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Hollow Victory

November 03, 2009

by John J. Mearsheimer

The conventional wisdom among most Republicans is that while the United States had serious difficulty in Vietnam during the early years, by the early 1970s things were turning around, and victory was on the verge. Unfortunately, the craven Democrats in Congress bowed to widespread anti-war sentiment and forced the Ford administration to end almost all support to South Vietnam, allowing the North Vietnamese to win the war in 1975. In the GOP version of the story, this decision was a disastrous mistake.

There has been a lot of talk lately about what the Vietnam War tells us about Afghanistan. According to the Republicans, the United States is once again at the crossroads of losing another critical war because of feckless Democrats, only this time in Afghanistan. They contend that while, yes, the United States has mismanaged the war over the past eight years, Washington has now found a formidable military leader in General Stanley McChrystal. He knows how to defeat the Taliban and keep al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. However, the major obstacle he faces isn't in Afghanistan, it's here at home: the American public is war-weary and the Democrats -- who control both Congress and the White House -- have no enthusiasm for the greater sacrifices that General McChrystal recommends.

This narrative is unconvincing for at least two reasons.

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This article appeared at, November 2, 2009.

John Mearsheimer, a West Point graduate, is a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

Professor Mearsheimer was one of the signatories to the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy's open letter to President Obama concerning the war in Afghanistan.

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