Don’t forget the abandonment of the Kurds after the first Gulf War. Personally, I think any nation that trusts the US to act against it’s own self-interest because we said we would is sadly ignorant of history.
Just a few comments on a fine post.
First, you mention that some people still think that the antiwar movement caused the US defeat in Vietnam. You’re right, a lot of people do think this and they are completely wrong. I wrote a book proving as much, called TELLTALE HEARTS (1995). The antiwar movement had a lot less impact than most suppose, and to the extent that it had an effect, it was negative: by deploying the negative follower effect, it allowed two administrations, but especially the Nixon Administration, to cast dissent against the war as unpatriotic, enabled the White House to control dissent and allow the war to go on longer than it otherwise might have, and the consequence waas that more people got killed, not fewer. Some people cannot allow themselves to rethink certain creedal certainties, even though they are empirically wrong The point? One cannot make sound moral judgments on the basis of supposed “facts” that are not facts at all. This is a big problem in figuring out Afghanistan; a lot of what people read in the press is not the whole truth, and it is certainly not nothing but the truth.
Second, I think maybe you separate political and moral implications a little too neatly. Politics consists of how question and why questions, and the latter are suffused with moral judgment. (Let me not spend time elaborating this distinction; if you get it, reader, fine; if not, fine with me). If a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is good for the U.S., it has a moral content, because a well-governed whole that allows freedom and creativity within is itself a moral value — we must not forget The Prince. The idea that a realist peace among the great powers, though purchased at the cost of constraining or even harming some others, has no moral content staggers the imagination — if one has an imagination — since the absence of said peace implies the death of millions of innocents. The point is, as the post rightly concludes, there is no evading moral implications of political behavior. One need stand back, however, and see the whole canvass. It would be unfortunate if a U.S. withdrawal harmed Afghan women, but to see that as the only or the main moral implication verges on the ridiculous. This, however, is what a lot of people do, because they imagine, see, feel the pain of Afghan women. Their powers of imagination often are insufficient to abstract a wider set of implications and project them into the future. So the more immediate costs always win pride of emotional place. This is a big problem.
Finally, commentator Dave (and several other commentators lately) needs to learn the difference between “its” and “it’s” — please.
Adam, you sound like the character in Jim Webb’s “Fields of Fire.” There is an argument to be made that we should not have intervened in Viet Nam. There is a better argument that we should not have embroiled ourselves in the Diem assassinations. It takes a type of moral compass I can’t define to defend leaving the south in 1975 after we had made assurances and they had a right to expect we would honor them.
Adam Garfinkle continues the leftist propaganda of the big lie about Vietnam. The truth is that the United States won the war that it fought from 1962 through 1973, negotiated a peace treaty, and withdrew its troops. In 1975, the North Vietnamese Army invaded South Vietnam. The United States Congress, controlled at the time by leftist Democrats, committed an act of treason and of treachery by refusing to come to the aid of the South Vietnamese Government. The “anti-war” (actually just pro-communist) left cheered Congress on. They were unembarrassed by the subsequent terror, oppression, and genocide in Vietnam and Cambodia.
kind of a reach to discuss vietnam, when we can gaze at the very recent Iraq war.
my one major point of criticism…
where is the criticism of the afghan war?
Iraq seemed to bring out the naysayers, most succinctly captured by harry reid:
“the war is lost.”
I look at afghanistan and find myself asking why the left has fallen silent on a far more dire situation in afghanistan, when they were so vocal about Iraq.
No question or criticisms?
a war in a political vacuum.
timetables, exit strategies, nation building?
when was the last time the press forced the issue? (actually, when was the last time obama took open questions on the matter?)
Afghanistan has one resource, two if you count the country as a practice field for jihadis, but more lately, ieds.
This is like watching the Bay of Pigs, playing out in slow motion. No one opposes the war(openly) so the powers that be assume they have won over complete acceptance of the public.
I had to go to wiki to find out we have 94k troops in country. During Iraq, I could find this number, along with casualties, almost daily, on the front page of the nyt.
if half of the effort to dispell the zeal of invading iraq, was expended upon afghanistan, our troops would be drinking cold ones, stateside, in a month.
AQ will ALWAYS exist, is some form, under some name, in some country. If they want the world’s ass from which to organize and gather, it strikes me as far better that they organize there, than anywhere else.
A solid criticism of Iraq was that none of the 9/11 hijackers were from Iraq. Strangely enough, none were from Afghanistan as well.
The guiding policy of our foreign intervention should at least consider that the actions we take against a country should share some consistency.
under that premise, we might find ourselves wanting to invade somalia, sudan, or even saudi arabia, but one doesn’t doubt that we probably never will. We have learned a lot from afghansitan in regards to other countries and our foreign policy.
sadly, we will not follow our approach to afghanistan with other countries, while we pursue our current approach to afghanistan which ends only in exhaustion.
