We need to leave Iraq and Afghanistan completely yesterday.


Receive email updates from John T. Reed

All the other issues like the “war on terror,” fighting them there rather than here, stopping Iran influence in the area, and being close to victory (which I doubt) in Iraq are all irrelevant. No support by the American people, no wars.

I graduated from West Point in 1968 and arrived in Vietnam Thanksgiving weekend, 1969. I had a couple of miscellaneous assistant jobs and I was a communications platoon leader in a mixed heavy artillery battalion—all in the III Corps area (Saigon, Parrots Beak, etc.). I left Vietnam on September 6, 1970. Mainly, during my tour in Vietnam, we were supposed to be doing what the Pentagon and White House called Vietnamization.

Vietnamization did not work. When we left, the South Vietnamese lost the war very rapidly—in spite of us training them for more than 15 years and giving them zillions of dollars worth of ammo, equipment, and uniforms.

Americans died for Vietnamization, which was nothing but a political cover for the Nixon Administration trying to put a good face on admitting defeat. They hoped the South Vietnamese would last long enough that the Americans would evade responsibility for the loss. That did not happen. It was a dishonest purpose anyway.

No one should die for Vietnamization or Iraqization or Afghanistanization.

We have to sell the war better

Many pro-war Americans say the problem is the administration has to sell the war better to the American people.


The U.S. government has been selling wars to the American people since the mid-1960s. Time and again, the American people fell for it. Time and again—EVERY time—the American people got taken. 58,000 of us died in Vietnam for nothing. 247 in Lebanon for nothing. 18 in Mogadishu for nothing. Some 6,000 so far in Iraq and Afghanistan—almost certainly for nothing.

Receive email updates from John T. Reed

The American people no longer trust their government or military on the subject of whether a war is a good idea or how long it will take to win or whether we will win. We have had 45 years of the U.S. government selling wars that cost too much and took too long to the American people.

The U.S. government and military had their chances to win the public trust and to win wars and they have done neither. The U.S. military now needs to regain its Korean war era and prior credibility. Because of 45 years of lies and overly optimistic forecasts, it will take the U.S. government and military a very long time to regain that credibility. They need to get started and the first step is to come home and start cleaning up their acts.

If necessary, we can go back to these countries—preferably at 50,000 feet or via unmanned missiles and drones. The American people will agree to that and support it if and when the reasons become clear and credible.

The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were reasonably wise given 9/11. But the occupations were not. We can invade again and again if necessary and keep running the Taliban and al Qaeda out of town. But trying to be the non-Pashto-speaking local police force for a huge nation on the other side of the world is an obvious, very expensive, exercise in futility.

FDR was accused of deliberately letting Pearl Harbor happen to build support for American entry into World War II. I don’t believe that. I read a lot of books about our code breaking and such during that period. I am not a conspiracy theorist. But although he did not do that, a very strong argument could be made for a president to wait until that sort of popular support event occurs. Unfortunately, in the nuclear age, that may be too late. But the stupidity and shortsightedness of the American people are facts, whether they ought to be or not. So is the futility and immorality of asking men to die to avoid the politician in the White House—Bush or Obama—looking bad or giving his political enemies ammunition to use against him.

No more wars unless we are willing to kill enough enemies fast enough to win them in three years or less. Every country that has gone to war against us since the Korean war is glad they did. Germany and Japan are not glad they declared war on us. The next country that goes to war with us—after Iraq and Afghanistan—needs to regret it profoundly, so that the country after that will decide not to even go down that road to begin with.

War is an all or nothing deal. At present, as in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, we were neither all in nor all out. That state of affairs gives new meaning to the phrase “no man’s land.” No man should be put in that situation.

American seem to love the idea of war in the abstract. But once the concrete version gets going, they recoil at the inevitable scandals and the innocent civilian deaths and the collateral damage. Do not support the abstract version if you are not going to also support those engaged in the concrete, messy reality of it.

Receive email updates from John T. Reed

General Douglas MacArthur said,

There is no substitute for victory.

His words need to be supplemented:

There is no substitute for total victory within three years.

If you look at the history of U.S. wars, the only ones that worked ended in about three years or less. The Afghanistan war is now eight years old; Iraq, six years.

John T. Reed