If You Want To Defeat The US In War, Be Patient
For a few of us, 9/11 was never an act of war. It was not perpetrated by a national army. No one who committed the murders was in uniform. The guilty were treated as enemy combatants, not as soldiers. 9/11 was not an act of war. It was a crime.
For the most part, in the United Sates and in most countries of the world, crimes are dealt with by the police, not the army. In 2001, if the United States wanted justice for those killed on that horrible day, it was only going to come through a police action, identification of the guilty, their capture and a trial. Very little of that occurred.
Instead, the leadership of the country at the time first tried to eradicate the base of operations for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and then shifted its attention to Iraq which had nothing to do with 9/11 at all. In other words, the Bush Administration made a series of foolish decisions and committed blood and treasure to a lost cause (imposing democracy on Afghanistan and Iraq), and locked future administrations into either continuing the initiative or pulling out. Until now, no one was really able to pull out although Obama tried in Iraq.
In the spring, President Biden committed the U.S. to leave Afghanistan by 9/11 of this year and the predictable ensued. Now the Taliban knew when the only force holding them back would be gone. They waited until the Americans were leaving and they pounced. It is clear at the time of this writing (August 14) that it is only a matter of time until the Taliban reimpose Sheria Law on the country, enslave women, and bring Afghanistan back to where it was on 9/11/2001. When are we going to learn?
If you want to understand what happened in Vietnam, all you need to do is go. It is very obvious that the Americans had interceded in a civil war and that no amount of bombing or troops in-country was going to stop the north from taking over the south, consolidating the country under Ho Chi Minh, and becoming the economic success it is today despite it being one of the few truly Communist countries in the world. The Viet Cong waited us out. So has the Taliban.
Mr. Trump was right in making clear that his view of foreign policy was what was good for America. Going to Vietnam was not good for America and stopped nothing. 58,000 Americans and countless Vietnamese died there and nothing changed. The cost in blood in Afghanistan has been less than in Vietnam, but not nothing and Afghanistan is now America’s longest war. And we are about to lose. What’s the lesson?
First, understand why you are invading another country. It took Pearl Harbor to get us fully into World War II. We were openly attacked by a foreign government. This was not the case on 9/11. We were attacked by terrorists and if any foreign government was involved it might well turn out to have been Saudi Arabia. That is still under investigation. Who financed Al Qaeda? Did we invade the wrong country? Who are our enemies really?
Second, we could not win a war in Vietnam and we could not win one in Afghanistan or in Iraq. The United States has to be far more careful in picking its fights and more certain of winning. In these three locales we picked poorly.
Finally, leadership makes a difference. In Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson virtually squandered all the good his administration had done by continuing a needless war based on poor information from untrustworthy people. The same was true in Afghanistan and certainly in Iraq. We never had a reason to go into Iraq and Bush 43’s own father figured that out.
But make no mistake, Mr. Biden owns Afghanistan and if there is another terrorist strike that emerges from that country, he will be blamed. I hope the White House, the State Department and the Defense Department have a strategy for making sure that we can keep a close eye on the Taliban. My guess is that there will be a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. Many will die. People who helped us out in country will not be able to get out and will be slaughtered by the Taliban. Any progress made by the women of Afghanistan will be lost.
And, unlike President Biden, I think there will be scenes of helicopters taking off from the American Embassy in Kabul with our diplomats and too few Afghanis who helped us. It is another tragedy. It is another Vietnam. Vietnam was Johnson’s downfall. Afghanistan will be Biden’s.