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Letter to the editor

Afghanistan: A huge mistake that led to a bigger one

February 14, 2013

President Barack Obama has handed down an “out of country” date. No doubt the hawks in Congress will bark and bluster. Most Americans, including most politicians, have no sense of history.

Afghanistan is not really a geographic country. It is a territory overseen by a host of warlords who each claim an area, but also despise each other. That is until an outside force intrudes. In the past 1,100 years or so many outside armies have tried to conquer the territory called Afghanistan. All have failed. The British tried twice. It is said that when planning an offensive, they also planned their ultimate retreat after the eventual ambush.

The USSR, with all their military might and the ability to drive across the invisible border, finally gave up after years of humiliating defeats.

So, how and why did America decide to go to war in Afghanistan? American was in an uproar after 9-11. Some felt we had to strike out at someone. Even though none of the 19 terrorists were from Afghanistan, that is who we decided to attack. Fifteen of the 19 were from Saudi Arabia. Key point here: Afghanistan has no oil.

It is now almost 12 years later and we are still in Afghanistan. We could hold the entire territory, but it would require a million troops and the minute we cut back the Taliban would reappear. Our tanks, artillery and aircraft are virtually useless against an enemy that does not wear a uniform. Today’s terrorists learned from history, especially the North Vietnamese methods of war in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

America, on the other hand, has not learned from history. After the French were routed at Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, we decided we could save the world from Ho Chi Minh. Years later we left in a panic after suffering 50,000 dead soldiers.

Again in 2001, historians would have warned, and many probably did, about getting involved in Afghanistan. The Afghans did not attack us. They have no army, navy or air force. In fact, the entire Afghan economy is no larger than that of St. Croix County, especially if you exclude their heroin production.

People have asked me why I write to college students. You have yet to affect America in a major way. All of us who went before you have befouled the economy, the environment and even the educational system. I’m hoping you, and those who follow you, will learn from our mistakes. Much of that learning comes from paying attention to history.

By the way, in my title “Afghanistan, a huge mistake which led to a bigger one,” the bigger mistake was the war in Iraq.