The ghost of Vietnam is haunting President Obama as the war in Afghanistan drags on and begins to echo the famous last words of generals 40 years ago who boasted victory was in sight.
This week, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said the push to conquer strategically vital Kandahar province was not going as planned, and would take a little longer. "It's more important to get it right than we get it fast," he said.
How much longer? By the end of the year, he said.
Meanwhile, more troops and more money are poured into the war—already with more than 1,000 GI deaths and a $739 billion bill increasing by $6.7 billion per month, not including the horrific costs of lifelong disability payments to veterans.
Technically, Vietnam was a longer modern-era war, with U.S. deaths dating between 1961 and 1973—144 months versus 104 months in Afghanistan.
However, the more foreboding parallels are in the high hopes that more money, more troops and more time can do what the British, Russians and other would-be conquerors couldn't do over long spans of history in Afghanistan—in part what didn't work for generals in Vietnam.
Generals don't admit failure or defeat. Therefore, President Obama must make the tough, irreversible decision to cut losses and end the Afghanistan adventure if the generals are wrong again.