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"Afghanistan now awaits its Fulbright"

Comparisons between Afghanistan and Vietnam are becoming popular again. Will Senator John Kerry walk in Senator Fulbright's footsteps?

Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote in the Washington Post:

Afghanistan now awaits its Fulbright. It is time for the Senate to make an independent review of the war, and to challenge - as Sen. J.William Fulbright did during the Vietnam war - a president unwilling to end a conflict he knows will not be won. Surely, it is fate that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is Sen. John Kerry. Nearly 40 years ago, as a brave, decorated, young Navy lieutenant returning from Vietnam, he challenged senators to do their duty, saying that each day "someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows . . . that we have made a mistake. . . . How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

Does Sen. Kerry, now steeped in Washington's political culture, have the same courage as that young man? Will he stand up, as Fulbright did before him, to challenge a president of his own party in the nation's best interest? A new generation of young men and women depends on him to lead.

Still haunted by Vietnam, the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry has begun to waver in his support of the Afghanistan war, writes Michael Hirsh, the Chief Correspondent of the National Journal:

Kerry, of course, is all too aware of the Vietnam-Fulbright comparison. But he is quick to note the differences between now and then. "Senator Fulbright was obviously opposed to what Johnson was doing. And I'm trying to work here to refine what we're doing, to see what we can achieve," Kerry says. "There really is an enormous difference between Vietnam and our presence in Afghanistan, and that difference centers on the fact that there really was no realistic national-security threat to the United States of America in Vietnam. There is a realistic national-security threat through the Taliban's affiliation with al-Qaida and al-Qaida's efforts to attack us.. Look at what happened in the Times Square bomber case; look what happened to the airplanes" that were recently threatened by package bombs.

Yet Kerry acknowledges that credible participants in the discussion-among them his old pals Hagel and Biden (at least before the latter acceded to Obama's surge)-argue that it's not that different; that in fact, the Karzai government will never control more than a sliver of the country; that the Afghan military will never be up to snuff; that the Taliban insurgents are not as damaging to American security as al-Qaida; and that with the U.S. effort there now into its 10th year, it's time to wind down and get out.

Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek wrote an article last summer with the title: "John Kerry's Fulbright Moment"


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Pat Patterson on :

Except both Fulbright and Kerry were wrong about the war at that time. The Viet Cong was on the defensive and just about cleared from the Mekong Delta and by the time of the utterly disasterous Tet Offensive they were finished and the NVA had to at least maintain the fiction that it was still fighting a war of national liberation. If Kerry adopts the same policies as Fulbright then we can expect to see a fundamentalist state established in Afghanistan in spite of the promises the US and the ISAF made to rid the country of such murderous ideologues. At least Kerry does not have the racist and segregationist baggage that Fulbright always carried and was always forgiven because he said that right things about US foreign policy to those always willing to blame America.

Pat Patterson on :

I just noticed that Katrina vanden Heuvel refers to Afghanistan as our nation's longest war. Except we fought an ongoing war against the Indians for over 200 years as an independent nation and probably another 150 before that.

Joe Noory on :

Kerry was brave? Are you high? You're also forgetting about Kerry's support of Ted Kennedy's initative in the early 1980's to UNILATERALLY disarm the US as a "peace gesture" to the USSR, operating on the assumption, that they would surely do the same. The idea was foolish, and anyone who supported it can be fairly and objectively said to hate the people they were pretending to defend. Had anyone listened to them, whoever there would be left to talk about it now would be smugly telling their nodding friends that the "cold war couldn't be won" in precisely the same way. The US-Veitnam war was a proxy war with China, kept well in the front of the mind of the Soviets, who could plainly see that their internal discussion and assumption that the US would not fight another difficult war due to "America's bourgoisie and comforts" was plainly wrong. It held the prospects of hot war (in Europe, specifically) in check. It kept the cold-war cold, and saved your sorry, self-congatulating selves from capitulating under the prospect of Soviet invasion, if not from a Soviet invasion itself. Because if the US had not fought in Korea and Vietnam, the precedents and evidence would have been there, and Moscow would have seen an economically developing western Europe as an inevitable threat insurmountable in the future in their eyes - something to be contained long before that would happen. So thank those aging former soldiers. They kept the phrases "combat in the Rhein delta" and the "Fasching offensive" out of your vocabulary, and kept you out of an FDJ hemd or a gumdrop helmet.

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