February 21, 2020

Safe havens

WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

Founded by Drew Pearson 1932

Safe havens

By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift

WASHINGTON – The current War in Afghanistan, the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the Vietnam War, the French Indochina War, and the Korean War all have a common thread: opposition forces prevailed or survived due to safe havens.

Following World War II, Ho Chi Minh’s communist forces, the Viet Minh, began an insurgency against the French in Vietnam. The communists fared poorly until China fell to communist control in 1949, after which China and the Soviet Union poured in supplies to the Viet Minh. The French left the Viet Minh’s Chinese sanctuary untouched for fear of widening the war. With a haven providing never-ending supplies and safety, the Viet Minh could carry the war on indefinitely, a fact the French eventually understood, and in 1954, Vietnam was partitioned into north and south nations.

In 1950, Communist China and the Soviet Union supplied North Korean communists from bases in China. And following the UN defeat of the North Korean Army, Chinese forces invaded, but their bases north of the Yalu River in China remained inviolate. As a result the American-led UN forces suffered a severe defeat and were driven back to the 38th Parallel where a stalemate ensued that survives to this day.

Ten years after the French exit from Vietnam, the United States sent conventional forces into South Vietnam to stem North Vietnam’s Viet Cong insurgency. The war escalated, and North Vietnamese regulars took over most of the fighting from the Viet Cong. However, North Vietnam, although the target of a massive U.S. bombing campaign, remained safe from invasion because the U.S. government, as in Korea, feared a widening of the war. Soviet and Chinese supplies continued on with impunity. In this scenario, North Vietnamese military actions could ebb and flow as necessary. Safe behind its border, North Vietnam controlled the war’s tempo, making it clear it might not win, but it could not lose. The war would go on for 10 years. American forces would leave in 1973, and South Vietnamese forces would be defeated by the communists in 1975.

The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and was ousted 10 years later by Afghan insurgents, the Muhjadeen operating with American aide from their safe havens in Pakistan, an American Cold war ally and a nuclear power.

Today, America is repeating these scenarios in Afghanistan, except this time, America’s ally, Pakistan, is providing the safe havens for Afghan insurgents, the Taliban, some of whom are the same Muhjadeen fighters U.S. supplies and advisors had supported against the Soviets.

These safe haven wars have not ended well for the defending governments and their allies, and the reason is clear: an inviolable safe haven provides a government’s enemy with staying power and its commensurate mantra:  we may not win; we cannot lose.

© 2013 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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