Afghanistan – 17 years later and a Quick Look Back at Vietnam

by Jack

Before we look at Afghanistan we need a quick review of another war, Vietnam.  Ho Chi Minh had approached Harry Truman in 1946 asking if the U.S. would help the Vietnamese evict the French, much as the Americans had evicted the British in our Revolution.   Truman sided with the French.  We then picked up their banner when the French were defeated in 1954.  

Fast forward – In 1965 then President Lyndon Johnson presided over a critical meeting of his closest advisers at 11 A.M. on July 2, to discuss the administration’s options on Vietnam:

In that meeting McNamara indicated he personally in favor of escalation of military operations, but stopped short of encouraging Johnson. Vietcong (insurgents) casualty numbers were discussed, including the enemy body count and how it would affect attrition. McNamara said 500 (Vietcong) were killed in the last two weeks, most from Air Force bombings.  But, he noted, it could have been as few as 200.   Johnson asked for clarification to separate the body count from killed women and children, as he pondered could the enemy endure such losses?  Johnson also asked, if it only took a few of them to disrupt our military on the ground, could we ever win such a war?

National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy prepared President Johnson for the meeting with a memo he drafted the previous evening, suggesting that Johnson “would want to listen hard” to George Ball’s recommendation to disengage from Vietnam “and then reject his proposal.”

By 1968 McNamara had become thoroughly disillusioned with the war and left office.  By this time he came to a number of realizations.  Mainly, they had grossly underestimated the powerful motivation for nationalism and they overestimated the control and popularity of the corrupt regime of South Vietnam.

McNamara would later admit that the war as it was being fought was unwinnable and blamed the US, South Vietnam and North Vietnam for failing to engage in continuous diplomacy and compromise that would have prevented the war that followed or greatly reduced the losses. He said fear, arrogance and misunderstandings had a catastrophic effect. “Each of us could have avoided the war entirely or terminated it earlier,” McNamara said.

Three million people were killed in a War against a country that had never attacked the U.S., had never tried to attack it, had no desire to attack it, had no capacity to attack it, and which had come to the U.S. asking for help in securing its own national self-determination.” (Left – suspected VC is interviewed by South Vietnamese soldiers)

In 1964 the US had lost 216 personnel, but by 1973 the cumulative death toll would stand at 58,220.  The total financial cost was about 982 billion dollars, adjusted for 2017 dollars and most of this was borrowed money that we are still paying on.

The great lessons learned from Vietnam have been very well documented and completely discounted and/or forgotten.   After 17 years of wa and nation building, the Taliban appear to be making a comeback. Worse, they have been joined by a number of other radical Islamic factions, including ISIS.

How could this happen?

Once again we grossly overestimated the ability the indigenous people to embrace their new found freedoms by any measure close to that the oppositions ideology.   There’s now a very large percentage of the population that do not want the USA, present in their country.  We’ve worn out our welcome.  And just like in South Vietnam, the Afghanistan government is wholly incapable of being sustainable without our support.

From it’s inception until now the war in Afghanistan has cost American’s $1.04 trillion dollars and most this was borrowed money that we will paying back for decades to come, just like Vietnam.

President Obama, acting against his advisors advice, made public the timeline for the US pullout.  This not only greatly complicated things for the new Trump Administration, but if foolishly allowed the Taliban into become more aggressive, sensing a victory was near.

History is writing this and the many other costly blunders President Obama has made like micro-management of shoot – don’t shoot policies, the sudden troop draw down, the so-called heroic refrain order and other seriously incompetent decisions, that only advantaged the enemy and escalated US and coalition casualties.

A precipitous withdrawal now will lead to collapse of the current US backed regime and we can expect a blood bath of Biblical proportions to follow. But, even worse than it was before our arrival, the most deadly terrorist factions will suddenly have a new base of operations. Once that is established, they would then be in a key position to export their radicalism and subvert Pakistan which has 10 times the population of Afghanistan (and nuclear weapons).

This is a no win situation for Trump, if he stays he will be damned, if he withdraws he will be damned and he will likely be blamed for creating America’s next war.

Had the US simply went into Afghanistan, pummeled the Taliban and called it good enough,  we would have been infinitely better off and so would the people of Afghanistan. But, no we had to stay and embark on nation building while our own nation was being split down the middle. Could we have been any dumber? This might explain why so many Americans have so little trust or confidence in our government, regardless of who is in power. It is also part of the reason why Donald Trump, a complete political outsider, was voted into our highest office to drain the swamp. I rest my case.

