Saturday, October 03, 2009

Afghanistan - An historical perspective

[Every day, hundreds of people reach this blog thanks to an email circulating under my name, comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler. It remains necessary for me to state that I did not write it and do not agree with it. I would appreciate anyone who has received it hitting "reply all" and passing that along. More information on the origins of the email is available here.]

Although I grew up amidst government decision-makers at various fairly high levels, I evidently decided at some unconscious level that their life was not for me. Like some of the characters in Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle, I prized time to think more than influence, and of that I have had plenty. Yet as you all know, I inevitably wish, from time to time, that I could bring a lifetime of study to bear at a critical moment. The trade off is real and clear: had I spent my life pursuing the positions that would give me influence, I would have much less to say. But I have seldom felt a stronger urge to make my views known than in the last two weeks, after the release of General McChrystal’s classified assessment of the situation in Afghanistan kicked off critical decisions in Washington about what to do.

General McChrystal’s assessment and his recommendations for the future lay out a detailed and very ambitious plan for the expansion of both American and NATO (ISAF) and Afghan forces in Afghanistan and for a change in strategy to take the initiative away from the Taliban and make major progress towards securing the country under the control of the Afghan government within several years. The unclassified version of the document, to begin with, does not specify exactly how many new forces will be needed or exactly where they will be stationed. The document boldly and courageously advocates changes in the approaches of US forces, including better language capabilities, a different relationship with the population, and more focus on governance, but some doubt whether current training and service schools generate enough troops who can perform these missions. The document also calls for a vastly increased civilian effort and we cannot know if the necessary resources will be available.

Historical examples—particularly China in the late 1940s, Vietnam, and Iraq—help put these recommendations in historical context and, in particular, raise certain questions involving both the resources that will be required from the United States on the one hand, and the political changes which must take place in Afghanistan, if such as a strategy as has been proposed is to work. More importantly, the Obama Administration has to answer questions about the broader purposes of our involvement and the consequences of various possible courses of action.

In historical perspective, perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Initial Assessment is its characterization of the insurgency on the one hand, and the Afghan National Government. Although observers with experience in Afghanistan are nearly unanimous in their belief that the bulk of the Afghan people do not want a return to Taliban rule, the Quetta Shura Taliban emerges from the assessment as a formidable, well-organized force—far more similar in its scope, organization and tactics, it seems to me, to the Viet Cong than to the various different opposition groups that we have faced in Iraq. Like the Viet Cong, it is setting up a parallel shadow government in much of the country, levying taxes, and using effective information warfare. The Afghan government, on the other hand, is described as commanding little authority and even less confidence. “The weakness of state institutions, malign actions of power-brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various officials, and [US and NATO forces'] own errors, have given Afghans little reason to support their government. These problems have alienated large segments of the Afghan population. They do not trust [the Afghan government] to provide their essential needs, such as security, justice, and basic services. This crisis of confidence, coupled with a distinct lack of economic and educational opportunity, has created fertile ground for the insurgency.”

The controversy over the recent election seems to represent a further step backward for the government. The blunt assessment is commendable, but inevitably raises questions as to whether the proposed strategy can succeed. In previous cases in which the United States has successfully assisted a local government in a counterinsurgency, such as South Korea during the Korean War, El Salvador in the 1980s, or the Philippines in the 1950s, the host governments, while far from perfect by American standards, have been far more effective than the Afghan government seems to be now. The description above inspires even less confidence than contemporary evaluations of the Chinese Nationalist government in the late 1940s or the various governments of South Vietnam, which were not successful. A new long-term American commitment requires either some confidence that the Afghan government can indeed make such revolutionary changes, or alternatively, a strategy that relies on traditional local elites rather than on a central government that as yet exists only on paper.

Recognizing current political problems, the assessment calls for a new, broad, deep commitment of American and other NATO forces to live and work among the Afghan people and help establish new, effective governmental structures linked to the national government in contested areas of the country. The numbers of people involved, which the assessment does not mention, must be carefully analyzed to provide a sense of the magnitude of the task. Afghanistan has about 31 million people, of which more than 40% are Pashtuns and thus the principle targets (at least for the time being) of the Taliban. Iraq’s population is estimated to be about the same as Afghanistan’s, but the Sunni population, which posed the bulk of the security problems, is only about 33% of the country. More importantly, the population of Afghanistan is far less dense, far less urban, and far more dispersed, suggesting that the provision and supply of adequate US forces for these new tasks will pose a substantially greater problem than the attempt to secure Iraq in 2007-9. After 8 years of war and repeated deployments in both Afghanistan and Iraq, our senior leadership must ask whether we can deploy and maintain resources adequate to General McChrystal’s proposed strategy. The supply of these forces may also present serious problems, since Afghanistan is a landlocked nation whose land communications with the outside world have recently proven vulnerable to attacks. The maintenance of public support within the United States will also remain a serious and critical problem.

