Tuesday, January 14, 2020

The Vietnamization of America's Middle Eastern Wars

More and more, America's wars in the Middle East and Africa bear a disturbing resemblance to the Vietnam War.   The Afghanistan war papers revealed that the government hasn't been truthful about the U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, and that there is no path to victory.  https://news.yahoo.com/afghanistan-war-american-people-lied-to-washington-post-papers-201042599.html.  We earlier learned that the government's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction--the justification used by the George W. Bush administration for invading Iraq in 2003--was also a lie.  https://www.salon.com/2015/05/20/george_w_bushs_cia_briefer_admits_iraq_wmd_intelligence_was_a_lie/.  These stories are reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers, which in 1969 revealed the Pentagon had lied to the American people about the Vietnam War, greatly inflating the prospects for victory while thousands of troops died for its lies.  But the Pentagon Papers didn't say much that surprised the troops who had fought in Vietnam.  They already knew the war was unwinnable.  Morale among U.S. troops in Vietnam was so bad that drug and alcohol use were rampant in the ranks, desertion was disturbingly frequent, and alleged fratricide in the form of killing officers an occasional measure supposedly taken to avoid seemingly pointless casualties and death. 

Now we are hearing that many members of the military oppose America's wars in the Middle East.  https://www.salon.com/2020/01/12/many-soldiers-want-to-stop-fighting-lets-build-a-movement-that-welcomes-them_partner/ and https://www.newsweek.com/combat-veteran-gold-star-husband-support-trump-ending-wars-1471550. Perhaps some 50,000 or more troops have resisted service in these wars.  https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2015/03/what-happens-to-most-awol-soldiers.html.
This military opposition to the war ominously changes the dynamics of the U.S. Middle Eastern wars.  When the troops themselves lose their sense of mission, the possibility for success evaporates.  Who wants to die to further Donald Trump's impulsive, strategy-light decisions? 

America's leadership can offer endless rationales for having some 80,000 U.S. troops in the Middle East and Africa.  But experience has taught that these rationales and $2 will buy a newspaper.  The government has no strategy for victory and our troops know it.  Refusing to acknowledge or deal with this reality didn't result in success in Vietnam, and it won't result in success now.  Even though America wisely stopped drafting men to into the military after the debacle of the Vietnam era, we can't expect that an all-volunteer military will blindly obey orders and die pointlessly.  Retreat and withdrawal are never easy.  But America's withdrawal from Vietnam, although deeply painful, also marked the beginning of a process of reconciliation, healing and growth.  America remained the world's most powerful nation and has enjoyed growth and prosperity since then. While there are many problems here that must be resolved, problems that may seem intractable at times, fighting unwinnable wars will only make things worse.  The wars in the Middle East and Africa have morphed into latter day Vietnam Wars.  Let's get out now.