Letters to the Editor: Afghanistan missed its chance to stabilize itself. It’s time to get out

A member of U.S. special operations forces climbs down from a compound wall during a patrol in Afghanistan's Farah province in 2009.
A member of U.S. special operations forces climbs down from a compound wall during a patrol in Afghanistan’s Farah province in 2009.
(Maya Alleruzzo / Associated Press)

To the editor: In his heartfelt but confusing lamentation over the U.S. presence, failures and retreats from Vietnam and Afghanistan, Andrew J. Bacevich ignores the governance responsibility of the locals who contributed to the disasters.

In essence, Vietnam was a civil war, and Washington’s entry into Afghanistan opened a civil war. However misguided the U.S. entry was in the first and understandable and frustrating in bringing justice to the Al Qaeda leaders harbored by the Taliban in the second, Washington’s interventions gifted both countries the opportunity to establish competent governance.

Unfortunately, the locals were never up to the task, which leaves this lesson as we think now about Afghanistan and should have thought about Vietnam: When internal political dysfunction overwhelms external attempts at stabilization, getting out sooner rather than later is America’s best chance to protect its own interests.

Bennett Ramberg, Los Angeles


The writer was a foreign affairs analyst in State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs in the George H.W. Bush administration.


To the editor: In addition to Vietnam and Afghanistan, the sorry record of post-World War II foreign interventions by the U.S. has also brought about catastrophe in Latin America and the Middle East.

Still, the U.S. continues to threaten military action around the world, most recently in Venezuela and Iran. Intervention in Iran would be particularly tragic, given it was America’s involvement there in 1953 that led ultimately to today’s regime in Tehran.

As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Thomas Bliss, Los Angeles