Pakistan: Now or Never?

Perspectives on Pakistan

Afghanistan, still the new Vietnam ?


Try hard as you can, there doesn’t seem to be any escaping from comparing America’s eight-year war in Afghanistan to the one it fought in Vietnam.

Every now and then, either when there is a fresh setback or a key moment in Afghanistan’s turbulent history, like last week when it went to the polls to choose a president, the debate flares anew.

Foreign Policy magazine has a provocative piece headlined “Saigon 2009: Afghanistan is today’s Vietnam. No question mark needed.” No matter who wins last week’s election, America is certainly not winning the war in Afghanistan because it is committing the same mistakes it did in Vietnam, authors Thomas H.Johnson and M Chris Mason argue.

The parallels are just too strong, too structural to be ignored. Both Afghanistan and Vietrnam (prior to U.S. engagement there) had surprisingly defeated a European power in a guerrilla war that lasted a decade, followed by a civil war which last another decade. Insurgents in both enjoyed the advantage of a long, trackless and unclosable border and sanctuary beyond it, the authors say.

Who will be left standing when the Afghan war ends?


                                                                            U.S. marine in Afghanistan/Goran Tomasevic

“War does not determine who is right — only who is left.” (Or so said the British philosopher and anti-war activist Bertrand Russell.) So who is going to be left standing once U.S. and NATO forces have finished battling it out with the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan?