My latest Al Jazeera English Op-Ed is here. It begins as follows:
Tet Offensive echoes In Afghanistan attacks
The attacks in Afghanistan on April 15 were a faint echo of the Tet Offensive, and the message was strikingly similar.
As I first heard about coordinated attacks in the heart of Kabul and three other locations across Afghanistan last Sunday, my thoughts turned immediately to the Tet Offensive, the totally unexpected nationwide military offensive launched by South Vietnam’s Viet Minh guerrilla forces in 1968 that finally broke through the wall of denial in Washington DC, and convinced the American people that the Vietnam War could not be won.
The offensive was eventually turned back, and the forces who launched it were almost entirely wiped out – only to be replaced by a massive influx of North Vietnamese forces. Years later, American conservatives would rewrite what happened to make it a story of US military victory, turned into defeat by the hated – even traitorous – liberal media. But this US-centric view of things had nothing to do with the reality of Vietnam. The Vietnamese had been fighting outsiders for almost 2,000 years. Mostly they had fought the Chinese, then the French, then the Japanese, then the French again, and then the United States.
From a nationalist perspective – broadly shared, well beyond the communist’s base – major offensives like Tet, or the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in the spring of 1954, were a necessary part of their defensive wars against much more powerful foreign forces. But their real strength was their capacity simply to keep on fighting, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, however long it took, and whichever foreign power they were fighting against. A Tet or a Dien Bien Phu might succeed or fail militarily, but that was not really the point. The point was political: to force the foreign power to realise that the Vietnamese people would never stop fighting for their own self-determination, however many years – or generations – their struggle might take. Surely the descendents of Lexington, Concord and Valley Forge could understand this – if they only wanted to. If they only tried.
The same, of course, can be said of Afghanistan, long famous as the “graveyard of empires”.
Read the whole article here.