- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2010

Jeffrey T. Kuhner offered a dire warning about Afghanistan (“Who lost Afghanistan?” Commentary, Friday) that should be put every day on the masthead of every paper in the country: “Afghanistan is not Iraq. It is the graveyard of empires - a nation whose rugged terrain and collection of disparate warlords and tribes is ideally suited for guerrilla warfare. … Eventually, the fierce, primitive mountains, caves and fighters of Afghanistan wore down much superior forces, slowly bleeding them to death.”

But then Mr. Kuhner reverses course. He says our only problem is the withdrawal deadline and insufficient troop levels and air power. But the enemy can wait us out regardless of any withdrawal deadline. It knows that if we stay, we would - paraphrasing Mr. Kuhner - get dragged into a protracted war of attrition and slowly bleed to death.

In Vietnam we lost - and lost countless U.S. lives - even with 540,000 troops and dropping more bomb tonnage than in all of World War II. Vietnam supposedly taught us not to get into these unwinnable wars, in which the enemy retreats but returns to win because we do have to leave sometime and the enemy knows it.

This is how locals usually win. It is how Russia beat Napoleon and Hitler, Algeria beat France, Vietnam beat France and the United States and, as Mr. Kuhner says, Afghanistan beat Britain and the Soviet Union. It is how we ourselves beat the British in our own Revolution. It also is why, rightly or wrongly, President Truman used the atomic bomb on Japan rather than lose a million soldiers trying to take over that small, mountainous island.

President Obama has only one option: getting out and concentrating, as John F. Kennedy also understood, on the only essential and winnable war, for the world’s hearts and minds.

Meanwhile arguments about any value of winning in Afghanistan become irrelevant if we can’t win anyway - any more than could earlier “empires.”


Cambridge, Mass.

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