Obama's Viet Nam

Crossposted at The Rockefeller Republican

President Kennedy- Circa-1960
Upon taking office John F. Kennedy sent 16,300 Americans to save South Vietnam from the Vietcong. This was the initial escalation from the original force of “advisers” sent by the Eisenhower administration, which would continue to expand under President Johnson just a few years later. The Vietcong, the lightly armed South Vietnamese communist insurgency, largely fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in Viet Nam. The North Vietnamese Army engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large-sized units into battle. U.S. forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search-and-destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery and air strikes.

President Obama- Circa 2010
President Obama sent 20,000 Americans to save Afghanistan from the Taliban. The Taliban, the lightly armed Islamic-Fundamentalist insurgency, is largely fighting a guerilla war against anti-Sunni muslim forces in Afghanistan. The U.S. supported Afghan military is fighting a conventional war with it’s approximately 180,00 troop army, while the U.S. relies on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search-and-destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery and air strikes.

I am not attempting to make an exact correlation between the America’s policy in Viet Nam in the 60’s to our current positions towards Islamic Fundamentalism as defined by former President Bush & current President Obama. There are obvious and striking differences, not the least of which being the fact that the U.S. suffered over 50,000 fatalities. As bad as the situtation has been and continues to be in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, one struggles to imagine a course of action that would lead to such a high casualty rate. However, through much of the Bush administrations activities in Iraq many on the left chose to make that very camparison, and now that they left is firmly in charge it does seem ironic that they will in fact move in a direction much closer to a modern day Viet Nam situation.

While candidate Obama, as well as the rest of the Democrats, like to compare Bush’s Iraq war to the second coming of Viet Nam, the chances of Afghanistan turning into quagmire are far greater than Iraq ever was. You can’t beat a international terrorist organization by occupying tribal villages. Yet this is what Obama seems intent on doing. Rather than cut ties with Pakistan for its continued harboring of terrorist groups, and its utter inability to track them down ,we will be spending 3 billion a month and sending another 20,000 troops into a backwards third world country to fight a guerrilla war against an enemy with nothing to lose. Escalation of American troop levels without explicit goals and timetables is a slippery slope as history has shown.

“Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan Security Forces, and our progress in combating insurgents…..The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked.”- President Obama

Aside from sounding an awful lot like the President he railed against for 18 months on the campaign trail, Obama doesn’t seem to have a clear idea on how to accomplish this. We need a concrete strategy. Although the administration is attempting to develop specific benchmarks for Afghanistan and Pakistan, officials said they would be the most explicit demands ever presented to the governments in Kabul and Islamabad. The still-to-be-determined strategy then, according to Obama, would be to require two broken countries, dogged by ancient tribal warfare and modern political hostility, to find ways to work together and transform their societies- a long-shot indeed. Besides putting the bulk of our effort into Afghanistan is ignoring the real issue. Pakistan is the core of this problem.

Since 2001 the U.S. has given Pakistan nearly $11 billion to fight Islamic terror. Obama is pushing for an additional $7.5 billion.What exactly do we have to show for it?

* U.S. officials openly accused elements in Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency of abetting Al-Qaeda.
* Al Qaeda -and almost certainly its leader, Osama bin Laden -have moved to safe havens in the mountains on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.
* An intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan is getting support from the Pakistani side of the border.

President Obama is right to be focusing his attention on defeating al Qaeda, and Islamic terror in general. However, defeating al Qaeda will take a broader effort that faces the realities of the region.

“Mr. Obama himself has spent so much time questioning America’s antiterrorist mission abroad. While he tried, during the campaign, to distinguish Iraq (Bush’s war) from Afghanistan (the good war), the truth is that they are both exercises in counterinsurgency and nation building. The irony is that both tasks are arguably easier in Iraq, because of its denser population and history of a stronger central government. ” WSJ

Let’s hope the financial turmoil we are dealing with has not created an intellectual vacuum within Obama’s team of best and brightest. We need clear and strong thinking on this issue if we are to avoid another 10 years of constant U.S. military involvement.

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