James Fallows at The Atlantic, while talking about the recent Wikileaks release about the war in Afghanistan, reminisces about the Pentagon Papers:
Unlike Marc Ambinder or Alexis Madrigal, neither of whom was alive at the time, I remember when the Pentagon Papers came out. By that point American involvement in Vietnam was “ending” — even though it would be another four years before U.S. troops left the country after the fall of Saigon, and even though many, many American, Vietnamese, and other people were still to die in the “wind-down” phase. [...] Perhaps the most shocking single document in the papers was the famed “McNaughton Memo” of 1965, which assessed American reasons for staying in Vietnam this way:
1. US aims:
70%–To avoid a humiliating US defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor).
20%–To keep SVN [South Vietnam] (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.
10%–To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life. Also-To emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used. Not–To “help a friend,” although it would be hard to stay if asked out.
After pointing out that the latest documentation confirms his skepticism of “doubling down” in Afghanistan as justified, Fallows ponders what a 21st Century McNaughton would say about the reasons for continuing this war. While I’m obviously not the type of person he’s expecting to provide such an answer, some things are just so clear that you don’t need to ask an expert, so here’s my best McNaughton impression:
1%: Remote hope that amid all the chaos US forces will stumble across Bin Laden’s dead body, providing a political boost back home (though by now any such boost would be diluted to virtually nothing).
99%: Fear on the part of the Obama administration of being labeled America-hating hippie defeatists who hate America, despite already being called far worse.