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United States military has helped in the attempt to establish self-sufficient countries. Its primary mission in this regard has been to defend the inhabitants of particular countries, such as Vietnam in the 1960s, and more recently Afghanistan. Conflicts between countries have usually focused on resources and politics.mmHowever, perceived disparities between the allocation of resources and political power has often inspitred insurgents. Examples of such occastions are the Vietnam War and the current war in Afghanistan. On both occasions U.S. forces have confronted insurgents. Counterinsurgency remains the number one priority in Afghanistan and in order to accomplish this mission, it is vitally important to maintain sight of lessons learned from the past, and particularly during the Vietnam War.
Similarities exist between various insurgencies. Certain facets of the Vietnam War are remarkably similar to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. For example, the counterinsurgency strategy in both conflicts demanded that military and political leaders understand the nature of the war being fought, and that effective governance sways undecided citizens.
II. Lessons from Vietnam for Afghanistan
One of the most important similarities between the war in Afghanistan and Vietnam is the widely divergent public opinion regarding the issues involved. Many American citizens and academics today for example question the validity and indeed possibility of creating a stable and prosperous democracy in Afghanistan. In order to substantiate their views, a significant tendency among this group is to invoke the American experience in Vietnam
. This group believes that the United States has done little more than "stumble" into a foreign environment where they do not belong, and where the political and military struggle are indecisive to the point where little progress is possible, even with the best of intentions. Furthermore, there is considerable danger to the United States itself, where great exepnditure in terms of lives and resources are expended to ultimately accomplish very little.
In contrast to this, the Iraq War also has its proponents, just like the Vietnam War did. In response to the former group's warning assertions regarding Vietnam, this group dismisses such warnings as invalid as a result of the vast amount of differences between the two wars, to the extent that these outweigh the similarities sufficiently to be dismissed. Instead, they use analogies such as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan as proof that there is indeed merit in the Iraq War and that this war can be successful in terms of the American objective to offer the gift of democracy and prosperity to Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that the Vietnam war exists in the American consciousness to a much more significant extent than any other war in history. Hence, the analogy remains inevitable, regardless of those who would argue for ist non-applicability. The main reason for this is that the Vietnam War was not only a defining foreign poicy event for political and miliatry leaders today; it was also the last significant counterinsurgency effort by the United States Arm and Marine Corps before the invasion of Iraq.
Hence, regardless of opponents, it is important to recognize that there may indeed be lessons from the past experience with Vietnam to apply to Afghanistan today. This does not however mean that some caution is not appropriate
. Indeed, Patraeusii holds that crises like 9/11 and the subsequent decision to make war in Iraq are particularly important in sparking a focus on the past as potentially providing a pathway for present action.
One important lesson is the public, political and policy-driven perceptions regarding the war. This appears to have certain similarities in both Vietnam and Afghanistan. In the Vietnam War, for example, there are divergent opinions regarding the nature of the war
. Three main views, for example, were that the war was an orthodox, limited-scale, small-size conflict. Secondly, it was seen as a revolutionary guerilla war to attempt and create fundamental social change. Thirdly, the war was seen as a new historical phenomenon, where divisions bewteen military and civilian, war and politics, and combatant and noncombatant were diminished significantly.
Another important factor in terms of learning from past experience and the public opinion is the role of the press. The Johnson administration at the beginning of the Vietnam War for example considered censorship, but abandoned the idea
. This decision was however based upon the assumption that the war would have a "quick, clean conclusion." The rather messy subsequent pathways the war took rather undermined the usefulness of the press in terms of politics. Despite the many attempts by politicians and military leaders such as Westmoreland, the flaws in the American strategy simply became too obvious to ignore by the press, and the stage was set for widespread public dissent regardingt he involvement of the United States in the war.
The public opinion on the Vietnam War has been unstable almost from the beginning, and to a great extent this became fuelled by the press. The same is true of the Afghanistan War. Although there have been attempts to control the press, the public opinion remains divergent regarding the actions and issues in Afghanistan.
III. Purpose of the war
The wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan can also be compared in terms of purpose. In Vietnam, the purpose of the war can also be compared in terms of both countries. In Vietnam, the purpose of the war is perceived on two levels. In terms of the moral imperative, for example, the war was to preserve th eright of self-determination and establish the freedom of the people in the country in democratic terms. It was a war between an open and close society, or between freedom and tyranny. The United States regarded itself as obliged to commit itself to individual liberty by means of war. The aim was to retain South Vietnam as a non-Communist country, achieve peace, and thereby possibly establishing representative government.
The same values might be applied to Afghanistan. The oppression of women in Afghanistan has become a notorious worldwide issue, where this demographic is denied education and the freedom of choice in terms of marriage and career. This has been condemned worlwide and it is one of the purposes of the American military to achieve freedom from oppression within this country.
Another moral parallel is the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Communist regime that threatened freedom in South Korea. The Taliban is a notoriously oppressive force that does not only oppress women, but also those who do not adhere to a specific religion and ideology to the exclusion of all else.
The War in Iraq also had a politcal purpose, based upon the national interest. In the official American perception, the non-Communist nature of Sout Vietnam was important in terms of the American interest in the Pacific. The same can be said of the American interest in the Middle East. In addition to the mission of creating a democracy in Afghanistan, the United States also has a marked interest in the country's resources, such as its oil reserves. This resource is waning worldwide, and has therefore become a vital focal point in the war.
In the Middle East, there is also a more insidious, and dangerous basis for the war, in terms of the alleged nuclear weapons housed by the foreign forces.
American military's campaign in Vietnam and the current war in Afghanistan.
In addition to the general similarities above, there are also more specific similarities between the military campaign in Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan. The Vietnamise Ho Chi Minh's ties to the United States are echoed by Osama Bin Laden's original relationship with the country. Both of these leaders began to create insurgency in their countries by means of guerilla tactics and suicide bomber techniques, respectively. Although Bin Laden's techniques can be said to be somewhat more horrifying, he can be compared with Minh in terms of the strength of the insurgency.
In order to create an effective counterinsurgency, a large number of soldiers were required in order to promote nation building in the target countries. Both the United States and South Vietnamese armies needed significant resources in terms of soldiers and sustenance in order to effectively pursue counterinsurgency strategies in the country. The same is true of the American and Afghan Armies today. Both wars were fought on a major scale in terms of size.
The Effectiveness of the Counterinsurgency
The effectiveness of the counterinsurgency effort in either Vietnam or Afghanistan is debatable. The Vietnam War resulted in such devastation on both sides that whatever liberty and democracy were attained is subject to debate. Certainly, the costs in terms of civilian lives were much too high to merit whatever was achieved.
In Afghanistan, the effort to establish successful governance through the rule of law appears to simply have perpetuated existing violenc and war in the country.
In terms of its effect upon the public consciousness, the Vietnam War is far from over, although it has not been fought for decades. When there is any prospect of intervening in a foreign country, the…[continue]
This will continue to be the case for the foreseeable decades as the United States fights wars that are so far not yet even imagined. If these wars have been fought (as many have suggested) over the presence of the scarce resource of oil, the next wars may be fought over the even more precious resource of water. Looking not too far into the future, the next wars may be
(MACV Dir 381-41) This document is one of the first confidential memorandums associated with the Phoenix Program, which details in 1967 the mostly U.S. involvement in counterinsurgency intelligence and activities and discusses the future training and development of South Vietnam forces to serve the same function, that had been supported by the U.S. In civilian (mostly CIA) and military roles. The document stresses that the U.S. role is to
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