No… comparing the current Afghan/Iraq “thing” with the war in Vietnam is like comparing apples to oranges. Welllll…. maybe it’s more like comparing, uhh.. McIntosh apples to Red Delicious apples; one being a little more tart than the other. After all, they are both wars, non-declared ones at that. They have both lasted at least 10 years, but Vietnam was a “quagmire” and today’s war is not… we are told. Vietnam had ill-defined military objectives, had no front lines, and was a guerrilla war. This War On Terror also has no front lines, is a guerilla war, and, um…
I recall Gen. Schwartzkopf said something to the effect that he would serve as commander of Operation Desert Storm if, in fact, military objectives were concise and clear… that political objectives remained clear… and once the objectives were met then the operation would cease. He had been there once before, years before… serving under the indecisive leadership of the Vietnam years. He wasn’t about to repeat that under his watch. And.. he did it. He maybe wasn’t destined to be the favorite guy in the Pentagon for his outspoken views of the past but he was a great commander at a time when we needed a military commander. Very true… our enemy at the time was a third world nation with a fourth world military; easy pickings for any modern military. But Schwartzkopf did what he said he was going to do and we had less-than-expected casualties for it. Then came 9/11 and things got mirky again with the new wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seems some lessons from Vietnam have meandered a bit.
Look… I wanted to go somewhere (collectively as a nation) and kick Taliban butt (and I can certainly understand the feeling behind the t-shirt I saw, Everything I learned about Islam I learned on 9/11) after seeing the attacks on American soil as much as the next person. I am no way some anti-war protestor in the spiritual sense. I was for invading Iraq simply because it was a terrorist state even if the WMD’s turned out being SOL. If we were there because of oil then that’s fine with me because we needed stability in the region regarding oil production and distribution anyway. I was all for invading Afghanistan because that’s where Bin Laden was and the Taliban nasties… and I also believed in taking the war to them rather than sitting around waiting for the next attack on American soil. But I truly expected that there would have been proper planning once we got Saddam out of the way, and ousted the Taliban.
During the Vietnam years they called it “Vietnamization”; defined by the Nixon Administration as “expand, equip, and train South Vietnam’s forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S. combat troops.” Thank goodness we’ve learned our lesson because these days there is no term, but the policy is defined as being, “expand, equip, and train [insert country name here] forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S. combat troops.” Anyway, bottom line, I am sorely disappointed that no one in government seemed to use any common sense when it came to planning what to do with these countries after we took control of them. There’s no question our military can conquer the world.. but the real question is what do we do with the world once we have it? Winning the hearts and minds is NOT a military objective; it’s a political objective.. and that’s the real apples-to-oranges comparison here.
Maybe it’s time we, as a nation, begin thinking that wars should never be started. If we do go to war then it’s meant to be fought until it is over. Once it is over then we have a plan to move on. We need to stop engaging in guerilla battles and begin using political and psychological means to win the peace. We cannot beat ideologies on a battlefield. That was tried during the Middle Ages by armies a couple times to no avail. Above all… we cannot expect to go to war using a high moral position that no human being can ever achieve. We send our young people off to fight wars… we tell them to ignore their moral codes “just this one time” and we give
them “permission” to kill and we train them and give them the tools to do that many times over… for God and country and patriotism. While we sit in the comfort of our homes we expect our young soldiers to fight battles to win yet we want them to fight clean… treat the enemy with respect by respectfully killing them… and only kill those who are going to kill you (don’t make any mistakes). And what will we, who sit at home, give you when your duty is completed? The thanks of a greatful nation. The handshake from a stranger on the street who says, “Thanks for serving.”
But wait a second… you say the experience fighting a clean war has given you post traumatic stress? You say you watched your buddies get blown up by a hidden enemy bomb and that caused you to do “unclean” things in fighting the clean war, both under orders and not? Oh dear.. and you snapped a picture of one of those “unclean” events of war and sent it back to mom and dad? And now the press has it.. and now you are being judged for having taken that picture and not about how many enemy you have killed to complete the mission?
It’s time we learn as a nation that wars are meant to be fought and things happen in war, especially when your enemy pulls out all the stops to try and beat you but you have moral restrictions on how you can beat him. The guy on the battlefield fighting for YOU can’t afford a high moral plane to survive. That was all taken from him the first time he aimed his gun and fired at another human being.
Get off your high horse, America. The next time you want a war remember that the images you are likely to see are the result of what you wanted. Our soldiers are just human beings that are trained to kill… and then have to forget about it when they come home. You don’t like the images, then don’t go to war.
As I keep saying… if there wasn’t a 9/11 there never would have been a picture of the mangled legs of a dead suicide bomber being held up by a couple of G.I.’s. If they are disobeying military orders then let the military handle it.