My thoughts on Afghanistan
August 15, 2021
As an American and a Vietnam Veteran, the shocking events currently transpiring in Afghanistan are extremely disturbing to me. I suspect that I am not the only Veteran who is distressed by yet another U.S failure on the world stage. What we are currently witnessing in Afghanistan is a military victory that once again has been floundered by our government and its clueless self-aggrandizing politicians (past and present!)
Saigon fell in 1975, approx. two years after the last American troops had left the country in the hands of the Vietnamese government and soldiers to protect and defend for themselves, their families, and for their future generations to have freedom. It was extremely disturbing and painful to watch the TV news reports of the North Vietnamese communist take-over. I remember thinking to myself that we have now lost the war, the first war America has lost, and I was part of it. I thought about all of the lives and resources that were lost and was embarrassed at my own service. Over time I became proud to have served and came to realize that our military did not lose that war, but rather the loss was caused by the politics and politicians of both Vietnam and the U.S. But it was more than that. The people MUST have a will to fight for themselves. All of our training and resources that went into building and fighting alongside the Vietnamese forces were futile because they did not have the will to fight for themselves and did not have the core ingrained belief that they were fighting for the greater good of their own families and country.
Fast forward to 1991, “Operation Desert Storm.” We as a country decided to intervene with the ultimate goal of stopping the aggression of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from taking over Kuwait, a neighboring country. As I watched much of that battle live on TV. Our military led by General Norman Schwarzkopf was as impressive as our WWII military was. We were back, and won that huge major battle that expelled Iraq’s elite invasion forces in 100 hours! I thought to myself at the time that The Vietnam war actually did serve a purpose, and that was: Never again will the politicians hobble our military for political purposes and we learned our lesson… If we are going to war, we are going full blast all in, to win, not to drag the war on and on for twenty years while the politicians inevitably will lose it! I detected this country once again had a sense of pride in our military that seemed to have been lost in the Vietnam era with all of the protests and dissension from the American public at large.
We saw that “all-in” military effort once again after 9/11. America was attacked and responded promptly with the full strength and power of our military forces with a goal of putting an end to the aggressive terrorism, allowing our military to fight and win, unhobbled. They successfully took over Iraq and eventually captured and hung the dictator Saddam Hussein. Our troops also successfully pushed back the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, removing them from power and reducing the threat of global terrorism. Once again, I saw Vietnam as a lesson learned. America will never again go to war without the intention of unconditional victory as the end goal.
Unfortunately, somehow, nearly 50 years after The Vietnam War, we are witnessing VIETNAM TWO. Afghanistan is falling to a weakened but emboldened Taliban enemy in only a matter of weeks! I am disgusted and saddened by what is happening. How did we once again allow ourselves to spend billions of dollars and thousands of American lives trying to build a government and a military force in a country where the people do not have the inner strength and will to fight for themselves? For 20 years, with our aid and assistance, a generation of young Afghan people were raised and trained to believe that they could achieve and maintain their own freedom, but they failed, WE failed. WHY?
I hate how this rapidly evolving failure has once again revived the disturbing inner emotions that took me several decades to get over! Once again, I am embarrassed as an American, not by our Military but by the recurring political failure. Where are the men of honor in our government? And, I am saddened that our current younger group of Veteran Brothers and Sisters may have to live through some of the same negative aftermath that many of us Vietnam Veterans had to go through. But please be assured that “Never again will one generation of Veterans abandon another.” (VVA’s founding theme.)
Let me be one of the first to say: “Welcome home and Thank you for your service. May God’s Grace be with you all.”
An essay by Robert Kuhn, Author of “Rucksack Grunt”
B-Co. 1/22 Infantry, Vietnam 1971-1972.
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