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8 Responses to Afghanistan – 17 years later and a Quick Look Back at Vietnam

  1. Joe says:

    Mr. Jack, war is just another big government program.

    Afghanistan is the forever war (and the globalists would have it no other way), just like the war on poverty, the war on cancer, the war on drugs, etc. There’s too much money to be made in these big government programs for them to ever go away. So expect hundreds of billions more dollars to be spent on the war in Afghanistan and even sadder hundreds and if not thousands more Americans to be coming home in body bags.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I got to check the price on T-bonds as our government has got to borrow another trillion or so more (and much of it from the Chicoms) for all these forever wars.

  2. Tina says:

    As humans we abhor war and grieve the horrendous loss of life it brings. It’s even worse if we see the war as a mistake, poorly waged and ultimately lost. It’s in our nature to want peace but it is also unrealistic to imagine we can force it in a world of hostile aggression and immoral proclivities.

    We can’t fully learn from history if we fail to see a complete picture. We do a great disservice to those who fought and spilled their blood if we simply dismiss Vietnam as a failure and an embarrassment. In many ways Vietnam was a poorly run war but it was also a war with more issues and players than are usually acknowledged. Letting the anti-war left have the last word is the easiest way to wiggle out of the discomfort of our loss but it teaches a poor lesson. Ultimately every war is a battle of good vs. evil. Do we imagine we can deny “good” a defense without falling into it’s hell? America was not wrong to stand against the forces of the aggressive communist Chinese and Russians.

    Before we went to war in Vietnam we signed a treaty compelling involvement.


    Johnson was acting on high motives. A decade earlier the United State had been a signatory to SEATO (Southeast Asia Treaty Organization), in which the U.S., France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Pakistan pledged to prevent communism from gaining ground and spreading in South Asia. …

    … The bill to commit more American troops to fight in Vietnam became known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, named for an exchange of gunfire between U.S. and North Vietnamese ships in the Gulf of Tonkin a few weeks earlier. It passed the House of Representatives 416 to 0, and it passed in the Senate by a vote of 98 to 2.

    As with the Iraq war, our nation unified and committed fully in Vietnam. Later on a portion of the country, led in part by communist student agitators and a hostile media, turned it’s back on the commitment our nation had made. A younger generation, having missed witnessing first hand the evil march of fascism and lacking the capacity to fully understand the oppressive nature of communist aggressors, blamed America and actively fought against her. It’s shocking to thin that could happen so quickly, but it did. Was it imagined that WWII had finally taught the world a final lesson?

    There are many ways to look at war history. Most people who talk about Vietnam don’t consider the roles played by Russia and China. One historian, Michael Lind, does and he places the Vietnam war in the context of the cold war. I tend to agree with his assessment, America does not exist in a bubble.

    Lind’s article broadens this perspective. American Legion Magazine, “Why we went to war in Vietnam,” by Michael Lind, author of the book, “Vietnam: The Necessary War.” Amazingly Lind is a Democrat who’s opinions I don’t share. It’s possibly his view of Vietnam reflects the Democrats of old that still had strongly held patriotic values. The Democrats who fought alongside Republicans in WWII. (I could be wrong)

    Lind first identifies the various positions people hold on vietnam:

    In the decades after the departure of the last U.S. combat troops from Vietnam in March 1973 and the fall of Saigon to communist North Vietnamese forces in April 1975, Americans have been unable to agree on how to characterize the long, costly and ultimately unsuccessful U.S. military involvement in Indochina. To some, the Vietnam War was a crime – an attempt by the United States to suppress a heroic Vietnamese national liberation movement that had driven French colonialism out of its country. To others, the Vietnam War was a forfeit, a just war needlessly lost by timid policymakers and a biased media. For many who study foreign affairs, the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake brought about by U.S. leaders who exaggerated the influence of communism and underestimated the power of nationalism.

    Another interpretation, a fourth one, has recently emerged, now that the Vietnam War is history and can be studied dispassionately by scholars with greater, though not unlimited, access to records on all sides.

    The emerging scholarly synthesis interprets the war in the global context of the Cold War that lasted from the aftermath of World War II to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In this view, Vietnam was neither a crime, a forfeit nor a tragic mistake. It was a proxy conflict in the Cold War. …

    … What Americans call the Vietnam War was the second of three wars in Indochina during the Cold War, in which the United States, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China intervened in shifting patterns of enmity and alliance. None of these would have occurred in the form that they did if Mao’s communists had not come to power in China in 1949. Although the regimes in Moscow and Beijing were enemies of one another by the end of the Cold War, in the conflict’s early years the triumph of the Chinese communists created a powerful Sino-Soviet bloc that opposed the United States and its allies around China’s periphery: Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. Direct Chinese military intervention in the Korean War ensured a bloody stalemate rather than reunification of the peninsula under a non-communist regime. At the same time, indirect Chinese and Soviet support in the First Indochina War (1946-1954) helped Ho Chi Minh’s communists drive the French from their former colony.

