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Similarities drawn from America's exit from Vietnam and Afghanistan

The United States has fought in several wars since the Second World War. These wars had various effects on the political and economic climate of the USA and the world. This has led to several different ways in which the US military has withdrawn from the wars in these countries. The nations where the US has been involved militarily in recent decades include Vietnam and Afghanistan. This essay seeks to argue that, for the most part, the withdrawal from both wars was similar, in spite of the different circumstances surrounding both conflicts.

 

First, the exit from both countries is a similarity, because it happened due to the US domestic political climate being hostile in regard to these wars. In some time, the population of the United Sates stopped believing that the wars were necessary, efficacious, and would serve to protect American interests. By the beginning of the 1970s, the anti-war movement was growing in the US fueled by the deaths of thousands of young people at war at the hands of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army, while the South Vietnamese army seemed incompetent . This led to calls for the end of the war with demonstrations in the US and elsewhere in the West . As for the Afghanistan war, although there were not as many casualties as there were in the Vietnam War, the American public grew weary . By the time George W. Bush got out of office, his popularity has gone down because of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which many Americans perceived as unnecessarily protracted . Thus, Obama was elected on the anti-war platform with one of his campaign promises being that he would start pulling the troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible.

Additionally, the similarity in the exits from the wars in these two countries is apparent in that the withdrawal was either conditional or did not involve the entire American military forces based in the countries. After the conclusion of the Paris peace process, Americans left South Vietnam. However, according to the South Vietnamese government, the Americans were breaking a promise by leaving South Vietnam at the mercy of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army . To assuage the fears of the South Vietnamese government, America promised to go to Vietnam again if South Vietnam were to be attacked by the North . A similar situation happened during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The American military chose to leave behind a residual force as a guarantee against future aggression from the Taliban as had happened in Vietnam, where the withdrawal of the American military led to the fall of the South two years later .

Another reason why the exits from both countries were similar is that in both countries, the question of whether the war achieved its intended political aims was raised. In Vietnam, the war was meant to secure the independence of the South Vietnamese government against the invasion by the North Vietnam Army and the Viet Cong . It was also intended to ensure the political stability of the south by guarding South Vietnam against the aggression from the North. However, by the time the US left, none of these political objectives had been met. In Afghanistan, the chief political goal was overthrowing the Taliban and establishing a stable democracy in Afghanistan . The US also wanted to ensure that the country would no longer be ruled by religious fanatics who aided and abated international terrorism in the country . However, at the time of the withdrawal, it was not apparent if the conditions were better under the current regime or under the Taliban as before from the perspective of the Afghani people . First, there has been an increase in violence led by the Taliban and other tribal militant groups. Second, the government seems to be highly sectarian and intensely corrupt, which has raised questions about whether the US has been able to achieve any objectives except for defeating the Taliban, . Moreover, the Taliban, while no longer in power, is still a formidable foe . This makes it doubtful whether the US achieved its long-term goals in Afghanistan.

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Further, one can argue that there were logistical similarities in the war between the US and the two countries that lead to the eventual withdrawal. Geographically and demographically, the two countries have significant similarities as they both lie in Asia, which is a long way from the United States. This complicated military logistics and also lessened the chances of success. The more the United States was involved in the war in the two countries, the more the inhospitality of the terrain ensured that the US superiority in both firepower and logistics had a minimal effect in most parts on the ground . Consequently, with time, it became imperative for the US to withdraw from the two nations as the military logistics of fighting a war halfway around the world became a strain on the economy.

There is also a similarity in the part US security doctrine played in the invasion of both countries, and how, regardless of the doctrine, international pressure led to withdrawal. The circumstances of the start of both wars had an influence on how the US had to pull out of both countries. The war in Vietnam was as a result of the ideological war the US waged against communism till the collapse of the USSR in 1991 . The US fought the war in Afghanistan on similar footing. After the 9/11 catastrophe, the US went to war in Afghanistan on the grounds of fighting terror, which informed US security policy post-9/11 . While most countries, at least those who are American allies, supported the invasion of both countries, the withdrawal from both countries happened under similar amounts of pressure from international parties that protested against what many perceived as American imperialism .

One can also posit that guerilla warfare and suicide bombings played a large part in the withdrawal from both countries. In both countries, the role of guerrilla warfare in convincing American political leaders that it was time to withdraw is also considerable . It is obvious that America had better military, equipment, and supplies that either of the enemies in both cases. However, the use of guerrilla warfare and, in the case of Afghanistan, suicide bombings by the opposing forces meant that the United States was unable to turn their clear military superiority on the ground into a political victory. This wore down the US military. The lack of political success, in spite of the military strength, convinced many Americans that it was time for their troops to leave both of the countries, resulting in the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Another similarity between these wars is that in some cases soldiers lost their moral bearings. Thus, the soldiers, in their zeal to flush out the insurgents, ended up committing atrocities that increased the pressure for withdrawal. A typical example is the My Lai massacre in Vietnam that enhanced international pressure for an exit . In Afghanistan, the murders of unarmed civilians, such as the killings of elders ordered by Lieutenant Clint Lorance, caused the pressure from international and domestic communities for the withdrawal of American combatants from the war to increase . Consequently, it is apparent that counter-insurgency wars led to atrocities that increased the pressure on US political leaders to order a withdrawal from both countries.

Last, it is also apparent that the commanders in chief who ordered the withdrawal from both countries have historical similarities. Barack Obama and Richard Nixon were both elected on platforms of reducing the troops in Afghanistan and Vietnam respectively . Moreover, both had to deal with wars that they did not start. They were either started by the presidents’ predecessors from the opposing party or escalated before both Nixon and Obama were elected. Nevertheless, owing to the public dissatisfaction with the war, they both had to order the withdrawal of American troops from wars.

In conclusion, while the wars in Vietnam and Afghanistan traverse different historical epochs, the exits from both wars were remarkably similar. This becomes apparent if one were to examine the political climate that led to the withdrawal. The second aspect is the lack of unconditional withdrawal, at least in these two cases. Third, there was a relative lack of achieving the political war aims in both cases. Furthermore, international pressure after Americans committed atrocities in both countries also led to the withdrawal. The use of guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings, rather than conventional war tactics by the opposing side caused a lot of casualties leading to domestic pressure to withdraw. Lastly, the commanders in chief who ordered the withdrawals, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama, are different from those who started or escalated the wars. From the following, it is apparent that the circumstances for the withdrawal in both cases were similar.

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