Why are we fighting in Afghanistan? General McChrystal’s assessment reflects the Bush Administration’s original goals for Afghanistan in 2001 and its original approach to the war on terror. Those goals demanded the establishment of cooperative regimes in countries where terrorists had previously found safe havens. Since a friendly, unified, effective government of Afghanistan remains our objective, General McChrystal did his duty in making his best determination of how that might be achieved. Yet after eight years, it seems absolutely essential for the highest authorities, both civilian and military, to ask whether that sweeping objective is the best strategy for securing the United States and its allies against terrorist attacks. One can very easily argue—as a scholar at the Army War College in Carlisle did some six years ago--that it is either impossibly utopian or far too expensive in the long run to be practical. Two weeks, suspects in a plot to make terrorist attacks within the US have been arrested. According to press reports at least one of them was trained overseas—but in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Effective domestic intelligence and law enforcement, however, have evidently been sufficient to stop this plot here at home. The situation in Pakistan is of course also of tremendous concern to the government of the United States, but it is far from clear that our involvement in Afghanistan to date has improved it from our point of view. And indeed, as is now generally recognized, we face the continuing problem in Afghanistan that very important elements within the Pakistani government do not share our objectives there, but regard the Afghan Taliban as an important ally. More limited objectives in Afghanistan deserve attention. Taliban strength seems mostly confined to Pashtun areas, leaving the possibility of maintaining a foothold in the country, and a capability to strike against terrorist camps, without making an enormous and doubtful effort to establish the authority of the central government over the whole country.

More than 60 years ago, the Truman Administration and Congress debated the question of further US assistance to the Chinese Nationalist government, then locked in a civil war with the Chinese Communists. China at that moment was surely as important strategically to the United States as Afghanistan is today, and its eventual loss to Communist could, and most certainly did, have significant negative consequences for American foreign policy for a long time to come. Secretary of State (and former Chief of Staff) George C. Marshall—one of the very greatest strategic thinkers the United States has ever produced—knew the situation first hand when he testified in executive session before a Senate Committee in early 1948. He was entirely preoccupied with trying to secure important areas of the free world against Communism. Yet in analyzing the situation in China he spoke wisely and courageously. He began by listing the very significant aid which the United States had given the Chinese government already, and continued:

“All the foregoing means, at least to me, that a great deal must be done by the Chinese authorities themselves—and that nobody else can do it for them—if that Government is to maintain itself against the Communist forces and agrarian policies. It also means that our Government must be exceedingly careful that it does not become committed to a policy involving the absorption of its resources to an unpredictable extent once the obligations are assumed of a direct responsibility for the conduct of civil war in China or for the Chinese economy, or both. . . .
“There is a tendency to feel that wherever the Communist influence is brought to bear, we should immediately meet it, head on as it were. I think this would be a most unwise procedure for the reason that we would be, in effect, handing over the initiative to the Communists. They could, therefore, spread our influence out so think that it could be of no particular effectiveness at any one point.
“We must be prepared to face the possibility that the present Chinese government may not be successful in maintaining itself against the Communist forces or other opposition that may arise in China.”

General Marshall did not believe, in short, that dubious chances of success justified transferring the very substantial resources necessary to help the Nationalist government from other tasks, such as the establishment of the NATO alliance and the rebuilding of the European economy. And indeed it is very possible that a full-scale intervention in China—advocated at the time by powerful voices in Congress and the press—would have done incalculable harm to American foreign policy as a whole in that critical period. Both the United States and, ultimately, the Chinese people, weathered the very serious short- and medium-term consequences of the fall of China to Communism.

