The Leavenworth Way of War

History Discussion at CGSC

Afghanistan…Vietnam?

Afghanistan is dramatically different than Iraq. A quick look at geography, history, and demographics, not to mention the nature of the adversary and the geopolitical setting all describe a completely different operating environment. Also, with the change of political parties in the U.S. and with the U.S. facing significant economic challenges, the domestic U.S. scene is completely different. Some analysts believe that these circumstances make Afghanistan a more significant challenge than Iraq ever was. Commentators Ralph Peters and French MacLean have described their views on the strategic situation. Is Afghanistan more like Vietnam than Iraq? What are the parallels of Afghanistan to Vietnam? Is Afghanistan doomed to end the same way Vietnam did, or are the situations different enough, and the US capabilities and strategies different enough, for Afghanistan to survive as a nation state unlike South Vietnam?

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April 2, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

2 Comments »

  1. The problems in Afghanistan are of a political strategy type, not a military strategy type. Afghanistan is like the classic ethnic division problem found in numerous Asia and African countries, but in a multiplicity of directions. The truth is there is no such thing as the Afghan people just different groups all jostling against each other. Back on, the others all hate you. try to bring them together? They all suspect each other, mistrust!

    Comment by anniepani | July 19, 2015

  2. Afghanistan, as a state, is most similar to Vietnam more so than Iraq is. One observation is because of the cultural development of Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s is similar to the cultural development of Afghanistan. This is not to say technology or the economy has not developed in the past 50 years, but what has not changed as much in regards to Vietnam in the 60’s and 70’s and in Afghanistan today is that the people are content with the way of life with limited resources, not overlooking rice and opium. Iraq had massive oil resources to fund the Saddam regime.

    Vietnam was a struggle amongst world powers to implement communism or democracy while fighting an “insurgency”. Afghanistan has been a struggle amongst world powers to stabilize a region while fighting “terrorism”.
    The parallels that could be drawn concerning Vietnam and Afghanistan are: weak governments, weak economies, sufficient and sustainable locations for destabilizing extremists, and the paradigm that if either of those countries would fall, then other surrounding countries would follow.

    Afghanistan will end the same way Vietnam did and not survive as a legitimate state. According to Strandquist (2015), stability cannot be achieved in Afghanistan, much like the case in Vietnam, because of the priority placed on building security forces instead of developing population centers that support the local and central governments simultaneously opposing the anti-government aggressors.

    Furthermore, in a study conducted by Jervis (2014), the political agenda and long term commitment from the United States regarding both Vietnam and Afghanistan are almost identical. This is evident from interviews and comments from the Secretary of Defense in both eras conveying that the long term status of the countries in conflict was of no concern to them. According to George Packer (Jervis, 2014), “No one at the top of the [Bush] administration was less interested in the future of Iraq than Donald Rumsfeld”. Previously, in 1965 concerning Vietnam, Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton asserted the priority in Vietnam was to avoid a humiliating American defeat rather than to prevent China from influencing the area or better the life of the SVN people (Jervis, 2014).

    Strandquist, Jon. 2015. “Local defence forces and counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: learning from the CIA’s Village Defense Program in South Vietnam.” Small Wars & Insurgencies 26, no. 1: 90-113. Historical Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed August 31, 2015).

    Jervis, David. “Doomed from the Start? Great Power Interventions in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.” Annales UMCS, Sectio K (Politologia) 21, no. 1 (January 2014): 7-21. Political Science Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed August 31, 2015).

    Comment by Joshua Shaver | August 31, 2015


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