    Following WWII America was seen as a liberator and a beacon of hope, freedom and justice. We were seen as a nation that could be counted upon to come to the defense of these important principles wherever they were challenged in the world. The ideals of individual freedom and human rights were starkly felt after the truth of the Holocaust was revealed. Regimes that would take 6 million individuals and separate them from their property, send them to prison camps, starve and murder them had to be resisted.

    Can we withdraw from this legacy given the fact that the principles that guided us are the principles we hold most dear? I don’t think so, especially not now when the world has become so small. I do think that those who study wars and how to better fight them can look at strategies, tactics and the decisions leaders have made but they must also consider whether the battle is worth the price paid and whether the people will support it to the end.

    What would the world look like today if America had completely withdrawn after WWII, if the USSR had not been defeated, if China had been allowed to fully agress throughout Asia and both in the Middle East? As Dinesh D’Souza has asked, what would the world look like had America not been America?

    The answer might be staring us right in the face south of our own border. In the last sixteen years we have virtually ignored Central and South America. It’s easy to see what the world would look like if America stopped holding to and defending our humane principles of individual liberties and rights. It would look like those nations south of our border that are falling to communism, dictatorship and violent elements.

    How and to what extent do we stand in defense of freedom and individual rights and responsibilities? It’s a tough question since we’re ultimately talking about sacrificing lives. It’s too early to say but at first glance it seems president Trump has determined a balanced approach in the Middle East. He stands as a world leader for our values but at the same time demands much more of the nations of the world and in a much more vital and meaningful way.

    It’s always the same battle we fight, a fight for human dignity and grace. Perhaps we have learned at least some lessons from previous wars:

    One lesson is that America doesn’t have to act as superhero to the world. It’s enough to guide and lend support when asked with the strong aid of allies. Wasn’t that the purpose of the original UN Charter? To stand united in the face of violent aggressors?

    I hope we’ve learned that it’s important to continuously share the values of individual freedom, equality, and justice. We’ve witnessed the human cost when these values are not defended.

    I pray that we’ve learned we must defeat the enemy when we commit to engage in war.

    But I have little faith that as a whole nation we’ve learned the lesson of seeing a war commitment through to completion. Anti-war voices continue to undermine the values we defend even here on our own shores.

    • Post Scripts says:

      Tina, I was remiss in not making it clear that we entered into the Vietnam war because Kennedy and Johnson felt it was a springboard for communism into that region of the world. In order to block communism both concluded we needed to back the Diem regime and resist militarily in Vietnam.

      In the clarity of hindsight, this was a mistake. Also the Gulf of Tonkin incident which pushed us to direct military operations against the North Vietnamese with ground troops was most a false event. On Aug. 2nd our navy ships were attacked by the North’s patrol boats and were quickly driven off. On Aug. 4th a second attack was reported and this is the one that prompted our increased military response, but that was a battle that was blamed on faulty radar, an over eager radar operator and confusion. Yes, we fired a lot of rounds and took evasive action, but there was no enemy present.

      “Commander Stockdale was again in the action, this time alone. When his wingman’s aircraft developed trouble, Stockdale got permission to launch solo from the Ticonderoga . He arrived overhead at 2135. For more than 90 minutes, he made runs parallel to the ships’ course and at low altitude (below 2,000 feet) looking for the enemy vessels. He reported later, “I had the best seat in the house to watch that event and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets—there were no PT boats there . . . there was nothing there but black water and American firepower.” 11

      Captain Herrick also began to have doubts about the attack. As the battle continued, he realized the “attacks” were actually the results of “overeager sonar operators” and poor equipment performance. The Turner Joy had not detected any torpedoes during the entire encounter, and Herrick determined that the Maddox ‘s operators were probably hearing the ship’s propellers reflecting off her rudder during sharp turns. 12 The destroyer’s main gun director was never able to lock onto any targets because, as the operator surmised, the radar was detecting the stormy sea’s wave tops.”

      It didn’t take long for the navy to realize the incident was just a mistake, but our government continued to use it as a pretext to move forward with the Kennedy/Johnson agenda of trying to contain communism.

