Posts Tagged ‘State’

Refighting the Last War: Afghanistan and the Vietnam Template

Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason. Military Review, November/December 2009.


By misunderstanding the basic nature of the enemy, the United States is fghting the wrong war again, just as we did in Vietnam. It is hard to defeat an enemy you do not understand.

Elections don’t make democracies; democracies make elections.

As Jeffrey Record … notes, “the fundamental political obstacle to an enduring American success in Vietnam [was] a politically illegitimate, militarily feckless, and thoroughly corrupted South Vietnamese client regime.” Substitute the word “Afghanistan” for the words “South Vietnam” in these quotations and the descriptions apply precisely to today’s government in Kabul. Like Afghanistan, South Vietnam at the national level was a massively corrupt collection of self-interested warlords, many of them deeply implicated in the proftable opium trade, with almost nonexistent legitimacy outside the capital city. The purely military gains achieved at such terrible cost in our nation’s blood and treasure in Vietnam never came close to exhausting the enemy’s manpower pool or his will to fght, and simply could not be sus-
tained politically by a venal and incompetent set of dysfunctional state institutions where self-interest
was the order of the day.

No Pashtun would ever identify himself by his province, where we are attempting to impose external governance. Rural Pashtuns thus have no perceivable political interest in this keystone of international military and political effort in Afghanistan.

“Extending the reach of the central government” is precisely the wrong strategy in Afghanistan because it is exactly what the rural people do not want. The level of coercive social change that would be required to actually implement this radical social revolution in Afghanistan is beyond our national means.

U.S. official resigns over Afghan war

Karen DeYoung. Washington Post, 27 October 2009.

For the fulltext and a key excerpt from Matthew P. Hoh’s resignation letter see

State Dept Project Signals Foreign Policy Shift: Review Could Shift Resources to Civilian Agencies for Foreign Development

Spencer Ackerman. The Washington Independent, 22 October 2009.

The Urgent Need to Demilitarize the National Security State

Melvin A. Goodman, truthout, 20 October 2009.

Afghanistan and Pakistan: The graveyard for U.S. foreign policy planning?

Gordon Adams. Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 08 October 2009.

A Team Player Who Stands Apart

Glenn Kessler. Washington Post, 19 September 2009.

Resignation Letter of Matthew P. Hoh as Senior Civilian Representative for the U.S. Government in Zabul Province Afghanistan

Matthew P. Hoh. 10 September 2009. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute Website.


The Pashtun insurgency, which is composed of multiple, seemingly infinite, local groups, is fed by what is perceived by the Pashtun people as a continued and sustained assault, going back centuries, on Pashtun land, culture, traditions and religion by internal and external enemies. The U.S. and NATO presence and operations in Pashtun valleys and villages, as well as Afghan army and police units that are led and composed of non-Pashtun soldiers and police, provide an occupation force against which the insurgency is justified. In both the RC East and South, I have observed the the bulk of the insurgency fights not for the white banner of the Taliban, but rather against the presence of foreign soldiers and taxes imposed by an unrepresentative government in Kabul.

Reader Comment:

I am now an old man. In the 60/70s I served under John P Vann in Vietnam for a total of over 2 years. I have read Mr Hoh´s letter with great interest. It reminds me of the integrity, compassion and patriotism that Mr Vann displayed, in words and deeds over and again. There was nobody even close, except Ron Ziegler and General Krulak on a good day. Time and pride wore him down, nobody can in the end escape the green machine. For Mr Vann it worked on his vanity until he became Mr B52. And if it could wear down Mr Vann, nobody is safe. I do hope that Mr Hoh gets listened to, that he is supported and that we get out of a war in Afghanistan that we do want to win and that we do not presently have the courage to get out of. ~ Ola Kristofersson

US and British Governments Concerned about Overstretching Resources

Rebecca Williams. Budget Insight, 12 August 2009.