Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Friday, 9 July 2021

The Graveyard of Empires

Pic courtesy Britannica.com

The news emanating from Afghanistan lately has a familiar ring.

 The same cadence emanated from Saigon on 20th April 1975.

There are some similarities when the situation is compared with Vietnam. Each conflict persisted for more than a decade, the most powerful military in the world has failed in its attempt to stabilise each country, and locals who supported the West's commitment are now in fear of their lives.

Both countries were utterly devastated by the conflicts. In the case of Vietnam, the best figures indicate that over 2 million civilians were casualties by 1975, and over 562,000 Afghans have been killed and about 6 million have fled as refugees since 2001.

Both countries were cockpits during the cold war, with the Russians invading Afghanistan on Christmas Eve, 1979, and the Americans deploying into Vietnam most significantly in 1965 after the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

The proxy wars fought were similar in nature and outcome, with the Americans supporting the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, and the Russians the Communists in Vietnam.

There are also some significant differences.

The outcome for the Vietnamese was unification under a culturally Confucian style of Communism, but for the Afghans, although it is not yet resolved, the likelihood of a cohesive central government seems remote.

If history is a guide, and the country returns to default mode, a series of tribally based spheres of influence, competing with each other in a deadly struggle for land, wealth and raw power seems the most likely result.

The Talibs will have their work cut out trying to establish a national government.

Afghanistan has defeated both colonialism and enduring central governance for centuries.

The Duke of Wellington, who knew a thing or two about military attempts to establish empire, spoke in the House of Lords in 1838 condemning the British invasion of Afghanistan saying that the real difficulties would only begin after the invasion's success, predicting that the Anglo-Indian force would rout the Afghan tribal levy, but then find themselves struggling to hold the terrain of the Hindu Kush mountains. 

He noted that Afghanistan was a land with no modern roads, and called the whole operation "stupid" given that Afghanistan was a land of "rocks, sands, Deserts, ice, and snow".

I've blogged before about the difference in scale between the Australian casualty figures in Vietnam and Afghanistan, but this difference probably matters little in terms of the individual grief shared by their friends and families.

Whether our involvement in these wars was ill-advised or not, they died in the service of our country and should be honoured for that. Unfortunately, the enduring controversy about the behavior of Special Forces in Afghanistan has put at risk the reputation of those involved. They deserve better, just as those returning to Australia after Vietnam deserved better.

Whether the same honour is due to the politicians who committed them to both conflicts is another matter entirely. 

Given the history of well-intentioned, but ham-fisted attempts to impose Western-style democracy on a pair of countries whose cultural history would indicate that it was an impossible task, these governments were either completely ignorant or more focussed on domestic politics than the welfare and collective freedom of Vietnamese and Afghans.

You decide...

Comments closed.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very similar.
Ex-Digger

Anonymous said...

Ref...our last chat.

"In addition, conscripts (militia) served in Australian mandated territory."
At what point during the war was the mandated territory of Australia changed to include PNG and the local islands? It certainly wasn't so prior to the engagement with the Japanese.

"Unlike what applied in the UK, no Australian conscripts fought in Korea." I know that.

"albeit without so much as a whimper of protest
So you were there, were you, in my subunit? You wouldn't know." That is not a denial. By the way talking to yourself on guard duty at Holsworthy Barracks or on sentry duty on a training stint in the bush won't get you the attention that whinging to the CO, while he was inspecting your machete, might.

"to fight in a war you disagreed with As did many other Nashos." You could probably include some regs in there too, but i was speaking about you.

"your personal complaints
Not complaints - history, as in a chronicle of facts" They are your personal complaints/perceptions on matters based on facts as explained by you for years now.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complaint

1735099 said...

At what point during the war was the mandated territory of Australia changed to include PNG and the local islands? It certainly wasn't so prior to the engagement with the Japanese.
It was. The Territory of New Guinea was an Australian-administered territory on the island of New Guinea from 1914 until 1975. The Japanese invaded in January 1942.
By the way talking to yourself on guard duty at Holsworthy Barracks or on sentry duty on a training stint in the bush won't get you the attention that whinging to the CO, while he was inspecting your machete, might.
I spent most of my time avoiding getting attention. It worked for me.
They are your personal complaints/perceptions on matters based on facts as explained by you for years now.
Find me one statement I have made here, or anywhere else, that is not based on historical fact, and whilst you're at it, try to stay on-topic. This post, in case you missed it, refers to Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

"I spent most of my time avoiding getting attention. It worked for me." As I said went without a whimper.
" try to stay on-topic." Practice what you preach Bobby.

Anonymous said...

I served with this bloke, and he was a good soldier.
Why do you keep putting shit on him?
Are you ashamed of how you behaved in his unit?
If you had any guts you'd identify yourself.
As it is, you are an anonymous coward hiding behind your keyboard.
Ex 7 RAR 1969/70

Anonymous said...

Anonymous says, "If you had any guts you'd identify yourself." and " you are an anonymous coward hiding behind your keyboard." "Ha, ha, ha," said the pot to the kettle.
"Ex 7 RAR 1969/70" Not only claiming to serve with "this bloke", you were with him "69/70"
Did you come home early too, or were you actually seated in the seat allocated to 1735099 when he flew home in 1970? The Battalion as a group came home in 1971.
Nice try Bob. "Why do you keep putting shit on him?" It is a bit like the saying about the cap. If it fits you wear it.

Anonymous said...

"Are you ashamed of how you behaved in his unit?" This question indicates that you probably were not in the same unit as us. You probably should have said our unit, or the unit. Instead you point at Bob and say "his unit" as if you are narrating a story you are not involved in. Perhaps it is a fishing expedition, Bob.
The nature of the question would indicate that you believe there may have been behaviour in the unit that somebody should be ashamed of. I know of no such behaviour unless you are considering behaviours that take place at favored Leagues clubs, The Railway Hotel in Liverpool or the Cross on most weekends. If you know of any outside that type then write a book. I am sure you will sell plenty of copies and Brereton and Campbell will give you a willing audience and Morrison will happily apologise before an investigation takes place.

Blog Archive