But it's funny the quotes that stick in your mind. I've never forgotten this exchange from that movie, which I saw in the theatre twenty-one years ago (courtesy of IMDB.com):
Mousa: This is Afghanistan... Alexander the Great try to conquer this country... then Genghis Khan, then the British. Now Russia. But Afghan people fight hard, they never be defeated. Ancient enemy make prayer about these people... you wish to hear?Both Publishers Lunch and Shelf Awareness directed my attention this morning to an article in the Wall Street Journal about two books, which are drawing a lot of attention from U.S. policy-makers trying to divine the path the administration should take in Afghanistan.
Mousa: Very good. It says, 'May God deliver us from the venom of the Cobra, teeth of the tiger, and the vengeance of the Afghan.'
Both are examinations of the United States' involvement in Vietnam forty years ago. The books in question are Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam by Gordon M. Goldstein and A Better War: The Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America's Last Years in Vietnam by Lewis Sorley.
Lessons in Disaster is a posthumous look at McGeorge Bundy, national security advisor in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Bundy was a well-known hawk who supported the bombing of North Vietnam. In later years, he came to regret his part in escalating the American presence in Vietnam. According to Publishers Weekly, Goldstein's book concludes Bundy came to believe "Vietnam . . . was overall, a war we should not have fought."
The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama recently finished Lessons in Disaster and that the book's message is the U.S. military viewed the Vietnam War "too narrowly to see the perils ahead."
The second book, A Better War, points to 1970 as a crucial moment in Vietnam. Late that year, General Creighton Abrams replaced General William Westmoreland as commander of the American troops. Westmoreland had focussed on a war of attrition with strategies like the Tet Offensive while Abrams sought control by interfering with North Vietnam's ability to fight. Amazon.com Reviews reports Abrams was "less interested in counting enemy body bags than in securing South Vietnam's villages."
The Wall Street Journal reports A Better War's message is that at the moment when the U.S. military "finally figured out how to counter the insurgency," the White House gave in to popular opinion and ended the war. The article says this book is enjoying peer recommendation by U.S. military officers.
Every Sunday morning, I watch George Stephanopoulos' news show This Week on television. At the conclusion of each show, a list of the soldiers who died overseas that week is run. Every Sunday, I read the names and ages of Americans who gave their lives so I can continue living mine in peace. The overwhelming majority of these heroes were between the ages of 20 and 25. It breaks my heart to watch, but each week I force myself to read the names. Then I say a prayer for their souls.
I don't want to see more of America's youth die so far from home and their loved ones. But I don't want to see those 5,215 deaths (4,351 in Iraq and 864 in Afghanistan as of October 7) have no meaning either.
I'm not smart enough to say whether we should continue in Afghanistan. But--by God--I want President Obama to make the right decision.
My prayer today will be to give the president the wisdom to discern what we need to do and the courage to do it.
Go here to read the entire Wall Street Journal article.