Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Afghanistan Syndrome

Joshua Kurlantzick hopes Afghanistan will be another Vietnam. He doesn't mean that he hopes the U.S. will be defeated and humiliated and the people of Afghanistan subjected to a generation of Stalinist oppression, as the people of South Vietnam were after the Watergate Congress of 1973-75 cut off the flow of non-personnel aid to our allies. He means that he hopes that that U.S. and Afghanistan will have constructive relations after the war, as we and Vietnam finally have today.

It's an unhelpful, even weird analogy. But Kurlantzick does the reader the favor of beginning with a statement of President Obama's at a Rose Garden ceremony last week honoring Vietnam veterans:
If that day in the jungle, if that war long ago, teaches us anything, then surely it is this: If we send our men and women in uniform into harm's way, then it must be only when it is absolutely necessary. And when we do, we must back them up with the strategy and the resources and the support they need to get the job done.
I wonder if Obama is saying that the U.S. and its allies could've prevailed in Vietnam if we hadn't lost interest after President Nixon brought our ground forces home in 1973, if Congress hadn't given in to the myth that the defeat of South Vietnam was inevitable. If he does, then he really is putting the corrosive passions of the Vietnam years behind him.

Hat tip to Mike Cheever

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