General McChrystal has done exactly what he was asked to do: he has provided a frank assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and of what he believes is necessary to achieve the broad objective which he has been given. But before proceeding, higher authorities must do at least three things. First, they must seek out independent assessments of the chances that this new strategy would be successful. Second, they must accurately estimate its material, human and political costs, and ask whether those costs are justified by the value of the object in comparison to other needs both foreign and domestic. And thirdly, in my view, those two exercises must inevitably lead to some re-evaluation of our goals in Afghanistan in general and our strategy in the war on terror in particular, in light of both our successes and failures during the last eight years.


Baytown Bert said...

Mr. Kaiser, as an amateur history buff, Vietnam Veteran and father of a fallen soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I came to the conclusion yesterday the same parallel as you concerning Afghanistan and Vietnam.

I told my wife it was time we pulled out. Without the solid support of Afghan leadership and populace, we are doomed to fail and the thought of loosing one more soldier pains me. It’s become a war of attrition.

I’ve heard and at one time embraced the idea that it was better to fight them over there than here, but I am ready to try it at home and if that place becomes a breeding ground, we can “bomb them back to the Stone age”…again.

Carol said...

If you stop to consider that 9/11 was most likely a "false flag" operation, and that Bin Laden was the "fall guy" for that operation, then it begs the question of why we're in Afghanistan at all. No one wants to believe that our government would turn against its own people, but the details surrounding 9/11 leave too many questions unanswered. How did the towers fall into their own footprint. Where is the wreckage of the plane that supposedly crashed in Pennsylvania? Where is the wreckage of the plane that supposedly hit the Pentagon? Why did Bush continue to sit in that Florida classroom; why indeed did he even enter the school, when it appears that he already knew we had been attacked? Why was the wreckage from the towers shipped to China? Why do the CIA and FBI have no direct evidence linking Bin Laden to 9/11? What about the "put options"? And why were our resources suddenly diverted to Iraq (a classic "bait and switch")?

Eight years in Afghanistan, and increasingly, what we have to show for it is the killing and maiming of innocent children, while the real perpetrators of the crime of 9/11 remain free.

David Kaiser said...

Dear Bert,

I am terribly sorry to hear about your son. That was awful news.

You and I must be about the same age. I joined the Army Reserves in 1970 and did basic in 1971. I didn't meet one returning combat veteran who really believed in what they were doing, and most of them talked at length about the deficiencies of our ally. Unfortunately we can't shake the idea that we should be able to wish those deficiencies away.

PTC said...

“Like the Viet Cong, it is setting up a parallel shadow government in much of the country, levying taxes, and using effective information warfare. The Afghan government, on the other hand, is described as commanding little authority and even less confidence.” - Kaiser

-Yeah, uh, ok… if you disregard the fact that we opposed a non conventional force in the Vietcong that was backed an organized military and stable ideology backed by another superpower that had the ability to shoot down hundreds of our fat moving jets… and that was heavily supplied and given logistical and Intel support by that other superpower… this “Vietnam is Afghanistan” nonsense might be a relevant. It simply is not. Afghanistan is more divided and complex than Iraq. This kind of tell tale far reaching hypothesis is nothing but a bold faced example of the baby boomers deep seeded Vietnam trauma. Such comparisons are not only irrelevant, they are counter productive. These bastards dropped two of our skyscrapers and killed thousands Americans. Not exactly Gulf of Tonkin. We have a legitimate NATO force in Afghanistan, dozens of countries who commit everyday in combat operations to beat these brutal rapist thugs that do not even believe that our wives, daughters and mothers should even be able to read. The Vietcong wanted a united nation, the Taliban want an brutal extremist ideology to rule the world. The Vietnam and Afghanistan conflicts are so vastly different, you would be much better off using them for contrast rather than comparison.

One thing is for sure, we may lose in Afghanistan like we did in Nam because the boomers who are in charge have a huge fear complex because of the Vietnam war. The only thing we lack in Afghanistan is the national will to win. If we follow the Generals advice and get aggressive, and give the men fighting this war what they need to win it, we will succeed.

Everyday policy makers hem and haw with indesive action is another day lost. In war, hesitation and uncertainty kills more than any other action. Obama ran on winning in Afghanistan. He promised the public, time and time again, that a we would do what was necessary to create stability in Afghanistan in order to wage the cultural war that we are in and bring a new generation of moderates into the fold for peace and stability. It is absolutely essential that we project power and stability into that region to fight extremism, keep a guard against nuclear proliferation, monitor Iran, and win! If we are not willing to fight in a nation that hosted the largest attack by a foreign power on our soil in our history, then where?

