Learn the Lessons of Vietnam 9/25/09 New Hampshire Business Review
Somebody needs to say this: both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are pointless. They are a death trap and a financial sinkhole. The lives of our soldiers are too valuable to be wasted there.
The Iraq War lacks any compelling justification. The Bush administration sold the war to the public on two grounds. Bush and company argued that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and they also argued the link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Both turned out to be false.
There was also the unspoken reason — access to oil. That reason strikes closer to truth, but I submit it is warped to ask American soldiers to die for an environmentally backward commercial interest. Our national security does not depend on access to Iraqi oil.
The reason given for the Afghanistan War is primarily the destruction of Al Qaeda. At the time of the September 11th attacks, Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. The Taliban had given Al Qaeda sanctuary. Most current reports now place the Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan. Al Qaeda remains an international terrorist movement with members in many countries.
Unfortunately, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan is not the same as fighting Al Qaeda. While the Taliban is a deeply troubling entity, it is a response to issues internal to Afghanistan. Afghanis, not Americans, must settle this civil war.
The idea that fighting the Taliban translates into fighting Al Qaeda is a fallacy. Combating Al Qaeda depends on police and intelligence work, not the creation of a conventional army deployed to fight a national counterinsurgency.
As part of the generation of Americans who experienced the Vietnam War, I think it is critical we look hard at the reasons given to justify war. The Vietnam War is the prototype for stupid, unjustified wars. Nearly 59,000 Americans and 3.4 million Indochinese people died as a result of the Vietnam War. Untold numbers of Vietnam veterans returned home messed up with traumatic and devastating injuries. And for what?
We must learn from the Vietnam debacle. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan pose any threat to our national security. The reasons given to continue the Iraq War and to escalate the Afghanistan War are shockingly unpersuasive. The reasons are ultimately about face-saving, desire not to lose the huge investment already made, and speculation about what might happen if the United States withdrew militarily.
Maybe it is time to give diplomacy, not war-making, a chance. Security for the Iraqi and Afghani people would be better promoted by peaceful, humanitarian means.
We have reached a sad place with our too casual attitude toward war. It has become a first resort, not the last resort. A rational approach would gauge the appropriateness of a military response to whether there actually was a proximate threat to national security.
I have been a fan of Barack Obama. I campaigned and voted for him. But, along with many liberals and progressives, I will not go along with military escalation in the Middle East. Probably the major reason Obama gained support during the campaign for the presidency was his stated opposition to the war in Iraq.
It is impossible to forget that a Democrat, Lyndon Johnson, presided over the escalation of the war in Vietnam. The consequences were disastrous. Progressives must pressure Obama against the dangers of escalation. We saw this movie before. It was horrible the first time and there is no need to see it again.