Letter: Pulling troops out prior to victory harms U.S. foreign policy

The United States has not won a war since 1945. We have been involved in numerous conflicts and our military has performed magnificently — considering the political interference and (mis)direction endured. 

This interference has caused us to lose (as in the case of Vietnam) or come to a draw (as in the case of Korea) or had victories given away (as we are now witnessing in Iraq).

We are following the same formula of failure in Afghanistan. Never in the past 66 years have we come to the political point where we could claim the capitulation of an enemy. 

The result of this has been an erosion of international respect that has negatively affected our ability to use international coalitions or the threat of military action as effective suasion. Truth be told, few trust our resolve. 

This weakness has forced us into conflicts where we fail to articulate both our political or military missions to our people or to those we are supposedly assisting. Quasi or potential allies tire of our presence and our citizens demand to know when our involvement will end. 

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal was the guest of Stevenson University in March and also spoke at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. During his presentation, he articulated our need to engage the people of nations, where we are guests, and understand the needs of the people taking into consideration cultural differences. 

He related that when McArthur was placed in charge of Japan subsequent to World War II, we had thousands of people who were trained in Japanese. In the Middle East, we have a fraction of that number who speak Arabic and none who speak Farsi. If we can not speak with them, how can we understand them? 

If we could converse, we could develop a bilateral mission statement with intermediate goals which would define our success and continued involvement. It is imperative that the statement be articulated often and realistic progress assessments reported.

Contrary to Gen. McChrystal's belief that we can succeed in Afghanistan, Daniel K. Hays, in his letter last week in the Times, disagrees ("No military, even ours, can never be able to stamp out all terrorist forces," April 11). 

As evidence of our preordained failure, Mr. Hays cites that during WWII, partisans were able to create havoc for the helpless Germans. But to suggest that the Nazis would not have sent these brave people to extermination camps if the collaborative effort of the Allies had not extricated them from their dilemma is ignorance. 

Since some of these people — whom even tongue in cheek I would never refer to as "terrorists" — aided my father when he escaped from a Nazi prison camp in Poland (Oflag 64, Szubin, Poland), I have nothing but the utmost respect for their efforts. 

Mr. Hays, the Nazis would have exterminated all involved in the French underground — just as millions of brave Vietnamese were killed, imprisoned and forced into exile by the Communist government established by Ho Chi Minh or the liberated people of North Korea. 

I am all in favor of bringing our men and women home as soon as the mission is accomplished. That mission is not to make the investment our military has made be in vain, as were previous engagements and now Iraq. 

R. Devereux Slingluff

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