Yves here. I’m struck by the relentless lead-story coverage of the Taliban takeover of the formerly US controlled parts of Afghanistan. It sure looks like an awful lot of rice bowls were smashed in the US and UK based on intense and protracted display rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.
The US has been pouring money and lives into the Afghan sinkhole for two decades. The country is a famous loser for empires. Nothing has changed about the terrain or the nature of asymmetrical warfare to change that equation. Like Vietnam, the saner members of the foreign policy officialdom have recognized the US could never win (we’d actually have to control and run the place). Yet prestige and other bizarre ideas kept the slow bleed going.
But this is not the US leaving Vietnam. Vietnam was broadcast into American households every night for years as part of evening news. It was the subject of protests that tore the country apart. Vietnam was also incorrectly depicted as a gateway to China controlling southeast Asia. By contrast, Afghanistan has been kept almost entirely off the airwaves. Few if any Americans see it as having the geopolitical significance attributed to Vietnam. And it’s hard to think ordinary Americans care about it all that much. Hence the peculiarity of the protracted pearl-clutching.