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Hullabaloo


Sunday, November 22, 2009

 
Vietnam/Afghanistan

by tristero

I'd like to revisit both the topic and links for two recent posts of Digby's, on Afghanistan. Those of us who lived through the multiple horrors of the Vietnam war - like Digby, like myself - need to make it crystal clear to those of you who didn't that the decisions Obama is about to make about Afghanistan will have the most far-reaching consequences imaginable, both for that country's future, and our own.

First, let's turn to the eloquent, ominous ending to Bill Moyers's report on Johnson's struggles with Vietnam. I can't improve on what he said. I urge you to listen to the broadcast, because the full emotional impact of these words can't be conveyed in pixels on the the intertubes.
BILL MOYERS: Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.

Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.

And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.

And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on. And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.

We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.
Which brings us to Garry Wills' dismaying essay in the New York Review of Books about the political cost Obama will pay if he chooses, as he should, to resist the crushing domestic political imperatives to continue Bush's war in Afghanistan.

Can even someone as brilliant as Barack Obama resolve this ghastly dilemma? Can he find a way both to avoid the bloody quagmire Bush - deliberately - left for the incoming president, and also serve for two terms? Wills seems to think it's all but impossible. Sadly, I agree.

Escalating the Afghanistan conflict will lead to disaster. Refusing to escalate it will lead to political ruin not only for Obama or the Democratic party, but for this country, which will be torn apart by the extreme right, even if there isn't a spectacular 9/11 attack after an American withdrawal.

Indeed, Digby is probably right: Obama will escalate, somehow. And countless American and Afghani lives will be sacrificed, for... what, exactly? Certainly not Hamid Karzai's corrupt government.

No. Escalation will likely have little to do with Afghanistan, or even foreign policy, but everything to do both with a sitting president's ambition as well as the prevention of an extreme right takeover in the next presidential election. Just like Vietnam. I hate the American far right as much as any liberal, but it is not worth getting people killed in Kandahar to prevent them from seizing power. If the US really is that far down the road to fascism, then escalating a pointless war will not prevent an imminent rightwing takeover.

We live in the most interesting of times, god dammit.