While strongly dismissing any Vietnam comparisons, Biden’s assessment that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable and the status quo unsustainable evokes images of the “quagmire” nature of that Cold War-era conflict. Cognizant of public fatigue with the so-called “forever wars,” Biden argues that the “war in Afghanistan was never meant to be a multi-generational undertaking.” To his critics, he asks “how many thousands more of America’s daughters and sons are you willing to risk? How long would have them stay?” that is similar to John Kerry’s 1971 Senate testimony where he asked, “How do ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?”
In the years following the 9/11 attacks, there were two important questions confronting Washington regarding the “good war” in Afghanistan: “When is it going to end?” and “How will it end?” We now know the answer to the first question and, sadly, the answer to the second appears to be one of disappointment and failure.
Jim Cook is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed here are entirely his own and do not reflect those of the U.S. Naval War College, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.