Barack Obama, Vietnam, and Afghanistan
March 6, 2010
by William P. Meyers

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Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961. President John F. Kennedy (Democratic Party) had been in office only a few months, but he had already shown that his liberal domestic policy posture was for getting votes. On foreign policy he was not going to be out-anti-communism ed by anyone. His predecessor, President Dwight David Eisenhower, as a former military commander, had not been someone the generals at the Pentagon could easily push around. But Kennedy was the son of a billionaire who had been a mere lieutenant before entering politics.

Eisenhower, who had been on General MacArthur's staff in Asia before becoming Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during World War II, had no desire to waste U.S. troops in Vietnam. But Kennedy allowed himself to be talked into escalating American troop presence in what was essentially a civil war, and one that was not even really about communism.

An awful lot of dead people later, Vietnam was united and the imperialist powers France and the United States and their local allies were fully expelled. That was 1975. Barack Obama was 14 years old, attending a private prep school. It can hardly be doubted that growing up during the Vietnam War must have had some impact on the young Obama.

Yet Barack would not have worried about being drafted into the military because conscription ended in 1973, when he was 12 years old. He did not need to make a choice that would have real consequences for himself.

Despite getting a B. A. in political science from Columbia University in 1983, Barack failed to learn the basic lessons of the Vietnam War. Not the ethical lessons, not the political lessons, not the economic or military lessons. And since he did not learn those lessons, the Marines and the Taliban will continue to duke it out. America may even win the war, that is unlikely but not impossible, but it does not matter. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was ethically, politically, tactically and strategically wrong; the U.S. has already lost so much, a mere victory, however defined, cannot make up for the losses.

Eisenhower was a general; Kennedy a lieutenant; Barack was never even a private. If he had been a war resister, that might have given him some backbone to resist pressure from the military-industrial complex and its hawkish political friends.

President Lyndon B. Johnson (a Democrat) was responsible for almost all the escalation of the Vietnam War. President Richard M. Nixon (a Republican) was responsible for getting the U.S. out of the war. I don't think parties matter much in this kind of situation. Timing matters. If Kennedy had not been assassinated, if Johnson had lost to Goldwater in the 1964 election, or if Humphrey had won in 1968 instead of Nixon, the trajectory would have been about the same.

Afghanistan, like Vietnam, has its various ethnic groupings, but none of them really want to be ruled by the United States. The allies of the U.S. in Afghanistan today are mainly the same people who allied with Russia (aka the USSR) in the prior war, and they are allies for mostly the same reasons. If there are six Taliban left in the country when the U.S. finally does declare a victory, within five years of the withdrawal of U.S. troops the Taliban, or their rough equivalent, will have regained control of most of the country.

The only way to keep Afghanistan under U.S. control is to keep U.S. soldiers there permanently. And even that may not work. As with Vietnam, the U.S. will probably end up controlling only its own military bases.

It was not just propaganda, leaders in the U.S. were genuinely worried that if they did not defeat the Vietnamese communists (who were really nationalists), the entire globe would be thrust into darkness. In reality once they kicked the U.S. out, the "Communists" behaved pretty much like everyone else. They did intervene in Cambodia, but they had good reason, and they withdrew as soon as they could. The Vietnamese have proven to be a peaceful, productive people. They did not cooperate much with the Chinese or Russian communists. They liked communism for its own sake, not because they wanted to be subordinate to China or Russia.

The people of Afghanistan are not the enemies of the United States. And in a large way, the people of Afghanistan are the Taliban. Leave them alone, and they will leave us alone. Al-Qaeda extremists should have been dealt with by other methods than invading an entire enormous country.

Instead of doing the right thing, President Obama succumbed to pressure from the Pentagon. Like Kennedy and Johnson and even Nixon, he will go down in global history as a war criminal. If the histories are written by honest people.

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