2021 Afghanistan is not 1975 Vietnam

The differences run deep, despite superficial similarites and show the Afghanistan retreat to be a much more negative game changer. Op-ed.

Amb. (ret.) Yoram Ettinger ,

Mountains of Afghanistan
Mountains of Afghanistan
iStock

1. In 1975, the US disengagement from Vietnam fulfilled the goal of the Viet Cong, thus ending the US-Vietnam conflict.

In 2021, the US disengagement from Afghanistan advances – but does not fulfill – the goal of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and therefore does not end the conflict between the US and Islamic terrorism.

In 1975, the vision and strategic goal of the Viet Cong was limited to the territory of Vietnam, consistent with an eventual peaceful-coexistence and cooperation with the resourceful US.

In 2021, the 14-century-old vision and strategic goal of Islamic terrorism is not limited to the territory of Afghanistan. It is driven by fanatic imperialism, striving to subordinate the "infidel" West - and especially "The Great US Satan" - which is perceived to be the key obstacle on the way to Islamic global domination. Islamic terrorism is determined to establish a global Islamic society, ruled by the Quran and Sharia ("divine law"), which is inconsistent with peaceful-coexistence with the "infidel" US, irrespective of its involvement in Afghanistan. In fact, it requires a decisive war against the US, including terrorism on the US mainland.

In 1975, the US was involved in a Vietnam civil war, faced with the choice of fighting in the Vietnam trenches, or disengaging and sparing itself a war.

In 2021, the US is fighting against an intrinsic, anti-US Islamic terrorism, faced with the choice of confronting Islamic terrorists in their own trenches (which is costly), or disengaging and gradually shifting the war to the US trenches (which is dramatically costlier).

2. In 2021, US policy-makers are reminded that the Taliban and all rogue regimes are not impressed by – and are not willing to adopt – the Western values of human rights, democracy, international law and peaceful-coexistence.

Moreover, rogue regimes are not impressed by US diplomacy, as they are by effective US counter-terrorism and posture of deterrence.

Islamic terrorists don't seek popularity in the international community. They seek to intimidate the international community all the way to submission, peacefully or militarily.

3. The US retreat in the face of Islamic terrorism has severely eroded the US posture of deterrence, heating up the volcanic Arab Tsunami (mislabeled as the "Arab Spring"), which has traumatized the Arab Street since 2010. Furthermore, the erosion of the US posture of deterrence has recharged the fierceness of all rogue regimes (e.g., Iran's Ayatollahs, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates from Pakistan through the Middle East and Northwest Africa, Yemen's Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority), as well as the megalomaniacal aspirations of Turkey's Erdogan.

Thus, the US retreat has intensified existential threats to every pro-US Arab regime (e.g., Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco).

The US disengagement from Afghanistan, along with its eagerness to reenter the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran's Ayatollahs, the enhanced ties with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and the US, and the US pressure exerts on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, may drive these pro-US Arab regimes closer to China and Russia, which are major beneficiaries of the current US policy.

4. The US retreat from Afghanistan has jeopardized the national security of India – a pro-Western bastion of democracy, stability and effective capabilities - which is facing a multitude of threats by internal and external Islamic terrorism, a nuclear Pakistan and China.

5. The severely flawed Afghanistan-oriented assessments made by the US foreign policy and national security establishment were consistent with the systematic gap between State Department conceptions, on the one hand, and Middle East reality, on the other hand.

For example:

-In 1948, the State Department determined that the newly-born Jewish State would be helpless against a concerted Arab military assault, would be pro-Soviet and undermine US-Arab relations.

-During the 1950s, the US courted Egyptian President Nasser, who downplayed the lavish US offers, and became an ardent pro-Soviet and anti-US leader.

-In 1978/79, the US betrayed the pro-US Shah of Iran and embraced the Ayatollah Khomeini, assuming that he was pro-US, driven by human rights and democracy.

-In 1980-90, the US collaborated with Saddam Hussein, assuming that "the enemy (Iraq) of my enemy (Iran) is my friend," naively providing a green light for his invasion of Kuwait.

-During 1993-2000, the US hailed Arafat as a messenger of peace, worthy of the Nobel Prize for Peace and annual US foreign aid.

-In 2009, the US stabbed in the back pro-US Egyptian President Mubarak and embraced the anti-US Muslim Brotherhood, which constitutes an existential threat to every pro-US Arab regime.

-Until the eruption of the 2011 Syrian civil war, the State Department considered Bashar Assad a reformer.

-In 2011, the US led the NATO offensive against Qaddafi, which transformed Libya into a major platform of global Islamic terrorism and civil wars.

-In 2015, the US engineered the nuclear accord with Iran's Ayatollahs, irrespective of their fanatical, repressive, terroristic and megalomaniacal ideology and track record, assuming that Iran's Ayatollahs were credible partners for negotiations, amenable to peaceful-coexistence with their Arab Sunni neighbors, and renouncing their core ideology.

6. The US and British track record in the Middle East was criticized by London University Prof. Elie Kedourie, who was a game-changing historian of the Middle East: "The very attempts to modernize Middle Eastern society, to make it Western must bring about evils, which may be greater than the benefits…. The Muslim theory of international relations recognizes only two possible situations: war on the 'infidel' or his subjugation to the 'faithful.' Peace with him de jure is hostility until he recognizes the authority of the Muslim ruler…. The comity of nations, or the sanctity of treaties, the rules of natural justice, or decent respect for the opinions of mankind, are quite alien and largely unintelligible to the Middle East (The Chatham House Version, pp 1-12)."

7. In 2021, Israel would be advised to study US policy in Afghanistan and the US track record in the Middle East, accepting US proposals on the Palestinian Arab issue and the Golan Heights with a grain of salt, subordinating the temptation for peace-in-our-time to hard core Middle East reality.

8. In 2021, in view of the Afghanistan and Gaza experience and the Palestinian trac'West Bank'), lest it yields a mini-Afghanistan or a mega-Gaza on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, which dominate Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and 80% of Israel's population and infrastructures.

9. In 2021, against the backdrop of a gradual US withdrawal from the geo-strategically critical Middle East, and the intensifying threats to regional stability, Israel stands out as the most effective, reliable and democratic beachhead and force-multiplier for the US, and the most effective "life insurance agent" for all pro-US Arab regimes.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, is author of "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative"and can be read at https://bit.ly/2W5MrGq

Yoram will be available for speaking engagements in the US during October 5-19, 2021. Topics: US benefits outweigh foreign aid to Israel; President Biden's Middle East policy; 400-year-old roots of US-Israel kinship; Myth of Arab demographic time bomb; Arab talk vs. Arab walk on Palestinians; Is the Palestinian issue the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict and a core cause of regional turbulence? Middle East reality vs. Western conventional wisdom, etc.



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