by Simon Jenkins
If good intentions ever paved a road to hell, they are doing so in
Afghanistan. History rarely declares when folly turns to disaster, but it
does so now. Barack Obama and his amanuensis, Gordon Brown, are uncannily
repeating the route taken by American leaders in Vietnam from 1963 to 1975.
Galbraith once said that the best thing about the Great Depression was that
it warned against another. Does the same apply to Vietnam?
Vietnam began with Kennedy's noble 1963 intervention, to keep the communist
menace at bay and thus make the world safe for democracy. That is what
George Bush and Tony Blair said of terrorism and Afghanistan. Vietnam
escalated as the Diem regime in Saigon failed to contain Vietcong aggression
and was deposed with American collusion. By 1965, despite Congress
scepticism, American advisers, then planes, then ground forces were
deployed. Allies were begged to join but few agreed - and not Britain.
The presence of Americans on Asian soil turned a local insurgency into a
regional crusade. . . .
The 2001 policy of invading, capturing Osama bin Laden and ridding the
region of terrorist bases has been tested to destruction and failed.
Strategy is reduced to the senseless slaughter of hundreds of young western
soldiers and thousands of Afghans. . . .
There will soon be 68,000 American troops in that country, making a mockery
of Donald Rumsfeld's 2001 tactic of hit and run, which at least had the
virtue of coherence.
This is set fair to be a war of awful proportions, cockpit for the feared
clash of civilisations. . . .
It is hard to imagine a greater tragedy than for the most exciting American
president in a generation to be led by a senseless intervention into a
repeat of America's greatest postwar debacle. . . .
Dexter Filkins, "U.S. Pullout a Condition in
Afghan Peace Talks," New York Times, May 21, 2009