Afghanistan: America’s la Vietnam failure | By Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi


Afghanistan: America’s la Vietnam failure

AMERICA’S brooding over its strategic failures in Afghanistan sadly accompanied by Washington’s unwarranted tendency to shift the blame of its failure to Pakistan seems nothing but a fake attempt to hibernate the irrefutable truth that no foreign power can rule in Afghanistan.

The current bill presented in the US Congress seeking an explanation of the US defeat in Afghanistan cannot serve its purpose unless it fits into a reality that speaks that the wars that are meant to lease an interventionist synergy cannot be won simply because they lose the moral grounding.

The US waged war in Vietnam and the war the US fought in Afghanistan do have much in common. It is why the Biden Administration needs to detect the faultiness in their policies vis-à-vis Afghanistan.

The fact that the American policy makers lacked vision and clarity rather they piloted fragile policies to address the metaphysical and asymmetrical conflicts such as extremism and terrorism.

This appraisal can rightly be cross-checked by the views expressed by the American historians and the international law experts, as well.

The political hedonism of war and the quest for regional hegemony, which remains an overwhelming obsession of the US for the last 70 years and so can rightly be revisited by recalling the Hobbesian doctrine: The 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes warned: not to believe a word the politicians said about war as he opined that the two cardinal evils — force and fraud — are used in war, Hobbes wrote in Leviathan, a treatise arguing about how to build a legitimate government that avoids the use of “over-the-horizon capabilities.

Undeniably, Washington seems to be learning for the second time in half a century that the will to fight a war holds leverage over the Western military training, technological superiority and money.

This, actually remains the case with the Afghan Taliban vis-à-vis the Afghan national security forces who were trained and piloted by the NATO forces had it all — but intrinsically lacking the will.

One could compare the dynamics of the US-withdrawal with that of the Vietnam Waranalogies such as the local allies clamouring to escape, chaos in the streets, a hastily evacuated embassy – all of these evoke comparisons to the end of the United States’ disastrous war in Southeast Asia.

Truly, the US troops’ departure withdrawal scene in Afghanistan must remind the Americans that on April 30, 1975, when Saigon fell to Communism, the Television and the next morning’s newspapers showed large groups of Americans, soldiers and civilians on the roof of the US embassy, waiting to be rescued by their country’s military helicopters. By any measure, the Afghan war remains America’s war of deadly illusions.

Mary Dudziak, a leading legal American historian, the author of “War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences,” had already predicted the US failure by agreeing that any attempt at reckoning would be short-lived, and that in the long run, Washington could become even less constrained in its assertion of power.

From a geopolitical perspective, Professor Jennifer Fluri, said, it’s important to recognize the two wars as individual events with unique conflicts.

“Vietnam and Afghanistan exemplify U.S. imperialism and military actions associated with its geostrategic interests in the past and present. The Vietnam War was about perpetuating US interests and pushing back against the growth of communism and the Soviet Union during the cold war.

US interests in Afghanistan in the 1980s were similar, however, post 9/11, US interventions in Afghanistan sought to contain Islamic extremism and infiltrate and destroy Al-Qaeda, while attempting to export democracy and incorporate Afghanistan into the global economy,” she said.

Leoni Connah, an international law expert, argued in the Sage Journal, ‘’A state cannot invade another state without a probable chance of success. War not only needs to be just, it must also be a possible war to fight (Walzer, 2004: 14).

When Bush declared the War on Terror, he emphasized that the road to victory may be long, but claimed that with the support of US allies, the likelihood of success was high.

Receiving support from the UK and other Western forces increased the chances of a swift operation.

But these all expectations were flimsy as early strategists had predicted the US failure in Afghanistan based on the fundamental observations—that were very close to objective analyses.

Undeniably, in the NATO command structure, Canada and Germany had shown reservations regarding the US-long war in Afghanistan.

Perhaps, if anyone had known (Rogers, 2004: 7) that this intervention would last for decades, they would not have pursued a military strategy. Evidently, the international community shared many motivations to pursue the War on Terror. But the question still remains if they were just.

Following 9/11, the enemy was unclear, alien, foreign and mysterious to a certain extent (Steuter & Wills, 2011: 257). It was not an identifiable entity as Nazi Germany’s armed aggression during World War-II.’’

In May 2013, the former US President Barack Obama said, “We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the wellspring of extremism, a perpetual war — through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments — will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.”

Veritably, waging a war against a metaphysical conflict is simply vague, absurd and illogical. After the death of Osama Bin Laden in 2011, the War on Terror lost its locus standi. Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans, yet no foreign power has the mandate to rule or dictate them.

In international law, the recognition of governments is by no means a legitimacy-conferring exercise vis-à-vis rightfulness or wrongfulness of an entity.

To the contrary, recognition intrinsically acknowledges a political reality whereby a particular entity possesses effective control of the territory of a State.

Given the merit of this argument, PM Imran Khan is Absolutely Right when he says that later or sooner, Washington will have to accept the new Taliban government in Afghanistan. The UN Charter fully provides this mandate to the Afghan people.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.

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