June 25, 2009
The Guardian

Obama Must Call Off This Folly Before Afghanistan Becomes His Vietnam

Senseless slaughter and anti-western hysteria are all America and Britain's billions have paid for in a counterproductive war

by Simon Jenkins

If good intentions ever paved a road to hell, they are doing so in Afghanistan. History rarely declares when folly turns to disaster, but it does so now. Barack Obama and his amanuensis, Gordon Brown, are uncannily repeating the route taken by American leaders in Vietnam from 1963 to 1975. Galbraith once said that the best thing about the Great Depression was that it warned against another. Does the same apply to Vietnam?

Vietnam began with Kennedy's noble 1963 intervention, to keep the communist menace at bay and thus make the world safe for democracy. That is what George Bush and Tony Blair said of terrorism and Afghanistan. Vietnam escalated as the Diem regime in Saigon failed to contain Vietcong aggression and was deposed with American collusion. By 1965, despite Congress scepticism, American advisers, then planes, then ground forces were deployed. Allies were begged to join but few agreed - and not Britain.

The presence of Americans on Asian soil turned a local insurgency into a regional crusade. . . .

The 2001 policy of invading, capturing Osama bin Laden and ridding the region of terrorist bases has been tested to destruction and failed. Strategy is reduced to the senseless slaughter of hundreds of young western soldiers and thousands of Afghans. . . .

There will soon be 68,000 American troops in that country, making a mockery of Donald Rumsfeld's 2001 tactic of hit and run, which at least had the virtue of coherence.

This is set fair to be a war of awful proportions, cockpit for the feared clash of civilisations. . . .

It is hard to imagine a greater tragedy than for the most exciting American president in a generation to be led by a senseless intervention into a repeat of America's greatest postwar debacle. . . .


Dexter Filkins, "U.S. Pullout a Condition in Afghan Peace Talks," New York Times, May 21, 2009

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