The soon-to-be “fall” of Afghanistan, at least from a U.S. perspective, put me to mind of Vietnam and its fall in 1975. As we examine why U.S. military interventions (or invasions) keep ending so badly, we might consider how there are always winners to these losing wars in America. After all, the Afghan War has cost the U.S. more than a trillion dollars in twenty years, and quite a few people have prospered from it.
In the end, Vietnam and Afghanistan were never America’s to win, and our presence there, and our use of massive firepower, left behind a legacy of violence and destruction that should be a national shame.
“It’s their [South Vietnam’s] war to win. We can help them … but in the final analysis, it’s their people and their government who have to win or lose this struggle.” President Kennedy in September 1963
“We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles from home [to fight in Vietnam] to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” President Johnson in 1964
I’ve now watched all ten episodes of the Burns/Novick series on the Vietnam War. I’ve written about it twice already (here and here), and I won’t repeat those arguments. Critical reviews by Nick Turse, Peter Van Buren, Andrew Bacevich, and Thomas Bass are also well worth reading.
I now know the main message of the series: the Vietnam war was an “irredeemable tragedy,” with American suffering being featured in the foreground. …
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