Robert Wright in The New York Times:
[T]hough Vietnam was hugely destructive in human terms, strategically it was just a medium-sized blunder. It was a waste of resources, yes, but the war didn’t make America more vulnerable to enemy attack.
The Afghanistan war does. Just as Al Qaeda planned, it empowers the narrative of terrorist recruiters—that America is at war with Islam. The would-be Times Square bomber said he was working to avenge the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And Major Nidal Hasan, who at Fort Hood perpetrated the biggest post-9/11 terrorist attack on American soil, was enraged by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Could we please stop doing Al Qaeda’s work for it?
Wright also includes a link to a document on “Myths and Realities in the Afghan Debate” put out by his New America Foundation. It offers lots of pragmatic reasons why the war in Afghanistan is untenable: economic reasons, strategic reasons, human-rights reasons.
Left out, inevitably, are moral reasons. Left out is the repentance we’ll need to give up on our rather deadly pride and our quixotic search for Nixonesque “peace with honor.” But, in the meantime, pragmatic reasons can’t hurt.
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How anybody could call the Vietnam War “just a medium-sized blunder” is absolutely beyond me. 3.5 million Vietnamese dead. More than 58,000 Americans dead. An entire region left in ruins, with no Marshall Plan to help rebuild it. And this is a medium-sized blunder? Why? Because it “didn’t make America more vulnerable to enemy attack”? Really? Seriously? So something has to leave America more vulnerable to attack to reach the status of colossal/catastrophic blunder?
I’m sorry, but WEAK. Very, very weak.
I had the same initial reaction as you. It’s pretty distressing language. But he does insist, just before that, that it “was hugely destructive in human terms.” He’s playing with a pretty depressing “strategic” calculus, but at least he is recognizing the fact of what you’re pointing out.