Monday, September 21, 2009

Afghanistan is not Vietnam

Let us be very clear: Afghanistan is not Vietnam.

Aside from the obvious geographical and climatic and ethnic differences our Afghan foe, the Taliban, does not enjoy of support and aid of powerful and nuclear armed allies as did North Vietnam in the Soviet Union and China. This is assuming, of course, that the government of our ally Pakistan, Afghanistan's next door neighbor to the east, does not fall the influence of religious fundamentalists, then Katy bar the door.

And, in light of Afghan theater NATO commander US Army General Stanley McChrystal's call for more "boots on the ground" or all is lost, we must keep in mind that most generals have what I call "McClellan's disease." For like the U.S. Civil War's most magnificently incompetent field commander, George B. McClellan, regardless the true size of the enemy arraigned before them our generals will always say they never have enough troops to complete the "job."

Yet to my way of thinking, the biggest difference between the current Afghan conflict and the Vietnam war is in the composition of the US army and Marine Corps this is, after all, an all volunteer force.

In an Associated Press news story on the ninth anniversary of the al Qaida attacks on the United States, reporter Heidi Vogt writes:
Many of the troops now fighting here were high school students at the time. Some saw the attacks on TV during class, and vowed to sign up when they were old enough.

Army Sgt. Joshua Applegate of Springfield, Mississippi, was in high school when the planes hit the towers, and enlisted two years later, though he said he had wanted to do it right away.

"I like my country too much not to," said Applegate, who arrived in Afghanistan in April

Many troops called Friday's anniversary a galvanizing event, and said marking the day reminds them that the U.S. mission here is important.

"It's still one of the reasons why we're here. Sept. 11 is part of it. For those of us who see the repercussions of fighting, it's still there every day," said Air Force Capt. Christopher Dupuis, 26, of Lacey, Washington.

"I feel that a lot of people have forgotten. I would have them replay the video from that day," said Air Force Technical Sgt. Shawn Merchant, 33, of Ellsworth, Maine.

"It became what Pearl Harbor was in World War II: Now we step up," Merchant said.

I am afraid that even though we here safe and secure in the United States desire a speedy withdrawal of US forces from a seemingly unwinnable situation in Afghanistan, there may be little support for a stateside peace initiative among the troops over there. Unlike the conscripted army and to a lesser extent Marine Corps in Vietnam, this is an all volunteer force. And while war may not be healthy for children and other living things is it positively wonderful for the career militarist. As a Vietnam era Marine Corps vet friend of mine relates, "My sergeant said, 'Boys when this war's over you better tattoo those strips on your shoulder. That rating's not going anywhere until Washington gets us into another one.'"

For the career militarist combat is the quickest route to promotion and in the AVF promotion means more than advancement in rank and medals. Not asking questions and following orders is the surest path of advancement in the AVF. As the late Col. David Hackworth observed:"Volunteers tend to go with the flow and seldom blow the whistle on military stupidity, flawed tactics and self-serving leadership. And draftees don't hesitate to make waves and tell the truth."

Quite frankly, the conduct of whatever one chooses to call the situation in Afghanistan it is clearly out of the control of the civilian leadership in the United States. The Democratic Congress at this time may say it opposes more troops for the Afghan theater and the president may demure but General McChrystal will in the end prove persuasive. Meekly, and under cover of darkness, the general's request for more troops will be approved.

The Frankenstein's monster which the late neoclassical economist and "free market-Jesus" Milton J. Freidman created at the behest of the crafty Richard M. Nixon, who out manoeuvred and manipulated the effete suburban, coordinator class anti-Vietnam war activists at every turn, is clearly in the driver's seat in Afghanistan. And we, the American people, had better "click it, or ticket it!" for we are along for a very bumpy ride.

No comments: