Kai Bird: Afghanistan: Vietnam Redux

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Kai Bird is author of “The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy & William Bundy, Brothers in Arms.” He and Martin J. Sherwin won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished biography for their book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.”]

The war in Afghanistan is nearly nine years old. Despite the Obama administration’s July 2011 target date for de-escalating, there seems no end in sight.

It is already longer than the U.S. ground war in Vietnam from 1965 to 1973. To be sure, the circumstances are vastly different. Yet, there are numerous — and disturbing — parallels between Afghanistan and the messy, politically intractable scenarios of Vietnam.

Afghanization. Vietnamization. Surge. Gradual escalation. Corrupt dictators. Internal dissension. The war follows a familiar script.

President Barack Obama has called Afghanistan a “war of necessity.” President Lyndon B. Johnson felt the same about Vietnam — a “tar baby” war he was reluctant to wage but felt compelled to escalate. So what is the difference between LBJ’s strategy of “gradual escalation” and Obama’s own reluctant, highly calibrated “surge”?...

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Arnold Shcherban - 7/26/2010

and its consequences, that's how the Afghan war (along with the Iraq war) will certainly be remembered in history.