FT.com / Comment / Analysis - The Vietnam moment
By Edward Luce
Published: October 30 2009 19:50 | Last updated: October 30 2009 19:50I confess that I sometimes make wildly outlandish statements just to piss a few people off. This is not one of those occasions.Seven years ago, Dick Cheney proclaimed: “The Taliban is out of business, permanently.” Last week, the former vice-president came close to accusing Barack Obama of lacking the guts to “do what it takes” to win the war against the very same Taliban.
Some time in the next two weeks, Mr Obama is likely to bring months of agonised deliberation to a close when he decides how many more troops to send to Afghanistan. The number, which could be as high as the 40,000 recommended by Stanley McChrystal, the general in charge, will be analysed minutely for what it can achieve on the ground in Afghanistan.
But as Mr Cheney’s contrasting observations illustrate, the more influential war is being fought politically on the ground in America. Somehow, the compulsions of US politics have brought the candidate who electrified America by promising to pull out of Iraq to a position where many of his most ardent backers fear he may be about to get America into another Vietnam.
To eliminate any and all comparisons to Vietnam it is necessary to decide not to let it by being determined to win and you can't do that with incremental steps as Obama is apparently considering. That is exactly what we did that made it impossible to win in Vietnam. Politicians limited the scope and even picked targets. Wars need to be fought to win with over whelming force to save lives on our side and civilians as well
Obama knows less about how to win a war than he does about fixing the economy which is nothing. He is listening most to people who know the least and giving lip service to the Generals. His whole trip to Dover was to throw off criticism and make believe he cares and is giving serious measured thought to the issue.
All he really cares about is the next party or trip to someplace he can be the center of attention.