Our grandfathers are turning over in their graves watching us quit.We must not fail in this effort.

“Eight years in Afghanistan, and increasingly, what we have to show for it is the killing and maiming of innocent children, while the real perpetrators of the crime of 9/11 remain free.” Carol

Bullsh%t! You are way out of line!We have captured or killed the vast majority of Al Q in the last eight years because of our invasion into Afghanistan. The vast majority of the people we kill in combat are Taliban. But again… I get it- you have a “baby killer” complex from Vietnam.

In summary- I get it! The elders in charge here in America and a large part of the American public have a deep seeded complex about Vietnam that may well lose this war for us. You want some advice- suck it up and do what it takes to win for a change. That- or quit now. Anything beats the current status quo, which is a military force in country being commanded by uncertainty and without a clear strategic vision or tactical advantage.

Lead, follow, or get the hell out of that way!

Carol said...

"These bastards dropped two of our skyscrapers and killed thousands Americans."


"Bullsh%t! You are way out of line!We have captured or killed the vast majority of Al Q in the last eight years because of our invasion into Afghanistan. The vast majority of the people we kill in combat are Taliban. But again… I get it- you have a “baby killer” complex from Vietnam.

Follow this link:

Pay close attention to the statements made there. Yes, I'm a baby boomer, married to a Vietnam veteran. I wrote my college advanced placement exam in 1968 on the subject of Vietnam, and why we didn't belong there. That summer, among all the other deaths, my boyfriend committed suicide rather than continue at boot camp...many of my college friends were Vietnam veterans...many of my friends today are as well--the ones that are still living--and they still have problems, mental and physical, from their tours. War is hell, and shouldn't be instigated on a whim. You think Bin Laden and Al Queda attacked our country because that's what you've been told to believe, but there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Something tells me that a "win" in Afghanistan would look a lot like our "win" in Iraq...a lot of dead, maimed, and shellshocked people, for what?


PTC said...

Hard to argue with a person who has there own set of facts. If you do not believe that radical islamic terrorists attacked us with planes on 9/11, then there is no reason for discussion.

This is not Vietnam... nor is it Iraq. This is Afghanistan, and we have the right to be there.

Kenneth Jost said...

For an elaboration on the view that al Qaeda does not need Afghanistan as a physical haven, readers may want to look at this op-ed from Paul Pillar, the CIA's deputy chief for counterterrorism from 1997-1999:

PTC said...

Kenneth- It is not an issue of if Al Q needs it or not... what matters is if we need it to project power with our allies and combat the extremist ideology that threatens the world.

We have a legal and moral right to be there. It is a major battleground in this war. Al Q is a global organization that we combat around the planet... including in, but not limited to, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Anonymous said...


""Kenneth- It is not an issue of if Al Q needs it or not... what matters is if we need it to project power with our allies and combat the extremist ideology that threatens the world.""

And how exactly does one combat an extremist ideology as an occupying power whos legitimacy in the region is increasingly slipping by the wayside? Does it not seem just as plausible and possible that our "projection of power" as you so eloquently called it might have something to do with some of the extremist currents in the region to begin with?

And your contention that jihadist ideology is an "ideology that threatens the world" is a ridiculous assertion. I say this for two reasons, one is because groups like Al Qeada, which advocate a global "jihad" are fundamentally different ideologically than say... the Taliban, who's goals and ideology are far more localized (In part due to their primarily Pashtun make up). I also say that because groups like Al Qeada have very little following of any kind in the Middle East or abroad. So with that said, I fail to see how Islamist or jihadi ideology "threatens the world" in any meaningful way. Should we allow free reign? Of course not. Does that mean, in combating them, that we should exaggerate the threat they DO pose? No.

""The Vietcong wanted a united nation, the Taliban want an brutal extremist ideology to rule the world.""

Uh, first off... the Vietcong weren't saints. Secondly, yes... the Taliban are brutal thugs. BUT, they are not and never have been a global jihadi group. Perhaps you don't realize, or simply don't care, that they're main intent is the unification of Afghanistan into an Islamist State, the same goal they initially had during their rise to power in the early to mid 90's. As Sun Tzu once said, you must know your enemy to defeat them. If we took your advice, we'd be lumping a local insurgency with a multinational jihadi group whos goals are fundamentally different, which is not the type of assumption one should make if they actually wish to find their way to some semblence of victory.

