Saigon/Kabul

George Santayana

History rarely repeats itself in the details, but sometimes events are amazingly parallel. Such is the case with the debacle currently ending in Afghanistan.

In 1955, we began to equip and train an army (and even an air force) to defend itself against “communist aggression.” Because our “poor little ally” needed time to prepare, we sent American soldiers, marines, and airmen to fight its war for it until it was ready.

This cost billions of (1969) dollars, 60,000 American dead, and 200,000 American wounded. It also began the Great Division of America which continues to this day.

In the end, that huge army that we trained, equipped, and financed simply fell apart and melted away when left alone to fight. In 1975, because there was no plan in place for an orderly withdrawal, chaos and unnecessary death ensued.

Sound familiar?

In Afghanistan, under the lame pretense of fighting terrorism, we spent another twenty years training, equipping, and financing the creation of an army of 300,000 to defend itself and its country. In the meantime, we sent Americans to fight their war for them.

This at cost of over one trillion dollars, 4,000 American dead, and 20,000 wounded.

In the end, that huge army that we trained, equipped, and financed simply fell apart and melted away when left alone to fight. Now, as then, because there was no plan in place for an orderly withdrawal, chaos and unnecessary death are ensuing.

Beginning to see a pattern?

It must also be said that in neither case did we actually care about the country or its people. We acted in our own (perceived) Geo-political interests. In both cases our government consistently lied to us, and our Intelligence services proved themselves incompetent, always underestimating the the enemy’s competence and will to fight, no doubt at the behest of their political masters.

What is to be said about all of this?

First, it must be said that you can give a man a uniform, excellent training, and state of the art weaponry, but you cannot give him the will to fight. Lacking the will to fight, he and his country are doomed from the beginning.

The second and saddest thing, the real tragedy of Afghanistan, is that the US forgot the lessons of Vietnam in only 26 years, still living memory. Ignoring or not knowing the past, we plunged into another endless, futile war with no exit strategy. Because Americans believe we are “exceptional,” we and our politicians and generals refuse to learn from history.

After we left Vietnam, the people of that country suffered greatly. The people of Afghanistan are about to suffer greatly. In both cases, too bad. Those who won’t fight to defend their countries and freedom deserve to lose them. We did what we could and far more than we should have.

We can only hope that after these two very similar debacles in such a short time, we will not let this happen again. The jury is still out on that.

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