It is one thing to nation build, it something completely different to try an play god. I referred to the bay of pigs earlier, as it is most fitting…
The question I would ask of the obama admin:
Would you be fighting this war if the europeans went home? I think we all know the answer.
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This post and comments have said more about Afghanistan than the President has in many months. I am not alone in my amazement at the unwillingness of Mr.Obama to communicate with us on this and other substantive issues.
if recent us history in any indicator, one-sided ideoligies are doomed to failure.
2006, and now 2010.
the taliban was NOT in control of Afghanistan on 9/11. They were fighting within the country for control.
yes, rapid withdrawal, down to 25k, would result in thousands of deaths, but returning afghanistan to it’s own decisions remains the only permanent solution.
let the country pick their own sides, support, but don’t fight for our chosen proxies.
The tighter the taliban closes its fist, the more sand will escape. Keeping them from closing their fist, thus alienating the people of afghanistan, we prevent what must occur.
We didn’t bat an eye when saddam killed 500k during the 90’s, and that was a country we had just completely defeated.
while there is strength in numbers, there is also martyrdom in the pending numbers of deaths, at the hands of the taliban.
better that they kill 50k in a year, than 5000 for the next ten years. accept the disgrace of short term failure, for the potential of a long term solution. our current mission denies the role that the afghanis must play, in their own efforts for self determination.
I look at Iraq…
while the surge was a historic success, it occurred only after AQ had alienated the sunnis in places where the US troops had yet to control.
If AQ wants blood on their hands, the people of afghanistan need to see them drowned in it, even if it is the blood of their own people.
‘Politics has no relation to morals’ – Niccolo Machiavelli
Interesting post but unnecessary controversy.
Today I happened to see a video of the stoning of a young girl who had refused to go through with an arranged marriage to an older man. I’m sorry I saw it, because now it’s something I can never un-see.
There is no defense for that religion unless it can undergo basic reformation. As for the national interest of the U.S. and the personal interests of each person living here, including moderate Muslims, we should acknowledge that the brand of Islam now being pushed is a hate group, far more dangerous than any fringe militia. Recognize that they mean to wear us down via exercises like the Ground Zero mosque until they are in a position to dictate to us.
There are ways to fight the Afghan war – I pray that General Petraus will find the way. In some ways it will be harder to win than Iraq, because the people have been in war for so long and they are so beaten down. I believe at this point, lack of U.S. support by any Afghan people comes from a lack of trust that we will win. They are afraid that if they support us and we eventually pull out, they will be at the mercy of the Taliban. They’ve been down this road before and it was not pretty. Watch the movie ‘Osama’ – the first movie produced/filmed in Afghanistan after the Taliban were pushed out. Read first person accounts by people that have been there and lived through it. I can’t believe that anything close to a majority of them want to live under the Taliban given a real choice.
You’re wrong about Viet Nam, as are most people.
The biggest battle of the war, The Easter Offensive of 1972, was launched by the North and initially gained success (due of course to poor intelligence-sound familiar) but then was beaten back pretty much destroying the N Viet Namese Army.
This was all done without any US combat troops, all withdrawn (sound familiar??) only using American air power. America’s strategic objective, to counter the Communists and keep S Viet Nam in the US orbit had succeeded.
America lost that victory when a Democratic Congress cut off all, repeat ALL, shipments of weaponry to our brave Allies, while the USSR and Red China kept giving.
So,The S Viet Namese had proven capable of defending themselves yet the Dems in Congress chose to abandon them. It seems to me that the Iraqis and Afghans have history books there.
Remember the words of the Cambodian Prime Minister as we abandoned them:
“I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it.
You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].”
The United States presence in Afghanistan cannot be justified beyond its strategic interests in the region. (Which increasingly appear to me to be marginal.)
But while the US is there it should be no shrinking violet about the superiority of western culture. I am reminded of the words of General Sir Charles Napier discussing the practice of suttee with concerned Hindus:
“You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
Nation-building is a poor substitute for strategic national interest. But cultural relativism is to surrender the national interest itself. And for no other reason than to think it presumptuous that we should have a national interest at all.
If they were BOTH sentenced to stoning for committing a sexual crime, how is that a “woman’s rights” issue? Not saying I agree with such an archaic form of punishment, just not seeing how it has to do with gender inequality.
Also, if we truly support Democracy – we can’t force a country to be like us, we have to allow them to create their own Democracy, and in an Islamic country that isn’t always going to be the way we think it should be, there probably will never be a complete seperation of religion and government.