By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator
2009 -- One would think by now that we had learned the lesson of Vietnam:
i.e., is that you couldn't build and destroy at the same time. We'd come
by day with gunships and flamethrowers and clear the Viet Cong from the
village and then back to camp at night. Charlie would come back into the
village at night and we would go again in the day. We didn't go forward.
We didn't go back. We never controlled the area. We kept this up for ten
years with 58,000 killed and 378,000 wounded. Then finally gave up.
As we said
in World War II: "Be sure you own it before you do anything."
Now in Iraq we've done the same thing. This morning they're still blowing
each other up. Never complete control. In Iraq we should have announced
that anyone with IED equipment or material had until this time next week
to deposit it at designated places. After that, those possessing IED material
would be publicly hung. Now you own it. Now you can set up schools for
girls. But today, we put a picture of girls in school in the newspaper;
claim "Mission Accomplished;" and squat, waiting for enough
natives to be trained to take over. And the losers are supposed to train
the winners. In the meantime, GIs are expendable.
Apparently, the Afghans don't like foreign takeovers or presence. The Afghans didn't like the British, didn't like the Russians, and now don't like us. This week's The Wall Street Journal relates under the heading "Taliban Now Winning" that: "The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U. S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops ."
years, the question is not whether we need more troops, but whether the
Afghanistan war is worth the life of one more troop. General Barrett McCafferty
reports on TV that our commitment under the new strategy could take ten
to twenty-five years. The problem is not our fighting men and women. It's
the command. We have no idea of taking complete control - of owning Afghanistan.
It's the policy of "build and destroy." Let's assume that after
years of "build and destroy" we have won. Victory is ours. What
have we got? Anyone that reads Elizabeth Rubin's report in last week's
The New York Times Magazine entitled, "Karzai in His Labyrinth,"
will have to agree that at best we've won a narco state. Rubin reports:
"The Afghan president is isolated and distrusted, and even if he
is re-elected this month, that's not likely to change."
we Democrats, like the Republicans, believe that, in order to get reelected,
we must keep the war going. More troops? Afghanistan is not worth the
life of one more troop.
Senator Hollings of South Carolina served 38 years in the United States Senate, and for many years was Chairman of the Commerce, Space, Science & Transportation Committee. He is the author of the recently published book, Making Government Work (University of South Carolina Press, 2008).
© 2009, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.
About Fritz Hollings
NEWS: Hollings receives French honor
Receive commentary via The Huffington Post
The Hollings legacy
Read the new book