The sacrifice of brave men
does not justify the pursuit of an unjust cause
--Our Kind of Traitor, John LeCarre
You must go on.
I can't go on.
I'll go on
--The Unnameable, Samuel Beckett
You say "Yes", I say "No".
(I say "Yes", but I may mean "No").
You say "Stop", I say "Go, go, go".
(I can stay still it's time to go)
--Hello Goodbye, The Beatles
The trait characterized by all terrorism is that the violence -- though symbolic -- is ultimately nihilistic, and nihilism does not build great civilizations or institutions. Terrorism does not assist the progress of man.
Fights like Wanat, Waygul and Kamden are symbolic of so many others, but for our purposes let us assume they are representative of the entire war, a microcosm of the gestalt. This is not a heartening thought.
If the U.S. Army in 2009 with the compliance of NATO allies and the Afghan Army are needed to (barely) hold isolated Command Outposts, why should we assume the Afghan government will continue to do so after the U.S. leaves the country? They are as unable to do this as they were at the war's outset. Instructive is the example of Vietnam, the United States first counterinsurgency (COIN) war, the war which informed the late great General David Petraus to compose Field Manual 3-24, everyman's guide to fighting the COIN way.
The drawdown of U.S. assets led to the 1972 North Vietnamese offensive, and ultimately the April '75 fall of Saigon. The NVA achieved this military objective despite having been strategically bombed for at least seven years. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were as nihilistic from the U.S. side as are the acts of today's terrorists.
The NVN had a realistic and understandable military goal; in contrast, the U.S. goal was simply to kill the NVA and Vietcong into submission, a goal not achieved. As in Vietnam, fighting remains our raison d'etre, yet we marvel at the senseless nature of terrorism. We refuse to see that our response to terrorism is as senseless as the precipitating event.
Bombing Hanoi did not defeat the NVN venture, and drones will not thwart the will to fight of our current adversaries. Drone strikes will not defend America. In fact, they are an extralegal approach to a criminal problem (terrorism).
It is surreal to realize that we have fought and do fight wars without military objectives, we have tried to build nations that do not want to be re-built and we do all of this with money that we do not have to squander. Even the direness of the sequester is inadequate to shake our resolve to press the fight in which we have nothing to gain. It is Hamburger Hill, in perpetuity.
A simple question: If Chinese and Vietnamese Communism were bad and worth fighting the Korean and Vietnam Wars, why are both nations now major trade partners of the U.S.?
Perhaps to look into the gaping maw of that zed is too much to bear, so we press on, like Beckett's Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot. They do not realize their project is D.O.A., for Godot is not coming (Gott es Tod), or perhaps they do, and substitute an eternal march and cogitation in place of actually achieving something, like meeting their goal.
Much like the characters in Waiting for Godot, we are not even sure what we are waiting for, or what that might look like. Like them, our project has a foregone nullity for a conclusion.
The day that Saigon fells did not impact one iota upon the freedoms and liberties of U.S. citizens. If the Vietnamese, Afghans and Iraqis cannot achieve a national consensus without nasty civil wars, so be it. Ditto Libya, Syria and the whole shooting match. Let them fight it out, without us, as we alone did in the creation of our nation -- through the time-honored bloody slog that is how men decide who's top dog.
--Jim and Lisa