Thursday, September 3, 2009
Apparently, we're still fighting in Afghanistan. No, seriously. We are. How freaking bizarre. It's like The Simpsons. You figure the show would've been cancelled a long time ago. But no. It just keeps going on and on.
War's a lot like a bad relationship. Lot easier getting into one than getting out.
Today, Obama's trying to get out of Afghanistan.
It ain't that easy.
Obama is basically in the position of Nixon in 1969.
History, like Fate, is not without a sense of irony.
Here’s a little history:
Starting January 20, 1969, President Nixon inherited Lyndon Johnson's war in Vietnam. As some of you may know, Nixon sailed into office with the promise of a “secret plan” to end that war. Yeah, right. Short of nuking North Vietnam, there was no way to end the Vietnam War. The VC wanted us out – and most of the Vietnamese people agreed. The VC had a supply chain from the Soviet Union and China. They were more willing to die than we were. We could fight forever. But we couldn’t win.
Hey, that didn’t mean we had to lose.
The Vietnam war wasn’t exactly unwinable. It wasn’t exactly a war. If America had said, "This is a police action. We're the planetary cops. We'll send our troops to get killed -- forever," the South Vietnamese government would probably still be going strong. But Nixon knew the commitment of the American people wasn't infinite. America was willing to shed blood. But not forever, as various riots and demonstrations had proved. So, Nixon -- and his advisors -- came up with a crackerjack idea called Vietnamization.
Which was a fancy way of saying: “Our war. Is now your war. See you later.”
Nixon’s secret plan amounted to a hand-off.
Strictly speaking: We bomb the crap out of Cambodia and North Vietnam. While the VC is picking its ass off the ground, we hand the war to South Vietnam – and split.
Cynics have suggested Nixon being Nixon, QED, Vietnamization was a scam from the gitgo. I don’t think so.
And, yeah, I know that Nixon is on the record that, “I will not be the first goddamn American President to lose a goddamn war.” No, he didn’t. But I think there’s more to it than that.
Nixon being Nixon, didn’t want to lose.
I think Nixon’s reasoning was: We’re propping up a corrupt government. The South Vietnamese won’t clean up its act because they know Uncle Sam sweeps up their road apples. On the other hand, if they know we’re definitely gone, Nguyen Cao Ky and his cronies just might step up to the plate. Challenge and response. Shit or get off the pot. I’ll take the fucking gamble.
Nixon’s only other choice was:
A) A forever war.
B) Telling the American people, “The Vietnam War was a bad idea. Yeah, I know I told you I had a secret plan, but that’s bullshit. We can’t win. We’re withdrawing all our troops now.”
Vietnamization was a gamble. Nixon lost. We assume it’s a historical inevitability. But maybe not.
Today, Obama is in the same position.
Like South Vietnam, the current Afghanistan government is a malignant, festering mass of corruption. Screw the rule of law. It’s all about the payoff today! They can afford to screw around – because they know Uncle Sam will sweep up their road apples. Like the South Vietnamese, they figure we need them, and will pay any price to keep them in power.
The corruption of the Hamid Karzai government is the fuel that keeps the resurgent Taliban going. But that corruption depends on the assumption of infinite American support. Like Nixon, Obama demolishes that assumption.
Obama says, “We’re leaving in ten months.” That tells Karzai and his cronies they can’t rely on us forever. Either they clean up their act. Or they’re screwed.
Obama's gamble is Nixon’s gamble. It has nothing to do with domestic politics.
Other than the fact that Obama knows the American people won't keep sending our troops to die forever in a war we can't win.
If McCain was President, he'd be in the same position.