May 28, 2002
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We'll Be Home By Christmas?
Give me a Break!

Rumsfeld shaking hands recently with troops in Afghanistan/Reuters

Here we go again. Just a few months ago, it was the Secretary of Defense saying, 30,000 troops in Afghanistan and now it is 60,000. Does this sound faintly reminiscent of Vietnam. If it doesn't, it should. If you saw the movie, We Were Soldiers, the first major battle of Vietnam in '65, a scant couple of years later, we had a half million soldiers spread throughout the little country about the size of New Jersey. To a modern day commander, there are never enough troops. Whether it is simply the desire to have overwhelming firepower, career boast, whatever; it is always more and more. Westmoreland convinced Johnson, "Give me more troops and We'll be home by Christmas." Give me a Break!

Americans who care, maybe 60%, had a semblance of agreement that we had to do what we've done: We have to go after terrorism. We've done the job but now it is exit time, at least not more troops. We've had our three phases: air power, chase'em down, and now the cleanup. And, we are going to leave Special Ops troops; but 60,000!!! We're scripting a formula for disaster and Vietnam revisited. The Taliban from time to time is going to rear its ugly head-it is the nature of the beast. The Warlords are not going peacefully into the night, and let's face it, we can't keep corruption at bay.

What we can do is be smart, help as best we can and plan to be in Afghanistan for a long time, but with limitations. We have to allow an Afghan Army to form, minimum of a year and to play a stabilizing role in rebuilding the country. We can do this. We may not even be able to own all the country-Afghanistan may not even be able to own all the country.

What we need is an entire Pentagon effort at getting out of Afghanistan; we're going to keep a presence but we can't hang around indefinitely. It is a "fast train to nowhere." Watching the HBO special the other night, Path To War, about LBJ, made my heart hurt, not to mention max anxiety-the entrenchment of Americans in Vietnam. The pain of LBJ with the realization that he could not get us out of Vietnam.

This is a war that is going on forever. Let's get the majority of our troops out, leave the special operations types but not make Afghanistan a home away from home. It is a no win war and we have been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.

We've heard of mission creep, if we are not careful, there is going to be troop creep. It simply happens. It is already happening. The military in some places is already taking on that semi- permanent look. The 101st at Kandahar Air Base already has a gym. It will be no time until there are PXs, tattoo parlors, business working girls, camp followers, and plywood hooches- Little America.

This permanence happens and is built into the military mindset. And, we can't listen to the military leadership-they only know the "party" line; and, it is scary, they believe it. Some of the look of permanence fits into that category of morale building, i.e., hot meals, email, and nice sleeping arrangements. We applaud making life better for the troops, but this ain't no day at the beach. Get this: reports say that now the troops are having to adhere to that time evolved tradition of saluting. What will follow are spit-shined boots and starched uniforms.

It happened in Vietnam before we could even say Dien Bien Phu (the French's Custer's Last Stand}. What always irritated me about Vietnam when I was in country and as I've cogitated my navel afterwards, are the incredible inequities of that sorry war. GIs are dying in the jungles of Vietnam, and just a few clicks away, there are others hanging out in bars and enjoying the goodies of home or close to it. We can't let it happen but it will and will happen right before our very eyes and before we realize it. Please! Help! NOWAY.

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