By Tony White, Guest Columnist
I hope I’m wrong.
I have been an observer of the political history of this country for nearly fifty years. I have been especially intrigued with the US Military and the way it has been used and abused these many years by this nation’s politicians to influence the political world and to satisfy their desire to control it.
I think it is significant that the United States of America has not fought a ‘war’ since World War 2 in the 1940s. We have seen a ‘police action’ in Korea; a Cold War military conflict in Viet Nam; Operation Just Cause in Panama; the Invasion of Granada; the Armed Conflict of Bosnia; Operation Desert Shield in Iraq; Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
These military actions were all given, at least, tentative approval by our US Congress. However, none of these were ‘declared’ wars. And we need to remember that only Congress, not the President, can declare war.
Famed Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said in 1879, that “War is hell.” And he was right. It is hell for those involved in combat; those loved ones left behind; and those footing the bill.
A huge problem in this country, is that the ‘wars’ America has been involved in since Korea, were military wars alone. The United States citizens, for all practical purposes, have not been at war. If you are not a military service member, or have a loved one in the military, then life has been pretty much, business as usual.
Our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guards are at war, declared or not. The rest of Americans are generally unaffected. There is no rationing of items, no selling of War Bonds, no conversion of a civilian economy to a wartime economy.
For most of America we experience the current fighting as we did, starting with Viet Nam, when we were first exposed to a live television war or living room war. What started out with around the clock coverage has now become a short segment of cable news or a heart wrenching scene when a local fallen warrior returns home in a coffin, draped in an American flag.
Ostensibly, we are in Afghanistan as a result of the horrific happenings of September 11, 2001. There was credible evidence that Osama Ben Laden and his group of radical Muslim followers were provided a safe haven and possibly training, and backing, from the Taliban, who are concentrated in Afghanistan. Our mission was and still is to capture Ben Laden and neutralize the Taliban.
The speech given by President Obama recently at West Point brought back many unwanted feelings and memories of our most recent massive military action, that in Viet Nam. The similarities between Viet Nam and the current condition in Afghanistan are noteworthy.
The French fought to an unsuccessful end in Viet Nam in the Indo-China War from 1947-1954. The Soviet-Afghan War lasted for 9 years with a similar outcome. Now, the US has been in Afghanistan since 2002 with little or no lasting evidence of success.
The corruption-riddled South Viet Nam government, in a failed effort at nation building, finally had to stand on its own, only to eventually fall in defeat to the North Vietnamese.
As old time baseball player Yogi Berra used to say “it’s déjà vu all over again.” Now, several decades later, Americans are fighting in a seemingly endless ‘war’ on behalf of a corruption-riddled government trying to bring about a lasting peace (nation building).
The terminology has been sanitized over the years. We no longer hear of demilitarized zones, kill ratios, and body counts. We now hear of embedded reporters, collateral damage and troop deployments.
The one term that I look upon with the most disdain are the words concerning the level of personnel in the combat zones. Where President Johnson and General Westmoreland talked of a troop escalation (going from 16,000 at the end of the Kennedy Administration to 537,000 at the end of Johnson’s administration), we now hear of a troop surge.
Just who is being ‘surged?’ They are individuals, men and women, actually, boys and girls, our sons and daughters. This is who the surge is.
LBJ couldn’t decide if he should listen to the ‘Doves’ or the ‘Hawks” resulting in the deterioration of the US military’s morale, fighting ability, and support back home. It is my fear that the troop ‘surge’ in Afghanistan will meet the same consequences. Even if the US is successful in stabilizing Afghanistan, will it be worth it? There will be untold loss of lives, both Americans and Afghans; billions of dollars spent; and the possibility, if not the probability, of years of additional involvement.
I hope I’m wrong.