What Price Victory?

America has not won a war since World War II. We have also not lost a war since then, which is all the more troubling.

Beginning with Korea, America entered the war on sound principle to repel the unprovoked North Korean invasion. Then, the first inkling of our tendency toward mission creep began. On reaching the 38th parallel, US/UN forces crossed the border and became an army of invasion rather than defense.

MacArthur saw a chance to push on into China, although officially it was a mopping-up operation of the North Korean Army. However, the Chinese had other ideas and began flooding North Korea with several hundred thousand Chinese soldiers.

MacArthur ignored intelligence reports about Chinese intervention, leading to one of the most horrific engagements in modern warfare, the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. The 1st Marine Division, vastly outnumbered and surrounded, fought their way out with all their dead and wounded. The level of American courage and determination was unmatched. The heroism was astounding.

But was it necessary?

The Korean War is technically still going on under an Armistice without finality.

Just three short years after active combat in Korea ended, the first casualties of Vietnam occurred. Then, in 1965, Johnson escalated the war based on what was almost certainly a false report of an attack by North Vietnamese gunboats on the USS Maddox, a Navy destroyer operating in the Gulf of Tonkin.

The premise was to support the people of South Vietnam. The reality was to create a buffer against communist expansion into Southeast Asia. There was no clear path to victory. No definable goal. And no recognition that many of the Viet Cong fighters were embedded within the very people we claimed to be supporting.

57000 dead and hundreds of thousands of wounded Americans later—not to mention the millions of Vietnamese casualties—we left with no meaningful achievements to show for it.

Once again, the bravery, heroism, and fighting ability of the American military in Vietnam was unmatched. But, we’d spent nineteen years there and no one can define what we achieved.

Then came the first Gulf War. Iraq invaded Kuwait, and the US-led UN coalition pushed the Iraqis out of Kuwait in a masterfully executed battle plan. They entered Iraq and destroyed the Iraqi military. When it became clear that the battle had changed into a massacre of Iraqi troops, we stopped.

In this war, President George H. W. Bush, a veteran of World War II, had set a goal, accomplished the plan, and achieved victory. It would be the closest thing to finality in American combat history for more than thirty years.

Unfortunately, it would be a lesson his son, George W. Bush, would fail to heed.

On September 11, 2001, a non-state force harbored in Afghanistan by the Taliban government perpetrated an act of war against the United States of America. President George W. Bush ordered the military to war, rightfully so.

We attacked Afghanistan and obliterated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, forcing Osama Bin Laden into hiding. Then, for some inexplicable reason, when we knew with a high degree of certainty that Bin Laden was in Tora Bora, we choose not to put troops on the ground and finish him off. One of the main reasons we entered Afghanistan was to capture or kill Bin Laden, and we failed to do so.

It would take the rest of Bush’s time in office and into the Obama Presidency before we accomplished this stated purpose for invading Afghanistan.

But more troubling than that, while still engaged in combat in Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq based on flawed or fraudulent intelligence and started a whole new era of warfare.

And this is where the wheels came off American policy on fighting wars. It is why we find ourselves, twenty years after we first invaded Afghanistan, just now ending our involvement. It is why we still have several thousand troops in Iraq. Troops and personnel are hunkered down in the American compound in Iraq because it is too dangerous to travel throughout most of the country.

It is why we cannot know the price of victory when we cannot even define it.

President Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan was the right decision. There is little justification for remaining that bears any resemblance to our initial reason for being there. If we believe we have both the obligation and capability to use the military to change the many areas of the world where human rights abuses occur, we will need a much larger military.

And when faced with the reality of the very victims of human rights abuses at our own southern border, we choose to build walls and lock them in cages. The disingenuous nature of such behavior is appalling.

The execution of the plan to evacuate Afghanistan was rife with problems. But one must keep in mind the chaos that ensued on the streets of Kabul was inevitable. Once the first Afghan began leaving the country, chaos would inevitably arise.

