One interesting explanation for the Afghanistan debacle is that Americans do not understand what losing and defeat are.
To explain, Americans cannot tell the difference between defeat and a decision to quit a war, because it has over 150 years since Americans lost a war. The last time Americans lost a war was in 1865, when Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and Kirby Smith surrendered the Confederate Armies.
Losing a war means that your commander walks up to the other side’s commander and hands over his sword or gun. Your soldiers then turn over their weapons and go home, or march off to POW camps.
No we Did not Lose in Vietnam
None of those things happened to American troops in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Indeed, US forces won every battle they fought in those wars. Our troops left when our political leaders got sick of the war.
Unfortunately, many people spread the myth that Americans lost in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The United States did not achieve its goals in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan, but it did not lose.
Nor did the US lose in Korea. In the Korean War, American forces and their allies fought the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) one of the toughest fighting forces on Earth, to a standstill. In Korea, the Communists signed an armistice because they were afraid they were about to lose.
In fact, no American army has lost since US and Philippine Army troops surrendered to Japanese forces on Bataan on 9 April 1942. Bataan was the last true American military defeat, and our history ignores that battle.
Why do we Think Americans lost in Vietnam?
Despite the obvious history, many people believe the United States “lost” the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and now the Afghan War. Why do large numbers of people believe such a fallacy?
I think supporters of American imperialism spread the “we lost fallacy” to hide their own failures. What failed in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan was not the US military. The military was successful in its primary mission of war fighting. Our troops defeated the Vietnamese Communists, the Taliban, ISIS, and the Iraqi army on the battlefield.
Instead, what failed was the imperialists’ policies of nation building and exporting “democracy” at gunpoint. That failure had nothing to do with American military performance.
However, imperialists can escape condemnation by blaming the military for their failures. By promoting the “we lost” fantasy, the imperialists hide the long record of failure of their Wilsonian fantasies.
Blame the Military
The worst example of the “blame the military” tactic was 1970s and 1980s popular culture which regularly portrayed the US military as fascist thugs. For example, the Rambo movies and The A-Team TV show.
One reason for those portrayals was to shift the blame for Vietnam catastrophe from the leadership classes to the military. The most loathsome example of the blame the military trope, were the movies and TV shows that showed ordinary American soldiers committing atrocities in Vietnam. The elite blaming the working class for its failures.
We saw similar attitudes in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal during the Iraq War. IE the media vilifying soldiers while ignoring the decision makers in Washington whose policies put the National Guard in Abu Ghraib.
How the “We Lost Vietnam” Mythology led to the Afghan and Iraq Wars
When we talk about losing Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, we don’t have to examine the imperialist policies of nation building and spreading democracy at gunpoint. Nor we do we have to stop listening to the imperialist intellectuals who promote nation building.
Hence, the “we lost Vietnam mythology”“ is partially responsible for the catastrophes in Iraq and Afghanistan. To explain, if Vietnam was a military failure, we can succeed next time with new tactics, or weapons. Thus, we repeat the Vietnam catastrophe in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Consequently, I predict we will see the “we lost Afghanistan fantasy” all over the media. The imperialists and neocons will fill the media with this nonsense in order to hide their failure and prepare for the next nation-building exercise.
It will work this way. First, they will say we lost in Afghanistan. Second, they will say we could have won if we had done something different. Third, they will begin promoting a new nation-building project in Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, or some other place.
If we want to avoid future wars, Americans need to learn what a defeat looks like and understand that we did not lose in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Instead, we need to learn the difference between the difference between military defeat and imperialist failures.