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Note To Obama: Read A Book

history book

I find it interesting that our leaders can continually fail to learn from history.  The Vietnamese had a saying that they defeated the Chinese even though it took 2000 years.  But we were hell bent to prove we could lose there quicker.  And we did.  The history of Afghanistan has shown it to be the graveyard of empires, as the saying goes.  Again we seem to be trying to prove that we too can join the ranks of other empires defeated in the harsh terrain of Afghanistan.  I concur with the advice of Mullah Omar, read a frickin book.  One on the history of that country.

Taliban Leader Tells ‘Invaders’ To Study History

The Taliban’s reclusive leader said in a Muslim holiday message Saturday that the U.S. and NATO should study Afghanistan’s long history of war, in a pointed reminder that foreign forces have had limited military success in the country.

The message from Mullah Omar comes less than a month before the eighth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban for hosting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

This year has been the deadliest of the conflict for U.S. and NATO troops, and political support at home for the war is declining. Taliban attacks have spiked around Afghanistan in the last three years, and the militants now control wide swaths of territory.

On Saturday, bombs targeting military vehicles in the south where the Taliban are increasingly powerful, killed six people.

In his message for the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which ends the fasting month of Ramadan, Omar said the U.S. and NATO should study the history of Alexander the Great, whose forces were defeated by Pashtun tribesmen in the 4th century.

Alexander of Macedon, Britain, the Soviet Union and others.  All failed to successfully occupy and tame this region of the world.

“We would like to point out that we fought against the British invaders for 80 years from 1839 to 1919 and ultimately got independence by defeating” Britain, a statement attributed to Omar said.

Not quite 2000 years, but England left defeated.  If we think our technological superiority will yield success then clearly we have failed to learn the lessons that Vietnam should have taught us.  General Giap’s strategy proved to be a winning one, though costly.  In answer to our technological superiority he  sacrificed large numbers to get in close so that the technological might of the U.S. could be diminished.   The Vietnamese were not going to tolerate foreign occupation and were willing to fight to the last person to prevent it.  We do not necessarily see the same tactics applied in Afghanistan, but one only needs to look to the way that the Soviet Union was defeated there.

Aldous Huxley once said:

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

The lesson that a protracted guerilla war is not tolerable to modern western societies seems one that ought not to have been forgotten or discarded.  As the French discovered in Vietnam as well as in Algiers, as we discovered in Vietnam, as Britain discovered in various parts of the world including Afghanistan, the people will not tolerate their countries’ mounting casualties, the indiscriminate killing of civilians and a nebulous enemy that cannot be destroyed in open regular warfare.  U.S. Army Colonel Harry Summers at a meeting that the North Vietnamese never won a battle against U.S. troops to which General Giap, the commander of the NVA was said to reply, “Yes, and that is completely irrelevant.”  And it was.  We left and all our efforts there just casualties and bad memories.

The situation we are facing in Afghanistan now?

Militant ambushes have become increasingly sophisticated and deadly, and U.S. troops say the Taliban is no longer the ragtag force the military first faced in late 2001. Civilian deaths and a corrupt Afghan government have turned many toward the militants, who have pushed into northern Afghanistan this year for the first time.

Eight years on.  How long will we continue to try to disprove that the lessons of history can be ignored?  A twist on the Santayana quote is that those of us who have learned the lessons of history are doomed to watch fools repeat them.

Hopefully our leaders catch on quickly.  So far they have failed miserably.

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