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Yes Congress, Afghanistan is Your Vietnam, by Andrew J. Bacevich

Fortunately, there are a lot fewer dead in Afghanistan, among both the US military and the native population, than in Vietnam. That is the only positive thing you can say about the US’s engagement in Afghanistan. From Andrew J. Bacevich at theamericanconservative.com:

Does any member have the courage and vision to take responsibility?

20th Century “Angel of Mercy.” D. R. Howe (Glencoe, MN) treats the wounds of Private First Class D. A. Crum (New Brighton, PA), “H” Company, 2nd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, during Operation Hue City, Vietnam, 1968. (Public Domain/USMC)

Just shy of fifty years ago on November 7, 1967, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, met in executive session to assess the progress of the ongoing Vietnam War. Secretary of State Dean Rusk was the sole witness invited to testify. Even today, the transcript of Rusk’s remarks and the subsequent exchange with committee members make for depressing reading.

Responding to questions that ranged from plaintive to hostile, Rusk gave no ground.  The Johnson administration was more than willing to end the war, he insisted; the North Vietnamese government was refusing to do so. The blame lay with Hanoi. Therefore the United States had no alternative but to persist. American credibility was on the line.

By extension, so too was the entire strategy of deterring Communist aggression. The stakes in South Vietnam extended well beyond the fate of that one country, as senators well knew. In that regard, Rusk reminded members of the committee, the Congress had “performed its function…when the key decisions were made”—an allusion to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution,  a de facto declaration of war passed with near unanimous congressional support. None too subtly, Rusk was letting members of the committee know that the war was theirs as much as it was the administration’s.

Yet Fulbright and his colleagues showed little inclination to accept ownership. As a result, the back-and-forth between Rusk and his interrogators produced little of value. Rather than illuminating the problem of a war gone badly awry and identifying potential solutions, the event became an exercise in venting frustration. This exchange initiated by Senator Frank Lausche, Democrat from Ohio, captures the overall tone of the proceedings.

Senator Lausche:  “The debate about what our course in Vietnam should be has now been in progress since the Tonkin Bay resolution. When was that, August 1964?

Senator Wayne Morse (D-Ore.):  “Long before that.”

Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-Tenn.):  “Long before that.”

Senator Fulbright:  “Oh, yes, but that was the Tonkin Bay.”

Senator Lausche:  “For three years we have been arguing it, arguing for what purpose? Has it been to repeal the Tonkin Bay resolution? Has it been to establish justification for pulling out? In the three years, how many times has the Secretary appeared before us?

To continue reading: Yes Congress, Afghanistan is Your Vietnam 

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