""The only thing we lack in Afghanistan is the national will to win.""

Ah yes of course, nevermind all those other things involved in "winning" an assymetric war... Lets just blame it all on the citizens lack of resolve. Please. This is such an old, and naive complaint. For one, the Generals themselves have admitted the mass amounts of problems that stand in our way (in case you missed it, McChrystal's review outlined quite a bit of that), and yet you sit here and have the gall to attach "failure" to the civilians at home? I'd be shocked if I didn't see this sort of garbage on the internet all the time.

To Mr. Kaiser:

As for the article, Mr. Kasier, while I'm of the opinion that the comparisons to Vietnam are a little stale anymore (and somewhat disingenuous), there is one apt comparison... our support for the Diem regime. One could certainly parallel that with our current support for the thoroughly discredited Karzai regime. Of course the big problem is, who DO we support now? If we stay with Karzai, I have no doubt in my mind that whatever little legitimacy we had with Afghans will start to slip away. But if we leave him and back someone else, wont that person be (rightly) viewed as simply yet another puppet propped up by the West for reasons that have nothing to do with the Afghans? That is the problem we face, and its a problem we've faced before. The Afghan Government needs both autonomy and authority, however, the Government in Kabul can hardly have either when its taking its orders from an occupying (foreign) force that is the backbone of security for the country. That is one of the many problems that arises when we try to apply the COIN doctrine to an occupying army rather than a native force. I have a feeling this battle will only get harder as time goes on....

Carol said...

Does anyone see any parallels here between the Islamic jihadists and our own Biblical fundamentalists, who are the first to back a foreign war "in the name of Jesus"?

The politics of our own country have been dominated by this "wolf in sheep's clothing" ideology since the stolen election of 2000, and the "Christian" right wing shows no signs of stopping: Huckabee, Palin, Pawlenty, etc. We can't even combat this marriage of religion and politics in our own country. How can we expect to do it in Afghanistan?

Good points, Anonymous. I think Al Queda and the Taliban have (purposely) been equated in the minds of our citizens. They are certainly not the same. I doubt the will of the people of Afghanistan is being considered; all they know is that we're killing their families, which makes them hate us.

PTD, think about and research how the fault for 9/11 was immediately pinned on Al Queda and Bin Laden, before anyone had time to recover from the shock. Then consider that it is common knowledge Bush was warned numerous times, well in advance of the attacks. And I don't trust the CIA.

PTC said...

Reply- How do I suggest we win? Part of my point is we (yes, you and I) only have small fragments of information to even begin to make that kind of suggestion. We have a commanding general on the ground there, a former head of JSOC who has been intimately involved in fighting this "asymmetric" war since it started. He has been given the time and resources to do a full analysis of the strategic and tactical situation, and he has given an expert opinion. We win by backing him up with the resources he needs in terms of State deaprtment support,men, arms, and humanitarian efforts. We win by realizing that this will be a long low intensity conflict. It could take an entire generation. We win, by not pretending- that we have more at our command than he does. That, or we fire him, change the strategic plan (definition of victory), and hire someone else, give him the time and resources to come up with a plan… and execute that. That is how we "win"...

The Taliban is the governing power in Afghanistan that supported the largest attack on American soil in our nations history. The Taliban do not have as a primary goal, the unification of a nation. Yes it is true, my analysis was highly over simplified, but so is yours. The nature of the Afghanistan conflict in terms of Taliban influence and expansion has more to do with ideological domination of the region, which includes Pakistan, than it does simply of a unifying power for Afghanistan. Nor does the ideology of the Taliban have the limited impact that you suggest. Taliban can be found throughout the globe. The common effort of the Taliban is a desire to transform societies into extreme caliphate states. That is projected through tribal, local, and regional disputes, so it appears local, but it is not, it is a world wide organization connected through religious ideologues. Also, it is the primary vehicle used to recruit terrorists. Taliban fight and expand influence in the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. If you find my use of the word Taliban to be to broad because you do not see the connection between the local and global expansion of extreme Muslim ideology, we can call it something else if you will? You’re stunning denial that there is a global connection to this is a massive flaw in your point of view. Taliban are not limited by ethnicity or polity (although tribalism is often used as a vehicle for local indoctrination), it is a religious based ideological organization that is expanding control in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Really- It is garbage using that type of provocative language with the “ space landing took place in a Hollywood basement” and “Afghanistan is Vietnam” crowd? I’ll remember that next time.

