President Obama stepped to the podium in the White House at a press conference – with Afgnanistani President Karzai beside him – and said he’s bringing 66,000 American soldiers home from Afghanistan sooner rather than later (which sounded fine). Then he added, Because the Afghan Army is now ready to whip the Taliban all by itself – and thundering echoes of history reverberated out of the television set and hit me right between the eyes.
Forty years ago (in the days when I was a student at Chapel Hill with a draft number far too low) President Richard Nixon walked to a podium in the White House and announced he was bringing our army home from Vietnam because the South Vietnamese Army was ready to whip Ho Chi Minh all by itself – Nixon even gave it a name: ‘Vietnamization’.
Vietnamization and ‘bringing the boys home with honor’ cured my concern about the draft and got Nixon through the 1972 Presidential Election; but then, a year later, North Vietnamese tanks rolled into Saigon, ‘Vietnamization’ fizzled, and our army had to pull a good old-fashioned skedaddle.
Over in Afghanistan these days we’re on shakier footing than we were when we invaded eleven years ago but, who knows, maybe President Karzai is ready to whip the Taliban all by himself – even if we haven’t whipped them with orbiting satellites, lasers targeted drones and 66,000 American soldiers.
Next, at Obama’s press conference, President Karzai got up and laid a few demands on Obama of his own, saying Obama’s got to pull our army out of the small rural outposts we hold out in the Afghanistan provinces and turn six hundred Taliban prisoners we’ve captured over to him – then Karzai explained why: He said he wants to offer to free the prisoners and turn over the strongholds to the Taliban so they’ll make peace – which doesn’t sound like Hamid Karzai’s dead set on whipping anyone.
Then, right there in the middle of me sitting there watching history repeating itself, out of nowhere modernism reared its ugly head – a reporter stood up and asked Obama, What about women in Afghanistan – how do we know they keep their rights when Karzai makes a deal with the Taliban?
Now, there’s a problem Nixon never had to dodge – suddenly it looked like toxic mixture modernism and women’s rights was going to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of the Afghanistani version of ‘Vietnamization’ and bring it to a cold hard stop.
But then Obama saved the day: Smooth as Nixon ever was, Obama explained women’s rights are perfectly safe and there’s no need to worry because we’ve made it clear to the insurgents they’ve got to respect the Afghanistani Constitution (which protects women’s rights) – so now all we have to do to watch modernism (and women’s rights) flower in the Hindu Kush is bring our army home and let the Taliban run head on into the invincible juggernaut of the Afghanistan army.