Pakistan. He was not successful in pressuring the Pakistani government to reign in the militants and the Taliban in their country .... in fact I remembered how Pakistani President Musharraf scoffed at the warnings and concerns that were coming from President Bush, the U.S. military/Nato, the Afghan Government, and by many in Pakistan itself on what was happening in Pakistan's frontier regions.

The result is now a full blown civil war in Pakistan, and much of it is now spilling into Afghanistan itself. The Pakistani Government created a monster to fight the Indians next door .... but the monster has turned on them .... and we are getting some of the blow back.

Our answer to the conflict in Pakistan and to the escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan has been to now massively increase the U.S. troop commitment to Afghanistan. To enhance our footprint and to become involved in all facets of Afghan life. Constant drone patrols, telling farmers what to grow, what to teach in school, a constant flow of civilian casualties from allied attacks .... nation building and security to the max .... but this is not enhancing our position in the country. Soldiers followed by civilian contractors who are in Afghanistan with the best of intentions is not working.

But like the run-up to the Iraq war .... there has been little if any debate to this major foreign policy initiative .... our political and media establishment are asleep and/or supportive of President Obama's efforts .... and the military is trying to fulfill (what it thinks) are the goals and objectives of the White House. Objectives and goals that are even murky for me. Gen. Stanley McChrystal is suppose to change this when he hands in his review next month .... but leadership must come from the White House .... and this is now lacking.

We are repeating history again .... but with consequences that can be even more bloodier and costlier than Iraq. Like Vietnam, when U.S. troop commitments were in the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and aid poured in by the billions, we served to only unite the Vietnamese people against us. Our soldiers won all of the battles .... but we lost the battle in each Vietnamese home and in the homes of the United States.

Fast forward to Afghanistan .... we are now building huge bases and using our technology to fight and kill the enemy. We are pouring in aid money and resources by the billions. We are winning all the battles .... but we are losing the battle in each Afghan's home and in the homes of the United States.

The American people are not stupid. It is their sons and daughters who are "over there". They see what is happening with this new administration, and they are making their sentiments clear. But no one in Washington is listening, and in fact they are telling some to "get lost".

Afghanistan is not becoming Obama's Vietnam .... it already is. It is just that President Obama does not know it yet.

Update: Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason at Foreign Policy Blog believe the same thing that I do. Their essay is better than mine .... the link is here.

Grab The Post URL

HTML link code:
BB (forum) link code:

Leave a comment

  • Google+
  • 0Blogger
  • Facebook
  • Disqus

0 Response to "Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam? -- A Commentary From The WNU Editor"

Post a Comment

comments powered by Disqus