Yes of course… the Diem and Karzai regimes are so similar that we must tap into the Vietnam connection! What can we do, we have never ever had to support unpopular regimes in any other war or historical context of our past… we know not what to do!

Yes. It will get harder. No doubt about it.

"Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!"

Carol said...

PTC, you've obviously given the Afghanistan situation a lot of thought...strategically and tactically. My question was not how do we win, but how do we separate the religious aspects of the battle from the political. You're a hawk, probably a military man (lead, follow, or...). If we "win" in Afghanistan, exactly what is it that we win? You talk about human lives as if they're a commodity, kind of an Ayn Rand approach to combat. Are you going to fight in Afghanistan? Just wondering.

PTC said...

Carol- It is a generational and ideological war... you really don't ever "win" it in any conventional sense of “winning”. The goal is a reduction in the violence by killing extremists and an ideological shift through education and aid, which can only be achieved with security. “How do we win” has never really been the question. The question is, “is it worth the cost to continue this engagement in this place, now? We could win Afghanistan in one week if we wanted to, if we fought a total war there. To date, we have lost 800 Americans, less than many single days of action in WW2.

So, how do we achieve the strategic objectives to combat these extremists? At the macro level- First, you create security for the Afghani army, then, the Afghani army creates security for the Afghani people, and then, through constant vigilance, you build the nation and establish a more moderate culture.

Pakistan is now in this with us after swat valley. They have learned that you cannot deal with these extremists. The Taliban threatens the security of their entire state… and now, they understand that.

Look at the news. SECDEF Gates and Hillary Clinton have absolutely guaranteed a continued presence in Afghanistan. The Pakistani foreign minister has made the promise to eliminate Taliban safe havens in their society. The Pakistan military has been engaging the Taliban daily… and wants to work in partnership with the United States to defeat this enemy.

PTC said...

This lack of resolve and defined objectives by our politicians and the megative polling of the populace in the USA is definately a moral crusher. No doubt about it.

This may be already over...

ginstonic said...

Maybe we should dissect the efforts of the former USSR in their attempt to subjugate Afghanistan. I'm not saying we are trying to do the same thing, but we could learn a lot from their failure.

PTC said...

Gin- Of course that has been and is still being done. The military and state department people who are in charge have advanced degrees in international studies disciplines and military history from some of the best schools in the world. Do you really believe that Hillary Clinton does not have people in place that are looking at all the historical aspects of this war?

There are some major differences:

#1- The USA does not face opposition from another superpower like the Soviet Union did. The United States opposed Russian in Afghanistan, in fact, helping to strengthen the current Taliban when we left a power vacuum. One of the largest complaints the Pakistanis have about our involvement in the region is our past history of creating major power struggle with dynamics that involve extremism, and then leaving.

#2- The Soviet Union was not fighting with a coalition of over a score of different nations, under the umbrella of a NATO action with legal sanction of the UN security counsel.

PTC said...

What gets me is the arrogance of some of these academics who think they are making some kind of new argument or point by making sweeping comparisons with historical references... like, gee, Hillary Clinton never had anyone who works for her think of that before... why, by golly Wally, Afghanistan has rugged terrain that is hard to fight in... the Taliban use Pakistan... gee wiz- we are in our ninth year of war there and General McChrystal never thinks about that, neither do any of his field commanders.

See, the Karzai gov is corrupt and unpopular… I never that of that! Now we all know… we have never ever had a strategic success working within the confines of an unpopular corrupt regime… I mean gee wiz Joan, what do we do, we know not what to do! We need elite Harvard Academics to tell us exactly how we are going to fight this war… except wait… we have all kinds of elite Harvard academics working in State and DoD, that have access to 1000X more information than a History professor… uh… errr… wait THIS IS VIETNAM!

Claire said...

Mr Kaiser,

I am a student at Bournemouth University, England, studying journalism and am currently working on a radio piece about Afghanistan.

I would really appreciate the opportunity to interview you about your perspectives as outlined in this post.

I would be incredibly grateful if you, or anyone else who sees this and would like to share their views, would contact me at

Thank you very much for your time.

Anonymous said...

"First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history. Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now — and to rely only on efforts against al-Qaida from a distance — would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al-Qaida and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies."

Barack Obama