      Overlooked by history was the grand opportunity to block communism by supporting Ho Chi Mihn in 1947. He embraced our Constitution and admired the American revolution so much he patterned many of his ideals after ours. But, when we rejected his pleas he had no place to turn except to the very people we were trying to block, the Russian communists! All we had to do was make it clear to France that it was time to leave Vietnam and perhaps broker an exit strategy for them. We didn’t have to take up arms against anyone. Ho Chi Mihn needed our power of diplomacy, instead he was rejected outright. And at the heart of the French occupation of Vietnam was the Michelin Rubber Company. They treated the people little better than slaves and were ruthless in their exploitation of rubber tree resources. The French did a lot of good too, they helped in building infrastructure in Vietnam, but they were not the kind and generous partners, helping the little people, that they would have us believe.

      Because war is never going to be as black and white as it was against the Nazi’s, we have to develop new and more civilized methods of protecting our national interests than war. Modern war is too costly, too complex and it often undermines exactly what we were trying to accomplish…protection of our nation interests, so we need better options. However, I recognize that there will be times when the only option is war and then we fight it to a clear and decisive conclusion. But, those times should be extremely rare and highly focused.

      • Tina says:

        “Overlooked by history was the grand opportunity to block communism by supporting Ho Chi Mihn in 1947. ”

        A grand opportunity overlooked or history purposely withheld?

        The anti-war students were led by communists in America and the unrepentant anti-war terrorist Bill Ayers has had a hand in writing the history.

        There’s ample reason to believe that there was no real opportunity, despite the words (propaganda?), since Ho Chi Chi Mihn was an active communist, as reflected in his personal history.

        US History – Ho Chi Minh

        He stayed in Paris until 1923, working in menial jobs while he became active in the socialist movement. During the 1919 Versailles Peace Conference, Ho attempted to present U.S. president Woodrow Wilson with a proposal for Vietnam`s independence, but is turned away. The proposal was never officially acknowledged.

        Leaving Paris in 1923, Ho traveled to Moscow for training at the headquarters of the Communist International (Comintern) and assumed an active role in its fifth congress, criticising the French Communist Party for not opposing colonialism more vigorously. He also urged the Comintern to actively promote revolution in Asia. In 1924 Ho traveled to Guangzhou (Canton) in southern China, a stronghold of the Chinese communists, where he trained Vietnamese exiles in revolutionary techniques. By 1925 he had organized the exiles into the Viet Nam Thanh Nien Cach Menh Dong Chi Hoi (Revolutionary Youth League). Going by the name Ly Thuy, he formed an inner group within the Revolutionary League, the Thanh Nien Cong San Doan, or Communist Youth League (CYL).

        The CYL concentrated on the production of an independence journal that was distributed clandestinely inside Vietnam. In 1926 Ho wrote Duong Cach Menh (The Revolutionary Path), which he used as a training manual. In 1927 the communists were expelled from Guangzhou in April, following a coup by Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. Ho found refuge in the Soviet Union. In 1928, he traveled to Brussels and Paris, then Siam (now Thailand), where he spent two years as a representative of the Comintern in Southeast Asia. His followers remained in South China.

        Ho presided over the founding of a unified Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) at a conference of the Thanh Nein in Hong Kong on February 3, 1930. A program of party objectives drafted by Ho was approved by the conference. The objectives included the overthrow of the French, establishment of an independent Vietnam ruled by a people`s government, nationalization of the economy and cancellation of public debts, land reform, the introduction of an eight-hour work day, and universal education. Meanwhile, the weight of a worldwide economic depression began to be felt in Vietnam. Peasant demonstrators in the provinces began to demand reform. When their demands were ignored, riots broke out. Peasants seized control of some districts and, with the aid of ICP organisers, formed local village associations called “soviets.”

        In September 1930 the French reacted to the ICP`s rising popularity by sending in Foreign Legion troops. More than 1,000 suspected communists and rebels were arrested and 400 were given lengthy prison sentences. Eighty, including some party leaders, were executed. Ho was condemned in absentia to death. He sought refuge in Hong Kong and again operated as a representative of the Comintern in Southeast Asia. By 1932 there were more than 10,000 French political prisoners held in Vietnam`s jails.

        Prison and communist study

        Ho was arrested in Hong Kong by the British police during a crackdown on political revolutionaries in 1931. He remained in prison until 1932. Upon his release, he traveled to Moscow, where he spent much of the next seven years studying and teaching at the Lenin Institute. Ho returned to China in 1938 and served as an adviser to the Chinese communist armed forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War.

