Friday, October 08, 2010

From David Swanson - about the occupation of Afghanistan

In 1963 William Polk gave a presentation to the National War College that left the officers there furious.  He told them that guerrilla warfare was composed of politics, administration, and combat:

"I told the audience that we had already lost the political issue -- Ho Chi Minh had become the embodiment of Vietnamese nationalism.  That, I suggested, was about 80 percent of the total struggle.  Moreover, the Viet Minh or Viet Cong, as we had come to call them, had also so disrupted the administration of South Vietnam, killing large numbers of its officials, that it had ceased to be able to perform even basic functions.  That, I guessed, amounted to an additional 15 percent of the struggle.  So, with only 5 percent at stake, we were holding the short end of the lever.  And because of the appalling corruption of South Vietnamese government, as I had a chance to observe firsthand, even that lever was in danger of breaking.  I warned the officers that the war was already lost."

In December 1963 President Johnson set up a working group called the Sullivan Task Force.  Its findings differed from Polk's more in tone and intention than in substance.  This task force viewed escalating the war with the "Rolling Thunder" bombing campaign in the North as "a commitment to go all the way."  In fact, "the implicit judgment of the Sullivan Committee was that the bombing campaign would result in indefinite war, continuously escalating, with both sides embroiled in a perpetual stalemate."

This should not have been news.  The U.S. State Department had known the War on Vietnam could not be won as early as 1946, as Polk recounts:

"John Carter Vincent, whose career was subsequently ruined by hostile reaction to his insights on Vietnam and China, was then director of the Office of Far East Affairs in the State Department.  On December 23, 1946, he presciently wrote the secretary of state that  'with inadequate forces, with public opinion sharply at odds, with a government rendered largely ineffective through internal division, the French have tried to accomplish in Indochina what a strong and united Britain has found it unwise to attempt in Burma.  Given the present elements in the situation, guerrilla warfare may continue indefinitely."

They knew they wouldn't "win" but just couldn't stand to "lose" and so kept it going.  Telling them they've lost is, therefore, not a clear solution.  Telling them to stop wasting our money is.

So, let's not talk in their terms.
If the United States were to elect officials and compel them to heed the public's wishes and retire from such foreign military adventures, we would all be better off.  Why in the world must that be called "losing"? 

They can't even explain what winning in Afghanistan would look like.  Is there, then, any sense in behaving as if "winning" is an option? 

If wars are going to cease to be the legitimate and glorious campaigns of heroic leaders and become what they are under the law, namely crimes, then a whole different vocabulary is needed.  You cannot win or lose a crime; you can only continue or cease committing it.

[Photo is of Looking Glass Rock in North Carolina]

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