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Will Afghanistan Be Worse Than Vietnam?

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by William Astore

20 Apr 09 | AlterNet

Seven tough questions to ask Obama before he sinks us into new quagmire. These are the questions on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan that Obama should be asked at his press conferences.

It didn’t take long. Only 11 days after Barack Obama entered the Oval Office, a Newsweek cover story proclaimed the Afghan War “Obama’s Vietnam.” And there wasn’t even a question mark. As John Barry and Evan Thomas wrote grimly in that January piece, “[T]here is this stark similarity: in Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, we may now be facing a situation where we can win every battle and still not win the war — at least not within a time frame and at a cost that is acceptable to the American people.” In the two and a half months since that piece appeared, the President and his advisors have, in fact, doubled-down on what is increasingly the Af-Pak War — with the expanding fighting in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands helping to destabilize that regional nuclear power. As a result, it would hardly be surprising if “Obama’s Vietnam” became an ever more common refrain in the year ahead.

In a number of ways, however, the Af-Pak War couldn’t bear less of a relationship to the Vietnam one. After all, this time around there is no superpower enemy like the Soviet Union or regional power like China supporting and arming the Taliban (or, for that matter, like the United States, which supported and armed the mujahideen to give the Soviets their own “Vietnam” in Afghanistan in the 1980s). In Vietnam, the U.S. faced a North Vietnamese professional army, well-trained, superbly disciplined, and supplied with the best the Soviets and Chinese could produce, including heavy weapons; while the guerrilla organization we fought in South Vietnam, which Americans knew as “the Vietcong,” had widespread popular support, was unified, dedicated, well structured, and highly regimented. >>>

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Written by Editors

20 April 2009 at 3:30 pm

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