Book Club

Friday, October 16, 2009


Two books about the Vietnam War are reportedly shaping the policy debate about Afghanistan. One is circulating among military circles and the other is being passed around the White House. All this reading is making The New Yorker's George Packer a bit nervous. He explains why.

Comments [4]

Geoffrey Madden from Australia

I was struggling to find in this segment any indication that the US was not the only country fighting in Afganistan. Surely the principle difference from Vietnam is that only Australia was involved in Vietnam with America whereas in Afganistan there is a broad spectrum of countries involved.

Oct. 22 2009 04:21 AM


Afghanistan Is the New Afghanistan

Turns out when the Soviets left Afghanistan the government they left behind remained in power until the Soviet Union itself collapsed. And the Mujha-da-Wha-Cha-Ma-Call-it didn't show up in Moscow even though you evidently can walk from Kand-da-what to Moscow(according to google maps). Who knew?

Oct. 18 2009 03:23 PM
Matthew Schuld from Kalamazoo

Change the last line to "individuals we were actually seeking."

Oct. 17 2009 07:58 AM
Matthew Schuld from Kalamazoo

The premise this article begins from is laughable: “I still agree with the view of other historians, especially Neil Sheehan in ‘A Bright Shining Lie,’ that the U.S. could not have won in Vietnam because we were fighting Vietnamese nationalism.” What does it mean to “win” in Vietnam? What is our track record of installing successful democratic governments in other Cold War conflicts—Central America, Indonesia, Greece? It is disgraceful that 40 years after Vietnam we still mull over the subject like we are the victims, only reaching for the most benevolent aims yet failing because we misunderstood the situation. We killed 4 million Vietnamese civilians! We’ve directly and indirectly caused the deaths of thousands of Afghan civilians, and yet it continues to be discussed as some internal struggle all Americans must face: how many civilian deaths are acceptable if Afghanistan has freedom. A more rational historian than those cited in this article has said, “We judge ourselves by our ideals, others by their actions. It is a great convenience.”

Everyone else in the world seems to be capable of grasping that our invasion of Vietnam and Afghanistan is an act of aggression. Remember those days when the warlords were our allies? Were we worried about freedom then? And that time we sold arms to and trained Osama bin Laden and his associates? How about that really wonderful time we had bombing the hell out of the Afghan civilian population after 9/11 when we were hunting for bin Laden and a sum of 250 people max. We only had to kill 2000 civilians to not find any of the individuals we were actually sought.

Oct. 17 2009 07:56 AM

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