25 April 2012

The Lessons We Haven't Learned

There have been a lot of inaccurate comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam. The danger is to lump them in with the accurate ones, and dismiss them all.

Guerrillas the world over grasped what had happened in Vietnam. They took its lessons to heart, and even took them a step further. They understood, for instance, that you don't need to lose 58,000 fighters, as the Vietnamese did at Tet, to win important psychological victories. You need only highlight your enemy's vulnerabilities, its helplessness to stop you.

The Haqqanis certainly got it, and so just over a week ago sacrificed 57,961 fewer fighters to make a similar point. Striking a psychological blow while losing only 39 guerrillas, they are distinctly living in the twenty-first century in global war-making terms. On the other hand, whether its top civilian and military commanders realize it or not, the Pentagon is still stuck in Saigon, 1968.

Case in point: Secretary of Defense Panetta belittled the Haqqani fighters for not taking "territory." It's a claim that, in its cluelessness, is positively Westmorelandish.

Let's face it...

More than a decade after its own forces swept into Kabul, however, what began as a rag-tag, remnant insurgency has grown stronger and continues to vex the most heavily armed, most technologically advanced, best-funded military on the planet. All of America's "tactical gains" and captured territory, especially in the Taliban heartland of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, however, haven't led to anything close to victory, and one after another its highly publicized light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel offensives, like the much-hyped 2010 Marjah campaign, have faded away and been forgotten.

... we're not accomplishing much.

By: Brant


Silent Hunter said...

The North Vietnamese didn't win Vietnam through their guerillas - they won it through their armour and their air force. Neither of which the Taliban have.

Brant said...

True - but the point of the article is that you don't have to throw away a lot of guys, or take and hold ground, to make the war too "painful" for the Americans.
Once the Americans are out, it's a free-for-all. In Vietnam, the North conquered the South with a large conventional Army.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are certainly capable of rolling up the country the same way they did in 1996.