        On the eve of the Second World War, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact. The French government in Vietnam immediately banned the French Communist Party, then outlawed all Vietnamese political parties, including the ICP, and cracked down on political activities. The ICP reacted by focusing its operations on rural areas, where the French held less sway. Early in 1940, Ho returned to southern China, where he reestablished contact with the ICP and began to plan. Ho and his lieutenants Vo Nguyen Giap and Pham Van Dong saw the defeat of the French by the Germans as an opportunity to free Vietnam from the French regime.

        Heading south from territory they occupied in China, Japanese troops invaded Vietnam on September 22, 1940. The French quickly negotiated a cease-fire that allowed their colonial administration to remain during Japanese rule. But peace was not to last. The defeat of the French by the Germans was an opportunity to finally free Vietnam from the French regime. Ho began to use the name Ho Chi Minh.

        In January 1941, Ho entered Vietnam for the first time in 30 years and organized the Vietnam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (League for the Independence of Vietnam), or Viet Minh. A liberation zone was established near the border with China, from which the Viet Minh worked to muster the discontent of urban nationalists and the rural poor into a unified movement for the liberation of Vietnam. While in southern China (1942) to meet with Chinese Communist Party officials, Ho was arrested by the Chinese nationalist government and imprisoned for two years. In September 1944 Ho was allowed to return to Vietnam with a guerilla force of 18 men trained and armed by the Chinese. He vetoed an ICP plan for a general uprising, but approved a propaganda campaign.

        In 1945, Ho Chi Minh, leader of the communist Viet Minh organization, declared Vietnam’s independence from Japan, in a speech that invoked the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution’s Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. However, the French quickly reasserted the control they had ceded to the Japanese, and the First Indochina War (1946–54) was underway.

        In December 1949 Ho Chi Minh sent envoys to Beijing, China, to request that the Chinese Communist Party provide military advisors, weapons that could equip three divisions, and financial aid of $10 million. At the time, the CCP did not completely satisfy Ho Chi Minh’s demands because it was still engaged in the war to unify China, and because it possessed limited financial resources. However, the CCP leadership did instruct its military units in southern China to provide as much assistance to the Viet Minh as possible. Mao Zedong paid serious attention to Ho Chi Minh’s struggle, and to his request for Chinese aid. Behind the scenes, China took up the struggle against the French. The Russians under Josef Stalin also supported Ho Chi Minh`s struggle for freedom and unification.

        In 1950, the U.S. recognized the Associated State of Vietnam (ASV – South Vietnam) and dispatched a group of military advisors to train the South Vietnamese in the use of U.S. weapons. China reacted by recognizing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV – North Vietnam) and agreeing to provide it with limited assistance. Official recognition of the DRV by the Soviet Union soon followed. In 1951 the ICP, which had been dissolved in 1945 to obscure its communist affiliation, was reestablished and renamed the Vietnam Workers` Party (VWP). Ho was elected party chairman.

        The French captured the strategic village of Dien Bien Phu in 1953. Ho indicated a willingness to consider a French peace plan. To maximise their leverage at the bargaining table, the Viet Minh decided to to take Dien Bien Phu just before the conference began. More than 100,000 Viet Minh troops and nearly 100,000 transport workers descended on the area. The siege of the town entrapped 15,000 French troops, cut off from all support and supplies. The French surrendered on May 7, 1954, the day before the Geneva negotiations were set to begin. The Geneva peace conference began on May 8, as planned, and a compromise agreement was signed.

        The agreement was endorsed by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, France, Britain, China and the Soviet Union. The United States and the ASV withheld approval. The country was effectively divided at the 17th Parallel into a communist North and a noncommunist South. On October 24, U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower offered direct economic aid to South Vietnam, which began in January 1955. In October, South Vietnam declared itself as the Republic of Vietnam. An election, to be held in 1956 to reunite the country under a democratically elected leader, was never held. South Vietnam, backed by the United States, refused to participate in the elections, fearful that Ho Chi Minh would win. War continued.

        As president of North Vietnam, Ho led the armed struggle against the South — and its United States allies — to reunite the country. Although the U.S. opposed Ho Chi Minh because he was a communist, the leader once explained, “It was patriotism, not Communism, that inspired me.” Ho`s loyal supporters (northern troops and southern guerillas) waged a protracted war against the United States, finally causing the superpower to withdraw from the peninsula.

        I think we can at least agree that if we make the decision as a nation to go to war we should have a good plan and allow our military win it.

  3. J. Soden says:

    Way off topic, but extremely interesting breaking . . . . . .


  4. Pete says:

    A war is easy to get into, but having a successful exit plan is almost always overlooked because it’s the most difficult chapter to write.

    We Americans don’t mind spending money on bombs, but flinch at the cost of rebuilding.

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