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  • Senator Kerry Misses the Lessons of Vietnam

    In a recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Senator John Kerry (D-MA) tries to draw conclusions from the Vietnam War for our fight in Afghanistan. Some of his “lessons” are misguided and could put our troops in Afghanistan in greater harm’s way.

    Senator Kerry asserts that “we should not commit troops to the battlefield without a clear understanding of what we expect them to accomplish, how long it will take, and how we maintain the consent of the American people.”

    While it is necessary to review tactics and strategy, fighting a war requires leadership, not decision-making by polls and consensus. It puts the fate of the Afghan people and our troops into the hands of bureaucrats and pundits, holding it hostage to endless meetings and hearings that may confuse the mission, lengthen decision time, and put our troops in greater danger.

    Afghanistan is no Vietnam. We are not fighting a hostile government and an organized military, but Taliban insurgents and al-Qaeda. The only real lesson from the Vietnam War is that we must fight to win, and doing that means we have to commit the resources we need, for as long as it takes.

    As Commander-in-Chief, President Obama should consult regularly with his commanders and generals on the ground about what they need to win. He has repeatedly said that the war in Afghanistan is not a war of choice but a war of necessity, because “the safety of people around the world is at stake.” This is not the time to send the message that the President may backtrack on that statement. But as my colleague Lisa Curtis points out, the President may be considering a plan to scale back the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to focus on al-Qaeda cells in western Pakistan. Senator Kerry has implied in his op ed that scaling down the military mission in Afghanistan would somehow contribute to stabilizing Pakistan. But he is wrong. Ceding territory to the Taliban in Afghanistan would embolden terrorists throughout the region, including in nuclear-armed Pakistan. We have no other option but to win the war in Afghanistan.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Senator Kerry Misses the Lessons of Vietnam

    1. Ozzy6900, CT says:

      I will say again, President Obama, his Administration and most of the buffoons on Capitol Hill have no stomach for War! They are cowards and thereby put our troops in grave danger.

      Senator Kerry asks "….without a clear understanding of what we expect them to accomplish….". The answer, Senator, is we, the American People, send our troops into combat to do one thing and one thing only……… W I N !

    2. Normca says:

      Lurch [I fought in Viet Nam Kerry] would like all wars and skirmishes to look like what he thinks are his glory days [when he took his instant camera and spent a quarter of the standard tour in Viet Nam. If B Huessen Obama followed the Lurch path and Obama may as it is a way out of the "right" war, Taliban would have a base from which to do an Hamas on Pakistan with its Nuclear weapons. It would seem Obama is playing at Commander in Chief and Mr. Gates is covering for his CO. The similarity with Nam would come when Obama controls the Afghan war from Washington. He is already ignoring his general. Has "Victory" in Afghanistan been defined ? Now that the dems are in charge, they do not ask that question. It seems to me that NATO let this war get out of hand and the USA must come to the rescue and with it American Marines and Soldiers' lives. Hey George Soros; is it okay that I send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan ? Obama needs the answer before the next pick up game.

    3. Bill San Antonio TX says:

      The reason Afghanistan is out of hand is because the rest of the world committed the very worst type of social "free-loading" by letting a few countries commit troops and treasure and carry ALL the weight.

      This did a lot to pacify their citizens; afterall, no one likes war and wants to get killed. Thanks UN for all your help. Even though terrorism threatens ALL of you, let someone else spill blood while you criticize.

      The UN ought to be apologizing to the countries who are trying to stop terrorism FOR NOT INSISTING ON A WORLD WIDE-COALITION TO TAKE ACTION – NOT SANCTIONS.

      As for Kerry, he is undoubtedly the greatest "military mind" in the history of the world, right?

    4. Margaret says:

      Funny, I never considered the lessons of Viet Nam to be that we needed to continue to stay and fight and die for as long as it took. I viewed that war as misguided and unwinable-period. It was a waste of money, it made us no safer. And, it was a dark period in our history for the blood that was shed and the lives that were lost all sholdered by our brave soldiers. Therefore, I think it is wise to show patience and think through our strategy in Afghanistan. To often, it is thought that more is better-in this case- more troops. But, this is not just a battle with a clear enemy. If we win the battle, we may not win the real war which is changing the minds of the people of Afghanistan and its leadership. Recent events in Afghanistan- going back even before the election, have left doubts in the minds of many Americans that we can fully trust the government. Getting the strategy right and confirming our goals is the right course to take for our soldiers over there now and for those 40,000 that are being considered.

      Finally, I would suggest that we have a mature discussion regarding this matter. Senator Kerry brings up some valid points and reducing the conversation to name calling (Lurch)just demeans the importance of getting it right in Afghanistan.

    5. Paul says:

      Philip, can you clarify which of the three points Kerry makes in the quote you provide is/are misguided? Do you think:

      1. We should commit troops to the battlefield without a clear understanding of what we expect them to accomplish.

      2. We shouldn't start with an understanding of how long it will take.

      3. We need not make plans to maintain the consent of the American people.

      I'll willingly admit that there are times when you can't wait for all three to be in place – Pearl Harbor would only require 1, for example – but these seem like perfectly sensible checks on action.

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