Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Representative Tulsi Gabbard have both said they would get US troops out of Afghanistan, but their clash during the October 15 debate shows only one of them really means it.
Gabbard has been smeared as an “agent of Russia” for her call to bring American soldiers home. Buttigieg didn’t call her that, but he did say pulling out from Syria was a “betrayal.” He described a Kurdish woman with a dead child in her arms, implying it was America’s fault. The issue in Syria — and also in Afghanistan — he said, was “keeping our word.”
The bottom line, he said, was that withdrawal “undermines the honor of our soldiers.”
Better to attack Hawaii, even though the odds were that Japan would last only three years and be defeated by the United States.
I recall reviewing a book in 2013 about Japan’s decision to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941: Eri Hotta’s Japan 1941: Countdown to Infamy.
In the fall of 1941, President Roosevelt gave Japan an ultimatum: remove your invasion troops from China or else. A few in Japan, fearing a war with the United States, were willing to consider it. But the argument against it, which prevailed, was that any withdrawal from China would dishonor the Japanese soldiers who died there. It would be a betrayal. Better to attack Hawaii, even though the odds were (as Japan’s generals were told by its war-college war gamers) that Japan would last only three years and be defeated by the United States.
I remember the don’t-betray-the-troops argument and the maintain-our-credibility argument during the war in Vietnam. These arguments did not prevent the loss of the war, but they did lengthen the casualty lists.
In Afghanistan and Syria, the United States is not going to win.
Buttigieg, who served in Afghanistan, is right that getting out would mean the government’s breaking its word, and doing that would undermine its credibility. And no matter where US troops are committed for any length of time, they have helpers and allies, and pulling out would leave allies in the lurch. Is that dishonorable? Yes, it is. But in Afghanistan and Syria, the United States is not going to win. Why not accept dishonor now, before it grows any bigger? The cost of postponing defeat is more killing, wreckage, and debt.
Gabbard will not be elected president. She’s right, though.