07 August 2011

Rewriting history: what Obama learned from Nixon

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—A couple of years ago, an Afghan-German colleague in Kabul told me the United States would have to achieve victory in Afghanistan, if only for the sake of its own national pride

“Oh no, I suspect Obama will do what Richard Nixon did. The nationalist army occupied Vietnam, drove the United States out, and Pres. Nixon claimed it was an American victory. Obama and his generation of warmongers will do the same. They will go the extraordinary lengths to convince the public that the U.S. achieved something noble, just like another generation of Americans did 40 years ago.”

Outgoing Afghan commander, Gen. David Petraeus testified earlier this year that U.S.-led NATO forces have achieved success in degrading the Taliban, especially in its southern homelands, so that U.S. troop withdrawals are justified. Petraeus, seemingly auditioning for his new post as CIA director in the spring, cherry-picked a few bits of favorable data from the record levels of violence and embellished the emerging myth of victory for the Congress. His comments were dutifully reported as authoritative but then in late June the Taliban resistance launched a spectacular strike on the Intercontinental Hotel and in July assassinated Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half-brother in Kandahar. Taliban fighters now appear to have used a rocket-propelled grenade to take down a Chinook nelicopter in Wardak province in which 30 Americans, including 22 Navy Seals, and six Afghans perished. This is not the trajectory of a military victory.

Off the battlefield, the picture is no prettier. “Afghanistan relies on foreign aid for around 90 percent of its spending, but many international donors are reluctant to channel aid through the country's ministries because of a lack of capacity and rampant corruption,” reported Reuters.

Recasting the U.S. debacle in Afghanistan is far from complete, but the heavy lifting of writing history is under way.

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