Kerry was quick to resist analogies between Vietnam and Afghanistan on Thursday, but said some commonalities between the conflicts exist.
“Once again, we are fighting an insurgency in a rural country with a weak central government. Our enemy blends in with the local population and easily crosses a long border to find sanctuary in a neighboring country. We ignore these similarities at our peril,” he said.
The importance of veterans’ perspective is another lesson from the Vietnam War, Kerry said.
Three of the four veterans at the witness table spoke in support of a continuing combat presence in Afghanistan – although they also stressed the need for an expansion of its civilian commitment, in line with the Kerry-Lugar proposal.
However, one corporal from California called U.S. operations in the country an “occupation” and opposed Obama’s decision to boost troop levels by 17,000.
“Sending more troops will not make the U.S. safer, it will only build more opposition against us,” said Rick Reyes, who served with the Marines in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reyes’ statements were most similar to Kerry’s when he spoke on behalf of Vietnam Veterans Against the War as a 27-year-old recently returned soldier.
Boston University professor and a retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich observed that the starkest difference between the hearing Thursday and the one in 1971 is public disengagement.
“When the young John Kerry spoke, many of his contemporaries had angrily turned against their generation’s war. Today, most of the contemporaries of those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have simply tuned out the Long War,” Bacevich said. “The predominant mood of the country is not one of anger or anxiety, but of dull acceptance.”
On a happier note, Johns Hopkins University may increase veterans' benefits. You don't even have to have gone to Iraq/Afghanistan to get these benefits, you just need to have served in the military.