Monday, August 10, 2009

US Looks to Vietnam for Tips on How to Lose

Associated Press: (Brussels):


Top U.S. officials have reached out to a leading Vietnam war scholar to discuss the similarities of that conflict 40 years ago with American involvement in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is seeking ways to isolate an elusive guerrilla force and win over a skeptical local population.



The overture to Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Stanley Karnow, who opposes the Afghan war, comes as the U.S. is evaluating its strategy there



McChrystal and Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to the country, telephoned Karnow on July 27 in an apparent effort to apply the lessons of Vietnam to the Afghan war, which started in 2001 when U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.



Among the concerns voiced by historians is the credibility of President Hamid Karzai’s government, which is widely perceived as being plagued by graft and corruption. They draw a parallel between Afghanistan’s presidential election on Aug. 20 and the failed effort in Vietnam to legitimize a military regime lacking broad popular support through an imposed presidential election in 1967.



"Holbrooke rang me from Kabul and passed the phone to the general," said Karnow, who authored the seminal 1983 book, "Vietnam: A History."



Holbrooke confirmed to The Associated Press that the three men discussed similarities between the two wars. "We discussed the two situations and what to do," he said during a visit last week to NATO headquarters in Brussels.



In an interview Thursday with the AP, Karnow said it was the first time he had ever been consulted by U.S. commanders to discuss the war. He did not elaborate on the specifics of the conversation.



When asked what could be drawn from the Vietnam experience, Karnow replied: "What did we learn from Vietnam? We learned that we shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Obama and everybody else seem to want to be in Afghanistan, but not I."



"It now seems unthinkable that the U.S. could lose (in Afghanistan), but that’s what experts … thought in Vietnam in 1967," he said at his Maryland home. "It could be that there will be no real conclusion and that it will go on for a long time until the American public grows tired of it."



Isn’t that great? The Obama administration is reaching out to people who can tell them how to lose a war against all odds.

2 comments:

WoFat August 10, 2009 at 8:20 PM  

Afghanistan is, at its heart, a religious war. Vietnam was political.

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