Biden will have to answer for his handling of the withdrawal, and for the deaths of the thirteen Americans, but at least he won’t have to answer for any more needless deaths in Afghanistan. Doing the right thing poorly is better than perpetuating an error perfectly. Until we can define the goals of military intervention, we must be judicious in our willingness to deploy our troops in harm’s way.

America has not won a war since World War II. America has not lost a war since World War II. We keep substituting Pyrrhic victories for genuine success. In every war we’ve fought since World War II, the United States military has never been defeated on the battlefield. Yet this matters little if we cannot define victory.

We cannot continue to win every battle, yet lose precious American lives in ill-defined wars. If a never ending armistice in Korea, nineteen years in Vietnam, and twenty years in Afghanistan isn’t proof enough our policy needs to change, we are doomed to repeat our own foolish, and deadly, mistakes.

******************************************************************************************************

JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

Not Another Vietnam

Afghanistan is not Vietnam. There are similarities, but major differences.

Vietnam had a thousand-year-long history as a country, at various times invaded by China, Korea, and Japan. But the Vietnamese were always one people with historical traditions, rich cultural heritage, and a primarily common language.

Afghanistan is a remnant of British colonialism and first arose as a modern nation in the late 18th century. The country was used as a buffer between British India and the Russian Empire, with the Durand Line formed in 1893. This artificial border, not recognized by any Afghan government, was a source of conflict with Pakistan once that country achieved independence.

One more battle in a long line of battles in Afghansistan

The most telling difference between Afghanistan and Vietnam is the motivation for us being there in the first place.

We started inserting military advisers into Vietnam in 1956 to assist the government installed by the allies after WWII to rule South Vietnam while North Vietnam—once again an artificial border set by outside forces at the 17th parallel—was supported and ruled by Communists.

Vietnam was a result of the cold war intended to stop the spread of communism. Our entry into Afghanistan was in response to a direct attack by forces harbored within the country. Herein lies one significant difference. One war resulted from the idea that communism would spread throughout Southeast Asia and continue to other areas. The other, from an unprovoked attack against the United States.

There is another similarity between the two wars—no clearly articulated goal. In Vietnam, as in Afghanistan, the enemy never won any major battle against US forces. The 1968 TET offensive in Vietnam—which many are using to compare the situation in Afghanistan—was a strategic disaster on the battlefield for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army. But it was a political victory in the media because of the outlandish predictions of the MAC-V (Military Assistance Command-Vietnam) about the military ability of the Viet Cong.

The most significant similarity lies in the on-field performance of the Afghan military and the similar performance of the South Vietnamese military once the bulk of American combat forces were withdrawn.

Absent American leadership and resources—primarily air support and logistics—both military forces collapsed. Within these organizations, many courageous soldiers, marines, and airmen fought for their country. Still, individual courage is no substitute for a sense of national identity worth defending. Command collapse always leads to battlefield failure, no matter the level of personal resiliency.

In the running up  of troop levels in Viet Nam, President Johnson—who privately was reluctant to escalate the war—once said, “If Vietnamese boys aren’t willing to die for their country, why should I send American boys to die for them?” Tragic that Johnson didn’t have the courage of his convictions and refuse to escalate the war. Perhaps it would have set a more meaningful and utilitarian precedent.

The war in Afghanistan stopped being justified the moment after we achieved some level of success twenty years ago. Unfortunately, since then, Presidents Bush, Obama, and Trump failed to recognize the hopelessness of the situation.

Now it falls on Biden to make the hard choice. None of his options are good ones; getting American forces and civilians out of Afghanistan is the least worse. The images of American helicopters extracting personnel from the rooftops in Kabul are eerily similar to Saigon in 1975. Still, the geopolitical reality could not be more different.

Almost 3000 US service personnel died in the war in Afghanistan. We spent trillions of dollars trying to create a stable country. Our military dominance was never seriously challenged, but our political and nation-building track record over twenty years and four Presidential administrations is a disaster.

In Vietnam, we fought a war with an artificial line of demarcation called the DMZ behind which the enemy enjoyed full protection from American ground troops. In Afghanistan, while the US and Afghan forces controlled the major cities, the Taliban controlled the predominately rural rest of the country mostly immune from significant threats.

