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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 6, 2009 @ 11:11 am

    Afghan War Looks More and More Futile

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    The parallels between Afghanistan and the Vietnam War are growing all the time. Like LBJ, President Obama has a strong interest in social issues and clearly wants to make life better for ordinary citizens of the US. But Lyndon Baines Johnson was brought down by a slow-burning military disaster in a faraway land.


    Broken man: LBJ listens to Richard Nixon inaugural speech, January 1969

    The shootings at Fort Hood are yet another reflection of the upset that is being caused by the latest war (for an internet report click here.) We have also  had the shooting dead of five British soldiers by a police “trainee”.

    Does anyone out there remember “The Domino Theory”? This was fundamental to US official thinking on Vietnam. If that country fell to the Communists, others would follow and the Red Menace would be so  much further on the path to world domination.

    Well, Vietnam did fall to the Communists – relatively sane ones – and, of course, Cambodia/Kampuchea fell to the mass killers in the Khmer  Rouge. But now we are interminably celebrating the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the  Berlin Wall: Soviet-style Communism is virtually dead except for Belarus and the Asian “Communist” States are the greatest virtuosos of raw capitalism. It’s red all right, red in tooth and claw.

    Undoubtedly, if the West pulls  out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will be back in power, girls will be put out of schools and there will be all sorts of other practices that are anathema to people in this part of the world.

    That’s unfortunate, to put it mildly. But the real reason the West is in Afghanistan is to prevent the country from being used as again as a training-ground for a second 9/11.

    Surely there are other ways of dealing with this threat. If a training-camp is identified, carry out an airstrike. Given the obvious level of corruption in Afghanistan, apparently not least in the present administration which has just come through a dodgy electoral process, surely a few hundred or even thousand spies could be recruited to report on nefarious activities around the place? With all its massive military resources, can’t the West  mount an odd commando raid?  Do we really feel safer getting on planes because of this war?

    British troops did not take part in the Vietnam War but they are suffering heavily in Afghanistan. Unlike the US, British public opinion is rather sluggish in these matters but it would appear that more and more UK citizens are getting increasingly concerned over what looks like a no-win situation.

    A few years ago, I travelled up the Khyber Pass to the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. All along the way there were memorials to British soldiers who had falled in past, long-forgotten engagements, to no avail.

    Futile or what?

    • Liam says:

      It may seem cold but the worse this war goes for the US and Brits the quicker foreign policy should evolve. Given the potential for a war with Iran , one should be grateful that “simple” wars like Iraq and now Afghanistan have gone so badly wrong, it may give pause for thought. One has to chuckle when the hubris of politicians runs into the hard lessons of history but it’s a pity the innocent have to pay the price. The Americans should be searching their souls and wondering why they have the resources to engage in foreign conflicts yet at the same time couldn’t deal with the effects of a hurricane in New Orleans

    • David says:

      “the real reason the West is in Afghanistan is to prevent the country from being used as again as a training-ground for a second 9/11″

      Sounds like utter codswallop to me. The terrorist threat has predictably increased since 2001. You can’t fight terrorism with terrorism.

      Obama will let the war drag out and leave it to someone else to be caught ‘cutting and running’. Afghanistan will then be left to the warlords, drugdealers and Taliban – in an act of historic deja vu.

    • Patrick says:

      This Bush Jr. crusade as well as his Iraq crusade were wrong from day one and are doomed to fail. What are the troops dying for? Gorden Brown speaking today is a clear signal that the U.K. will leave. No one will change Afganistan as history has told. The problem is in the country next door. It time to call a spade a spade.

    • Portia says:

      Who started the Vietnam war?

      Who started the Afgan war?

      Same reason- drugs and religion and total control.

      War = $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      The problem is the sheep soldiers who fight end up dead – while Bush and Blair etc sit there grinning at how stupid we humans are.

    • The Grim Reaper says:

      The Russian war in Afghanistan, 1979 to 1989. Published reports by the CIA on the Soviets war effort, showed close parallels to the present war being fought by the United States and her NATO allies. Uncertainty, bad planning, ill-equipped troops, it’s like “déjà vu”. The war was an economic strain on the whole Soviet system and no doubt contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse two years later of the USSR.
      The Cold War that was claimed by the Western Powers as a victory, history may record that the Taliban saw the end of the USSR and after only seventeen years the start of the end of the West’s economic power.

    • mike says:

      I believe that there over 40 countries have troops in the Afghan war.

      Question: Supose they all withdraw, and a few months later there is a terrorist outrage in London, Paris or Melbourne, or Berlin, etc., etc…which the Taliban or Al-Queda claim responsibility for. And this is followed by more such outrages.

      What then???

    • Deaglán says:

      That’s a worry, of course. Mind you, if the British authorities had kept a closer eye on what was happening in their own cities and towns and with certain over-the-top preachers, it might have averted the bombings of July 2005, surely?

    • mike says:


      It looks like it’s an unwinnable war. They should I think withdraw. And hope there won’t be any more terrorist outrages. And if there will be…who knows…a war to the finish? Nightmare scenario.

      And these preachers are still preaching their hate for the infidel. And the vulnerable souls will no doubt be stirred to another July 7th…but it could be much worse…and then what??? When will the British Authorities actually do something effective against these preachers? Probably not for a long while yet, not until many more lives are lost and maimed. I really think the Brits have no idea how serious it all is. They are the laughing stock of the terrorists, for how much of a soft touch they are. How ever did they manage to hold down an Empire???!!!

    • Patrick Bury says:

      Hi Deaglan,

      I have written for the IT on Afghan and blog on developments for a UK politics site, I served there too, was wondering if you’d be interested in re-invigorating this blog?

      All the best,


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