Why Afghanistan is not a "New" Vietnam
Since the end of President George W. Bush's presidency, with the war in Iraq turning decidedly in our favor, Afghanistan earned the moniker of a "forgotten war." Following suit were statements that Afghanistan was a new-age Vietnam; these wild statements have continued to this day. However, these claims have no basis in reality. They are incorrect and short-sighted trivialities. Here is why.
1. The war in Afghanistan has been incorrectly dubbed "the longest American war."
Read on CNN and you will hear repeatedly that Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history. It sounds slick to news reporters and it makes every story sound that much more important. But it is wrong. The war in Vietnam lasted at least one decade, and the case can be made that it lasted from 1959 until 1975, when Saigon fell to North Vietnam. Unfortunately, the incorrect label is unlikely to be shaken from Afghanistan.
2. The number of lives lost in Afghanistan is minuscule compared to Vietnam.
Let me say first and unequivocally that life is precious and that any and every death should be mourned. The life of a soldier cannot be quantified. In our statistic-centric society, however, it is still important to reference hard numbers. As of June 30, 2010, the United States has lost 1,147 brave men and women. Yet, the average fatalities per year of U.S. intervention in Vietnam cost twice the entirety of the Afghanistan conflict. In its entirety, 58,226 American men and women lost their lives in Vietnam.
3. Iraq was supposedly the "new Vietnam" before Afghanistan.
Before the success of the surge and extra cooperation from natives in the country, Iraq was constantly called the new Vietnam. I'm sure you all remember this ridiculousness. And I'm also sure that you know that the people who made this claim were wrong. Now that the war in Iraq is operating more smoothly, political commentators have decided that Afghanistan should be dubbed Vietnam #2. And you know what? Any and every war that the United States deals with over the next 50 years will draw comparisons to Vietnam, regardless of whether it is deserved.
The war in Afghanistan is not Vietnam and is not a "new" Vietnam. Can it become a modern equivalent? Maybe, but that time is certainly not now and may never come. With General Petraeus leading the war effort, I have faith the war is winnable.