October 27, 2009

The Washington Post Goes Wobbly And Digs Up The Spectre of Vietnam....Again.

Just a day after two helicopter crashes claimed 14 U.S. lives in Washington Post, columnists Eugene Robinson goes wobby.

Robinson's message about Afghanistan: "Bring The Troops Home" with an implied, now at the end of that statement:

Obama has required members of his national security team to read "Lessons in Disaster" by Gordon Goldstein. The book is about McGeorge Bundy, one of the architects of the Vietnam War, and his late-in-life regrets at having helped drag the nation into a costly, unwinnable war. It's unclear, though, whether Obama is prepared to heed the book's central lesson.

Obama is at the key juncture: in or out. If he ratifies the counterinsurgency strategy and approves a troop increase, he'll be committing the United States to see the project through to its end. Advisers say the president's goals for "fixing" Afghanistan are realistic, even modest. To me, however, the whole enterprise looks unrealistic and immodest.

We invaded Afghanistan to ensure that the country could never again be used to launch attacks against the United States. That mission is accomplished, and our only goal should be making sure it stays accomplished -- whether the place is run by Hamid Karzai or the Taliban. The counterinsurgency campaign that Obama is contemplating looks like a step onto the slipperiest slope imaginable. It doesn't matter whether the step is tentative or bold.

Sometimes a "war president" has to decide to start bringing the troops home. That's what Obama must do.

Perhaps Mr. Robinson should hop on over to the other side of the Commentary/Opinion page of the Washington Post and take a look at Richard Cohen's piece first, before he resigns Afghanistan to the annals of Vietnam. Cohen reminds Robinson, that it wasn't the Viet Cong that defeat South Vietnam but rather the US Congress:

I am no more familiar with McChrystal than I was with Westmoreland. I do know, though, that from time to time the media swoons for a soldier, especially a handsome one (Westy had matinee idol looks), and McChrystal -- as lean, if not as hungry, as the ambitious Cassius -- fits the bill. As with that other celebrity soldier, David Petraeus, McChrystal is a fitness buff, the sort of disciplined man less-disciplined men admire both out of senses of awe and insufficiency.

Discipline and dedication are not to be belittled. Still, I cannot imagine Gen. Dwight Eisenhower putting out his cigarette and going for a four-mile run -- not unless Mamie was coming after him with a cleaver.

The other thing I know about generals is that they do not ask for less -- less equipment or less personnel. They ask for more, just as Westmoreland did in Vietnam before reality -- otherwise known as domestic politics -- forced Lyndon Johnson to rein him in. If Sorley is right about Abrams, the war could have been won with fewer men. As it turned out, South Vietnam was ultimately defeated because Congress turned its back on it -- not pretty or necessarily honorable, but effective.

This is why McChrystal's request for 40,000 or so additional troops for Afghanistan ought not to be taken as some sort of holy writ. These requests are a starting point, a place to begin the debate.
Robinson want's Obama and the U.S. to do to Afghanistan what it did to Vietnam. If that does occur and Obama turns his back on Afghanistan and declares "Mission Accomplished" who is going to be the person that gets to tell that last soldier's family that he or she died for a lie - the lie that Afghanstan was won and we were no longer needed? Or worse yet, the lie that Afghanistan was unwinnable no matter what we did?

Afghanistan isn't going to be, nor is it, easy but that doesn't make it impossible and Mr. Robinson should realize that things are going to get tougher before they get better. To quit now, is to quit long before victory can be secured.

The secret to winning a war is finding that point at which your enemy finds it no longer feasable to go on - the Taliban found Mr. Robinson's point, lets hope that the President doesn't follow his example.

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