Monday, August 24, 2009

Getting that Vietnam feeling?

The NYT reports that Admiral Mullen says (on the Sunday talk shows) that the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, that the Taliban are getting tougher, and that more US troops are needed there. The Commander on the scene, Gen. McChrystal, is still preparing his review for the president, so he's yet to make any formal recommendation about ramping up troop numbers. But it seems obvious that the groundwork is being laid for inserting even more forces. And everything I've been reading suggests to me that a small increase is not going to be enough, but that a major increase will not sit well with a US public that seems to be turning south on this war.

Meanwhile, as the NYT report also notes, Afghanistan's president Karzai is being hammered by US congressmen for his failure to crack down better on the opium trade. And more reports of "irregularities" in the recent election are surfacing - many of which point to fraud on the part of Karzai and his backers. Again, for those of you not familiar with the history, when the US went into Vietnam, it did so in support of a corrupt, ineffective regime that hardly had the support of the people of South Vietnam. The US helped foment a coup against the Diem regime, and then essentially backed a series of governments du jour - none of which proved effective.

This has indeed become Obama's war - up to this point, unfairly so, because he's inherited a probably untenable situation from Mr. Bush. (And on that score, I recommend Seth Jones's new book, In The Graveyard of Empires.) It's important that the American people be reminded of that history, but it's also important that Obama take his next steps very carefully. This is something I wrote about several months ago at the War in Context site - that Obama was steering us into a "perfect storm" - and if he isn't careful, he may wind up planting the US in a tar-pit that may cost the US as much, if not more, than the Iraq debacle.

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