Recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates proclaimed that taking U.S. soldiers out of Afghanistan too quickly would jeopardize the coalition's achievements made during the last 18 months. What achievements is Gates talking about?
Even in light of the recent anti-American rioting and the murder of two innocent American military advisers, Gates stands firm in his commitment even though the long-term Afghanistan goal — defeat terrorism, create stability and a democratic-style government — can't be achieved.
Apparently, neither the White House nor the Pentagon learned from Vietnam. In 1966, New York Times reporter Harrison Salisbury interviewed North Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Von Dong. Asked Von Dong: "How long do you Americans want to fight, Mr. Salisbury? One year? Three years? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? We will be happy to accommodate you."
Von Dong explained precisely why defeating insurgents in their own backyard is impossible — invaders can't outlast them. Ask the Russians. During its decade-long Afghanistan invasion from 1979 to 1989, the Soviet Armed Forces suffered nearly 15,000 fatalities before withdrawing. If you want to put the most positive possible spin on that grim statistic, you could say that the 1,200 American deaths since 2001 are minor by comparison — little comfort to the families of those who died, however.
Nevertheless, in what sounds like echoes from Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford about Vietnam and George W. Bush about Iraq, the White House and Pentagon insist that the wave of violence against Americans will not derail the war strategy in Afghanistan or speed up the calendar for bringing American forces home.
Under current strategy, tens of thousands of U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan at least through the end of this year. By the end of 2014, Afghan forces would have full control of the country's security.
Democrats and Republicans have said the timetable should move up. Polling taken last summer indicates that nearly 80 percent of Americans are war-weary. They want troop reduction to begin as soon as possible.
Imagine what American opinion is today after more than a week watching CNN televise the Afghan protests over the inadvertent Quran burning, plus the revelation that the war costs U.S. taxpayers $2 billion weekly! If made available for domestic spending, the fortune wasted on the futile Afghan war could be used to shore up Medicare or Social Security, rebuild roads and airports or dozens of other more worthwhile pursuits that would benefit all Americans.
I'm no fan of presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich. But I do endorse Gingrich's spot-on advice to President Obama. Saying that it's impossible to "fix" Afghanistan, Gingrich recommends that the U.S. tell Afghans to figure out how to "live your own miserable lives."
As for those in the White House, the Pentagon and the Beltway who claim that the U.S. can't pull out now, singer-songwriter Paul Simon offered the winning strategy in the chorus of his classic, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."
Here it is: "You just slip out the back, Jack/Make a new plan, Stan/You don't need to be coy, Roy/Just get yourself free. Hop on the bus, Gus/you don't need to discuss much/Just drop off the key, Lee/and get yourself free."
Simon's plan is easy to follow, has the support of the American majority and would be in everyone's best interest — including Afghanistan, which has never been enamored of the U.S presence.
Joe Guzzardi retired from the Lodi Unified School District in 2008 and lives in Pittsburgh. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.