During his speech tonight announcing that 30,000 more troops will be sent to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama took aim at a popular criticism from the Left that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. Obama said, “I believe this argument depends upon a false reading of history.”
The President said, “First, there are those who suggest that Afghanistan is another Vietnam. They argue that it cannot be stabilized, and we are better off cutting our losses and rapidly withdrawing. Yet this argument depends upon a false reading of history.”
He continued, “Unlike Vietnam, we are joined by a broad coalition of 43 nations that recognizes the legitimacy of our action. Unlike Vietnam, we are not facing a broad-based popular insurgency. And most importantly, unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan, and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border. To abandon this area now – and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance – would significantly hamper our ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on our homeland and our allies.
Obama is right. Afghanistan is not another Vietnam. He is making sure of it by not sending the nation in an open ended commitment as LBJ did decades ago. People who compare Afghanistan to Vietnam hopefully will realize that Obama is not LBJ. This is a different conflict for a different time.
This speech, although it invoked 9/11, was complete opposite of what George W. Bush had been passing off as vision for years. Obama laid out goals, objectives, and an endgame. These are three things that were never clear in the Bush Administration’s strategy. It is clear now why Obama took so long to make a decision. He was not only deciding on troops, but coming up with a comprehensive strategy.
He is correct that America can’t bail out on Afghanistan, but much like Iraq, an endgame must be set, or else the government there will never take responsibility. Obama’s speech itself was comprehensive, but he has a tough, almost impossible, sell to make to the left if he expects them to get on board with this decision.