Letters to the Editor

Lessons from the past ignored in Afghanistan

As a young Army captain returning from war in January 1969, criticism of the war by retired military officers made my blood boil. Now here I am doing exactly that.

Afghanistan is not Vietnam, nor is it Iraq. It is a resource-poor country with a tribal society, corrupt government and illiterate and unreliable army and police forces. When we depart, what do we believe we will have changed? Is it realistic to believe we can significantly alter the fabric of this country in a period of time acceptable to the U.S. public?

We must limit our exposure to the minimum needed to eliminate the export of terrorism from Afghanistan to the U.S. This suggests employment of mainly CIA and special operations types, not conventional forces.

While we carefully avoid any reference to our Vietnam experience, two clear lessons should have been learned: One, placing large numbers of U.S. military among a populace that doesn't want us will never win their hearts and minds. Two, our national will to sustain and support such conflicts is temporary.

We are tired of this war, one where we now read snippets near the back pages of our papers about the latest engagement or suicide bomber killing X number of civilians and military personnel.

That alone says we may care skin deep -- but we don't care to the bone. Time to leave.

Colin McArthur

St. Helena Island