Neither situation is the way one wins a war, it is the way one maintains a stalemate. And, like in chess, when one resigns the other achieves a measure of victory without ever capturing the King.

A war without a clear measure of success is doomed to failure.

Unless Afghanistan once again poses a direct threat to the US, let those in Afghanistan fight for their own freedom. If we want to keep troops everywhere in the world that poses a potential threat to us, we’re going to need a much bigger military.

There is a reason Afghanistan is called the “Graveyard of Empires.”

********************************************************************************************

JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

Misplaced Tolerance: The Price of Practicality

There is a sad, yet well-established history in this country of aligning ourselves with groups and governments that are the antithesis of our cherished love of freedom.

During WWII, we allied ourselves with the Soviet Union for the greater good of defeating Nazi Germany

In Vietnam we supported, some would say orchestrated, a violent coup which overthrew one tyrannical government in favor of one more to our liking. We then supported this government in its battle against the communist north under Ho Chi Minh. Of course, we supported Ho Chi Minh prior to that when he fought against the Japanese. Yet we did not support Ho Chi Minh when they fought against French colonialism, after all, Vietnam does not fall under the umbrella of the Monroe doctrine.

We did it again in Kuwait, aligning ourselves with one dynastic, Islamic royalty against the country of Iraq. Among our allies, Saudi Arabia. The house of Saud is a theocratic dynastic royalty which embraces Sharia law.

Now our latest, supporting false democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These alliances make sense if one takes a practical approach to the world. However, practicality should have limitations.

The world needed to stop Hitler. His actions set in motion a war in which over 60 million people died. Three percent of the world’s population at the time.

Our alliance with Stalin brought about the defeat of Hitler. Under Stalin, an estimated 50 million people died “unnatural” deaths during the years 1924-1953. This number excludes wartime deaths.

In a practical world, aligning with Stalin to defeat Hitler made military and strategic sense. Moreover, one could argue Stalin killed fewer people. In a practical sense, he was the lesser of two evils.

The Soviet Union went on from WWII to support the North Vietnamese with weapons against our new allies in South Vietnam. Our Russian allies killed Americans because the practicalities of the world changed.

Practicality has a price.

Our path of practicality has come at a cost to our beliefs. I, for one, think it past the time that we put practical considerations aside and focus on doing the right thing.

Some will argue we have no right to impose our standards on others. I agree. We do not impose our standards on anyone. However, we also do not support those that would mistreat their own people under misguided 14th century concepts.

What we need is a qualifications checklist for receiving aid, military or otherwise, from this country. This country may not be perfect but our laws seek to protect everyone. The last time I checked our laws do not consider women to be property. Our laws do not permit discrimination based on race, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation. Our laws are there to protect all of us.

Are there exceptions to these rules, of course there are. The sad fact is that many embrace similar archaic, mostly religious-based concepts of equality. Many consider women inferior to men and in need of male guidance. They cloak this control with claims of “protecting” women. Protecting them from what? My guess would be from the very ones controlling them.

Many consider certain races or ethnicities to be inferior. That is a symptom of their faulty upbringing or lack of education. While the reality of these idiotic, misogynistic and childish beliefs is unfortunate, it is not enshrined in our laws. Unlike many of the countries we support under the guise of practicality, we strive for the equality of all.

I think it long past the time when this country needs to be that “Shining City on the Hill” (in the secular sense.)

Time we stop ignoring civil rights abuses under the premise of “tolerance” for difference and start insisting on conditions for our support.

If the Saudi’s believe that Sharia law is more important than our strategic support that is their choice.

If Afghanistan permits the jailing of women based solely on the word of their husband or believes that some archaic social code that refuses women the right to self-determination is more important than our support that is their choice.

Practicality has limitations. Common sense tells us that all human beings are entitled to self-determination and the right to control their own destiny.

This experiment called the United States began with these words,

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; …

These were the words of Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence. Words later changed for the final document. I think these words capture his meaning in a much clearer sense.

Perhaps it is time we put these words at the top of every agreement, treaty, support, or assistance package we offer as a condition.

Our practicality needs a conscience.