We’re No. 1!

We have just surpassed the Soviets for the longest attempt to quell insurgents in Afghanistan. The Soviet military blunder lasted nine years and 50 days. We have now been in the “graveyard of empires” for 9 years 51 days.

Both the Soviets and Americans, however, can be proud that they long outlasted both British mistakes. The first (1839-41) ended in the destruction of the British Army. The second (1878-80) was a sparkling success. The goal of the war, however, was simply to make the Afghans accept a British diplomatic mission. If we had such low ambitions, we would not have been able to set our world record in futility.

Our record is all the more impressive given how close it comes to the Soviets’ own achievement. After they withdrew in utter humiliation from the war they conducted from December 27, 1979 to February 15, 1989, no one could foresee that any other country would have the stomach to blunder into the region with a purpose of long-term occupation.

Fans of the former Soviet Union have asked that an asterisk be placed in the record book since the latest record goes, technically, not to one country, but to NATO. Fans of the latest quagmire respond by noting: (1) a long part of the period the Soviets claim was nothing more than an extended withdrawal made longer by their inept supply chain management, so at least that period should not be included in the “occupation” record; and (2) the Soviets themselves claimed to be a “union” of “republics.”

No one knows how much longer the US plans to extend the record. From what we’ve been seeing lately, the US intends to crush the Soviet record, perhaps to make everyone forget that that Soviets even attempted such stupidity. Evidently the Pentagon has its eyes on the kind of record-shattering performance that Bob Beamon delivered in Mexico City in 1968 or Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes. Former Red Army officers marvel at how a supposedly civilian-controlled military can call the shots for such a long time. “We could never fool the people that well,” lamented a former Soviet general, who asked to remain unidentified.

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