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Monday, December 07, 2009


"Afghanistan is not Vietnam"

In the past few days we've heard from various people including President Obama and today Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that "Afghanistan is not Vietnam," and the number one reason they seem to advance in support of this proposition is that "there are 42 nations joining the U.S. in fighting in Afghanistan." Well, to begin with, that's about as close to a bald-faced lie as you can get without tripping the lie detector. There may (or may not) be 42 nations involved in the "Coalition of the Billing," but only 24 have suffered fatalities, and most of those were no more involved in the "fighting" than were innocent Afghan civilians. In fact, only a handful are actually involved in the fighting. Only two aside from the U.S. have fatalities in the triple digits (Canada and the U.K.), and only a few more even in the double digits. And, lest you forget, the same was true in Vietnam. South Korean forces, for example, suffered almost 10% of the deaths as did the U.S., and Australian, New Zealand, and Thai forces all suffered significant casualties.

So the idea that the war against Afghanistan is different because multiple nations are participating in the slaughter (o.k., Obama and Mullen didn't quite use those words) simply doesn't hold up. But what really doesn't hold up is the idea that it makes the slightest difference to the analogy. The analogy with Vietnam isn't based on the nature of the occupation forces, its based on the nature of the resistance. A resistance which opposes the occupation of its country, and will fight indefinitely and with great tenacity and self-sacrifice, to oppose that occupation, because unlike the soldiers of the occupying forces, they actually have a stake in the matter. And that resistance isn't affected by whether they are fighting an occupation by one country, or five, or 43.

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