Over the last week, we have been treated to the debacle known as the collapse of Afghanistan and the worst defeat in US history. The end of the conflict is reminiscent of the failure of Vietnam in 1975. I am a survivor and veteran of the two longest wars in US history. I served in combat in Vietnam with the US Army, 1968 – 1969, and in 1971 until wounded and returned to the United States. I was twice in Afghanistan during 2004, and my final combat tour, my eighth, ended in October 2007 as I left Afghanistan. My other combat tours were in Iraq. I come at my remarks through the worldview of a veteran soldier and a civilian serving my country.
In both conflicts, I reached a stage that enough is enough, and we should depart. We are not a country that seeks to gain territory by war. We should have pulled out of Germany and Japan by now. I fully understand the need for our presence in those two countries at the end of WWII. However, once the Cold War had essentially concluded, both countries were fully capable of self-governance without our presence. South Korea is a different matter. That war started in 1950, and there has been no formal end to the aggressive North Korean actions, and the hostilities are ever-present with a fragile ceasefire since 1953. The moment the United States withdraws from the Demilitarized Zone, the North Korean Army will undoubtedly see that as an open door and invitation to take over South Korea.
No one hates war and the product of war more than a person that had to fight in a war. The idea of battle and glory in a young person thinking before going into harm’s way and combat is romantic and based on motivating factors of training and service. I am not complaining about those ideas and feelings because it has a great tendency to keep many young people alive as they enter the battlefield. I certainly had those ideas. But they quickly disappear when you are on the receiving end of a battle. In an instant flash, you realize you could be dead or wounded in a nanosecond as you enter the firefight. You are scared out of your wits, and this is where training takes over. You force your feelings deep down inside of you and do your job and what you trained for. If you are lucky, you survive for the day and prepare to repeat as necessary. Soon, you start waking up from whatever sleep you get and ask yourself, “Is this my last day on earth?”
You pull it all together and dismiss those thoughts and move forward to do your job. Your fear becomes secondary as you force it away from your consciousness. That uneasy feeling you get in the pit of your stomach returns. The voice of reason descends on you to be careful because today may be your day. The day you meet your maker. Your friends have gone before you. Men standing next to you have been killed or wounded and maybe later died in hospital. Yet, you force yourself to function because you have a job to do. You finish your tour and go home a changed person, your worldview altered forever. You may return to the battlefield once again in your dreams and thoughts. Perhaps, you do another tour of duty. Your family does not fully comprehend how you have changed and are fearful of asking. It is not their fault in how they handle their feelings or what they may ask you. No one is prepared to address you at home. You may live with guilt about killing the enemy, and you may not. Everyone is different. Your post-traumatic stress is a living entity within you, and it is hard to explain to those that have not been there.
Now, let’s look at those that decide we must go to war. The politicians make that decision, and a willing military obeys the order to move to a war footing. Most primary decision-makers have never experienced combat. I would surmise they are of the mindset, at least in part, that war is glory and honor to defend some wrong a country has done to us. It has political advantages to declare war and make individuals look like they are doing the “right thing” as they vote for conflict. Most politicians look for benefits and have little care as to who must go into harm’s way. Of course, they make public announcements about their positions being correct, the bravery of soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen, all the “Hooray” stuff they think will sway public opinion in their favor. How many times have you heard in the last sixty years any politician or military leader speak about how the most current conflict will end and what plans have been made. Not one I can recall.
I clearly remember President Johnson using the Gulf of Tonkin incident to bolster his need to expand the war in Vietnam. History seems to say this entire incident was fabricated. President Reagan’s short incursions into Panama and Granada were quick and decisive and appeared well planned with distinct objectives. So was President Bush #43 into Iraq because of the Kuwait invasion. Clearly defined, clearly executed, and clearly ended. President Johnson could have finished Vietnam far earlier by military means instead of political decisions. The attack on our country by terrorists and Bin Laden needed to be addressed forthrightly. It was until politicians got greedy with ideas about Afghanistan and how to manipulate an isolated country that lacks a national identity politically and, at best, is tribal in their thinking. Politicians and the military-industrial complex fell into the same trap that Alexander the Great, the British, and the Russians fell into. Each attempted to control Afghanistan has failed. Why did the United States believe it could succeed in maintaining a country that lacks the will to fight? It was pure hubris.
To compound the problem, all President’s since 2001 believed they had the correct answers to continue the war or not continue the fight and withdraw. Bush had no idea how to end Afghanistan, so he started an unnecessary war by invading Iraq. The excuse was nuclear weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that was determined early on not to exist, except for some biological or chemical weapons that only threatened their neighbors if used. Don’t get me wrong, Saddam Hussien was a bad guy. However, there were better ways to take care of him than sending our men into battle and losing their lives and limbs. Bush turned the Middle East into a quagmire. The entanglements will last generations and never be fully resolved.
President Obama, heavily influenced by his upbringing as a Muslim and his in-laws’ communist ideology, turned the United States into a paper tiger. One good thing came out of his eight years in office, the killing of Bin Laden by Navy SEAL Team 6. It should have been at that point all efforts to withdraw from Afghanistan matured strategically. Vice President Biden was against the raid, and that should have been a clue as to his so-called expertise of foreign policies. He was also against helping refugees escape from Vietnam in 1975 as not worth the trouble. As President, Biden has made the same decision when it comes to Afghanistan. It is not worth the risk to assist the people that worked alongside the Americans and allies. Let them die, no skin off his back.
President Trump appears to have had a plan of withdrawal. However, determining what the plan is precisely is difficult because the Left Standing Media consistently muddies the waters and information. I wish I had more details so I could decide for myself.
President Biden and his entire administration, including the Secretary of State and Defense, own the collapse of Afghanistan as the debacle it is and the defeat in history it represents. Listening to him defend his position and decisions clearly shows the level of dementia and poor judgment within his scrambled brains. His Vice President is a joke, and God help this country when she takes over once the Biden administration collapses as it is doing now. She could not even handle the Southern border issues in any intelligent way. I seriously doubt her ability to be an executive of a country in decline.
In the end, politicians will stand in front of the American people and pontificate on the evils of war and what it has done to our country and the world. They will talk about the despots and dictators and how much they have done to hurt all of us. What they will never do is accept full responsibility for involving our citizens in a war without a plan to win. Afghanistan and Vietnam should stand as prime examples of how not to fight a war. President Biden should be the poster boy on failure and how to create a debacle and humiliation of our country while allowing thousands of Afghanistan citizens to be executed by beheading by the Taliban. He did this!