America’s Roles in Vietnam and Afghanistan
By: Joseph Blady & Franklin Lakes, N.J.
In “What Trump Needs to Learn From Vietnam” (Sunday Review, Sept. 17), David Elliott draws lessons for Afghanistan from America’s experience in Vietnam. But these are two different countries in two different eras, influenced by different geopolitics.
In Vietnam, the United States sought to protect its remote interests against the expansion of an ideological threat from Communism. By contrast, in Afghanistan, the United States seeks to avert the spillover effects of terrorism, radicalism and criminality that directly threaten America’s homeland security. 9/11 is a tragic reminder!
In this fight, the Afghan people remain a strategic asset, unlike the Vietnamese.
And while the American administrations, Congress and the public were divided on Vietnam, Afghanistan has enjoyed bipartisan support over the last 16 years for its transformation from a pariah state under the Taliban that targeted Americans to a country where our achievements, including the institutionalization of democracy and human rights, remain a shared work in progress.
The United States is on the right path in Afghanistan. Americans should be patient and not allow politics to get in the way of Mr. Trump’s strategy for shared success against our common enemy.
David Elliott properly points out relevant comparisons between our experiences in Afghanistan and Vietnam to help explain our ongoing failures. However, there are at least two additional issues ignored by those who continue to prosecute our involvement in Afghanistan.
First, advocates frequently point out that the efforts expended and the years involved in helping post-World War II Japan and Germany and, currently, South Korea have been worthwhile. Those are all homogeneous, developed, educated societies. They overlook the realities of a South Asia riven by tribalism and insurmountable religious differences. The failure of Iraq, attributed to our departure, is rooted in the same truth.
Second, government and military officials repeatedly try to sell the idea that securing Afghanistan is critical to protecting the United States from terrorism by precluding radical Islamists from training there. This thinking could not be more misguided. With the world overstocked with ungoverned spaces available for terrorist training, securing Afghanistan would do nothing to lessen this threat. This should have been obvious from the frequency of incidents in Europe and Asia without roots in Afghanistan.
Whatever the true motivations of those with vested interests for continuing the Afghanistan misadventure, one thing is obvious. They are willing to ignore the lessons of history and the realities of today.
By: Joseph Blady
Franklin Lakes, N.J.
The writer is a former policy and intelligence officer for the Defense Department
.(Jft/The New York Times)