Growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s and coming of age in the early 70’s there are a lot of things I remember of those times. There are memories of the birth of rock and roll, the first manned flight into space, the Beetles on Ed Sullivan, the first color television we owned, the race with the Russians to the moon, the loss of Apollo 1, the triumph of Apollo 11, it is a long list of wonderful memories. Of course, there are also those memories of falling on my head off the monkey bars at RR Smith Elementary School, the Cold War, the fear of nuclear attack, the anti-war protests, and the ending of the Vietnam War.
The last is what I would like to remember here for a moment. In 1973, President Nixon and his National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, completed negotiations with North Vietnam to end the conflict. The Communists of the North knew the US government was under tremendous pressure to end the hostilities, and if they could just hold on, drag their feet; they would get everything they wanted. It took the Christmas bombing campaign, Linebacker II, to finally convince them to agree to a truce, with the promise of American withdrawal. We declared success, pulled our forces from the field, and returned control of South Vietnam’s defenses to the South Vietnamese. We all know what happened next. Within a year of our military departure, the North rolled over the defenses of the South and we had to mount an evacuation of those friendly to the U.S. This image is one of the stark reminders of the U.S. failure in that war.
Last year our President announced a unilateral plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 2014, with a small stay behind commitment of some Special Operations Forces to assist the government we put in place. At the time this was hailed as a brilliant move to begin the process of extricating ourselves from this quagmire. I think we are seeing the fruit of that decision in the increasing violence today. The Taliban know the end is insight and they will continue to put pressure on a government that will be increasingly unable to sustain itself. As we see the increased infiltration of government forces they have already achieved a significant victory. We will no longer put American and allied troops at risk by patrolling with Afghani forces to hopefully strengthen their abilities. If you think about it, the Taliban have a simple argument to make. We will be here when the American’s leave, what side will you be on? It will be harder and harder to count on a government favorable to western influence to be there when we leave.
The question for the President is what will change between now and 2014 that argues for us to stay? What vital national security objective sits there demanding our presence? Your choices have lost this war, there will be no Peace with Honor moment, why continue to put American lives at risk?