Printable version

Afghanistan -- not necessary
By ERNEST F. HOLLINGS, former U. S. senator


APRIL 5, 2010 -- One of the best of writers and observers of the war in Afghanistan, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, writes: "The coming battle for control of this ancient crossroad city [Kandahar] will be the toughest challenge of the war in Afghanistan - not because it will be bloody, necessarily, but because it will require the hardest item for U. S. commanders to deliver, which is an improvement in governance." Question: Are we to ask GIs to lay down their lives for "an improvement in governance?" Is this kind of war necessary? After eight years of trying?

I was "a hard charger" on the war in Vietnam. In fact, the motion for the last $500 million that went into the Vietnam War was made by me on the Senate Appropriations Committee. I thought the Vietnamese were willing to fight and die for democracy. Some were, but a lot more were willing to give up their lives over ten years for communism. Now I have learned that people want other types of government other than democracy. I've been to Hanoi; visited John McCain's prison, and the people of Vietnam are happy.

In 1966, I was off shore Hanoi on the aircraft carrier, Kitty Hawk - as our brave pilots bombed POL supplies in Hanoi, only to precariously land back on the carrier and be court-martialed if they strayed to other targets. I felt the strategy of "build and destroy" at the same time was wrong. In World War II we cleared the area and kept it cleared. In Vietnam, we cleared the area in the daytime and let the Viet Cong come in at night. Are we to spend another eight years force feeding democracy in Afghanistan?

"Our allies in Afghanistan have put us on notice that they're pulling out - Afghanistan is not necessary. With the President of Afghanistan campaigning against us, it is time we learn that Afghanistan is not necessary - that it's necessary to 'be gone.'"

-- Ernest F. Hollings

Afghanistan didn't start the war on terror. Sixteen of the nineteen that attacked us on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arabian Osama bin Laden escaped Afghanistan with his supporters within weeks to Pakistan. We didn't make war with Pakistan. The drones fired on targets in Pakistan created more terrorists than they eliminated. Pakistan now puts on a show on the Afghanistan border for United States military and domestic aid. But Pakistan doesn't trust the United States because we are better friends with India. The one thing we learned in Charlie Wilson's War is that Afghans don't like or trust foreigners. President Karzai in the morning news is campaigning against the UN and all foreigners because he knows this makes him popular with the Afghans.

I don't know where we got the idea that Afghans want a democracy. I helped liberate Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, sixty-seven years ago, and they have yet to opt for democracy. In the Muslim world, more important than freedom and democracy is tribe and religion. I don't think we can teach the warlords in Afghanistan to stop growing poppies and start growing wheat. In fact, the recent headlines indicate we've already given up on "stop growing poppies." Victory in Afghanistan, at best, will be a warlord narco-democracy with a corrupt president.

General McCrystal is a brave soldier with a flawed strategy. He has fine-tuned the policy of "build and destroy," to kill and make friends - all in a country where you can't tell who is the enemy. They all run around in nightgowns and beards. Marines are taught to fight and kill, not occupy.

Afghanistan and Pakistan were getting along well until the U. S. came along with our "war on terror." Neither country inflicted terror on the United States, and the peoples of both were enjoying a culture different than democracy. After eight years of putting their countries in turmoil with thousands of their neighbors killed, they resent and resist the foreign attempt to change their way of life. A poll in both countries would show that they wished the U. S. "be gone." Our allies in Afghanistan have put us on notice that they're pulling out - Afghanistan is not necessary. With the President of Afghanistan campaigning against us, it is time we learn that Afghanistan is not necessary - that it's necessary to "be gone."

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).

© 2010, Ernest F. Hollings. All rights reserved. Contact us for republication permission.

About Fritz Hollings

Ernest F. Hollings served the public for 56 years -- 38 years in the United States Senate and as South Carolina's governor, lieutenant governor and a member of the S.C. House of Representatives.

Today, Hollings continues to be influential in public affairs and offers this Web site as a compendium of current and past positions on public issues. Learn more about Fritz Hollings.

NEWS: Hollings receives French honor

France honored retired U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings on in 2013 by awarding him the Legion of Honor for his World War II service. More.

Receive commentary via The Huffington Post

Please visit Sen. Hollings' section of The Huffington Post where you can get an RSS of his columns, subscribe by email or use social media.

The Hollings legacy

Click here to learn more about Hollings' impressive and distinguished record of public service.

2014 commentaries

Previous commentaries

Read the new book

The University of South Carolina Press in 2008 published Making Government Work, a new book by Sen. Hollings. Learn more.