Crouere: Afghanistan’s lesson? Say ‘no’ to more nation building
Published 12:57 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2021
As the nation sees Americans fleeing our embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, it is reminiscent of another painful memory of the past, the fall of Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975.
In that war, America lost over 58,000 brave military service members during the 11 years of the conflict, from 1964-1975. When our troops mostly left in 1973, the responsibility fell to the South Vietnamese to fight the communists from the North.
The ultimate end to the war came after the Democratic Congress refused to provide needed supplies to the South Vietnamese military. Soon after that fateful decision, the North Vietnamese prevailed, installing a brutal communist dictatorship over the entire country.
One of the reasons we fought in Vietnam was to prevent the expansion of communism throughout the world. We were following the “Domino Theory,” which feared that as one country fell to communism others would fall as dominos.
In the years after Vietnam, communism continued to expand until the American military won a victory in Grenada in 1983, pushing out Cuban troops from the country. At the same time, tragedy struck in Lebanon and 241 American troops were killed in the bombing of our barracks. Soon thereafter, our troops left the country.
Under President George H. W. Bush, the military was used in Panama to remove dictator Manuel Noriega. He also launched the successful Gulf War I, known as Desert Storm, which quickly forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
When Bill Clinton was president, he ordered an escalation of military personnel in Somalia, which led to a failed raid and the death of 18 American soldiers. It was a humanitarian mission gone awry. His other major military operation was an intensive bombing campaign in the former Yugoslavia.
In the presidential campaign of 2000, Republican candidate George W. Bush promised not to engage in “nation building.” Of course, everything changed when the country was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Bush immediately began a plan for military operations in Afghanistan, followed by Iraq. The results have been disastrous for America.
Instead of bombing and destroying the Al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan, then declaring victory and leaving, the United States decided to embark on a “nation building” campaign. To say it has been a failure, is a massive understatement.
In Afghanistan, the United States spent $2 trillion and lost over 2,300 men and women serving in our military, as well as thousands of our military contractors. In addition, tens of thousands of Afghan military and innocent civilians were also killed over the last 20 years.
After so many years, it was right for then presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 to call for U.S. military forces to leave Afghanistan. This was the country’s longest war, and it was unpopular with Americans who agreed with Trump’s vision to focus on the home front.
Throughout his term, President Trump faced resistance from the military leadership to remove troops from Afghanistan. Ultimately, by the end of his term, President Trump had reduced our forces to 2,500, but there was some stability in the country. American forces were no longer being killed and the Afghan military still maintained control of some of the country.
The Trump plan was to leave in a coordinated manner by May of 2021, but President Joe Biden extended it until the summer. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of military forces has been unorganized and haphazard. As our military left, the Taliban easily gained new territory and defeated the Afghan army, which often refused to fight.
When he made the withdrawal announcement on July 8, Biden predicted that the Taliban would not necessarily take over the country because there were 300,000 Afghan troops who were well equipped with U.S. military arms.
Once again, Biden was wrong. The Taliban made quick work of the heavily armed and supposedly well-trained Afghan army. Today, we are burning files in the embassy, leaving in a hurry in helicopters and trying to find ways to evacuate loyal Afghanistan interpreters who worked closely with our military.
It is a disgrace that these interpreters are not already protected, and that this departure was so poorly planned. It was so chaotic that Biden had to order 3,000 troops back into Afghanistan to help with the withdrawal of our embassy personnel.
What is the lesson from this debacle? The United States should not be entering any more long-term foreign wars. Nation building never works. It was a spectacular failure in Afghanistan. It was foolhardy to believe that the United States military could remake Afghanistan into a Western democracy. Throughout history, Afghanistan has been very hostile to outside forces. Both the British and the Soviet Union had failed to conquer Afghanistan previously.
Today, there is not an appetite in our country, and we don’t have the money for these costly foreign military operations. Our country is already saddled with trillions of dollars in new debt. We can no longer be the “policeman of the world.” Other countries, including wealthy members of NATO, need to spend more on their own national defense and not rely on the taxpayers of the United States.
We need to focus on the many problems in our country. Currently, the United States is being invaded at our southern border. Projections show that over 2 million people will illegally enter our country from the southern border in 2021.
If we want to find the next mission for our military, we do not have to look all over the world. We need to look at our southern border. This is where the military should be stationed. It would provide additional security and bolster the overwhelmed border patrol.
Instead of nation building around the world, it is time we focused on protecting our nation from a serious threat at our border.
Unfortunately, there is zero chance that President Biden will order our military to provide security on the border. Incredibly, he prefers to continue with business as usual and allow our country to be invaded by illegal immigrants.
Jeff Crouere is the host of “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Sunday on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 a.m. till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the political analyst for WGNO-TV ABC 26 and a columnist for selected publications. For more information, visit his web site at RingsidePolitics.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.