The German thinker Karl Marx had proposed that ‘history repeats itself’, that is, any event will likely occur and then recur, ‘first as tragedy, then as farce’. Though there is sometimes a tendency to discount Marx, some of the predictions he made about history that says “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” is quite relatable in today’s context. Marx was heavily influenced by a German Philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who has also said that “we learn from history that we do not learn from history”.
These two said phrases have proven to be true in Afghanistan. The Taliban have swept to victory in Afghanistan and Taliban imposed strict Islamic rules, which now refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from the day they conquer Kabul on 15 August. The return of the Taliban after 20 years has seized power in Afghanistan in 2021 again, with fighters entering the presidential palace. This conflict has killed 10 thousands people and has displaced many people within Afghanistan. Lakhs of people have fled to neighbouring countries and will not return home and take refuge in those neighbouring countries.
Parallels are being drawn between similar images of helicopters airlifting US diplomatic staff. These viral images on social media clearly show that yes, we have not learned anything from history.
Total 39-40 years of battle but results remain zero for the US. Most common thing in these two images is that both have the American Military helicopters where US forces are rescuing their diplomats and officers from the embassy. Now the people on social media have started comparing the fall of Kabul with the then Fall of Saigon. The American government and Joe Biden are in the spotlight as around one month before, he claimed that there is no way of defeating Afghanistan because we’ve 300 thousands American troops in Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministry of America, Antony Blinken is also claiming that ‘evacuating US diplomats from Kabul is unparalleled with the rescue operation of Saigon and America has not been defeated in Afghanistan’. In Contrast, the leader of the Republican party has been continuously comparing the condition similar to the ‘fall of Saigon’ and saying America has been badly defeated in Afghanistan.
The Vietnam war, a major event, started in 1955, which shaped the course of the world in the second half of the 20th century and was the first war which was telecasted on TV. China, in particular, also played an important role in the Vietnam wars during 1950~1975, where one side was North Vietnam (China helped North Vietnam, and later withdrew support with the Soviets and other communist allies) and the other side was South Vietnam (which was supported by America, South Korea, Philippines, Australia and other anti-communist allies), the US assumed financial and military support this state.
According to the Miller Center report, Lyndon B. Johnson was committed to winning the fight against the Communist insurgency in Vietnam. “This nation will keep its commitments from South Vietnam to West Berlin,” he told a joint session of Congress on November 27. “I need you more than he did,” LBJ said to his national security team, and he encouraged them to work even harder at helping South Vietnam defeat the Communists. (Source: https://millercenter.org/)
Earlier, France was ruling over Vietnam since long ago and later Japan conquered Vietnam. As Japan was defeated in World War II then again France started controlling Vietnam where some Vietnamese wanted to come over the France rule. Among them was Ho Chi Minh, the main leader of North Vietnam where the Communist ruling system had been established. Then in 1950, he wanted to establish the same Communist ruling system in South Vietnam. On the other side, the emperor of South Vietnam, BảoĐại, wanted the Capitalism ruling system all over Vietnam. Then the war happened between Northern and Southern Vietnam where France got defeated. So under three years America supported Southern Vietnam with five lakhs troops. In the Vietnam War, around 58 thousands American troops and around 2.5 lakhs Vietnamese were killed. Though America could not win the war and on January 27, 1973, a peace treaty was signed by the United States and all three Vietnamese parties (North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong), a peace treaty called The Paris Peace Accords for Ending the Vietnam War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam. In addition, the United States agreed to withdraw all U.S. troops and advisors (around 23,700) within 60 days.
Though the signing of the Paris Agreement did not bring an end to the fighting in Vietnam. On April 23, 1975, President of US Gerald Ford proclaimed that the war in Vietnam was “finished as far as America is concerned” (Source: aljazeera.com). After that, on one side, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese forces and on the other, the US rushed its military and diplomatic personnel out of Vietnam. On April 30, 1975, the communists entered Saigon in triumph and the Second Indochina War finally ended.
Now the Taliban has taken over Kabul and the people are running over each other to flee the country. President Joe Biden has agreed that he does not have any regret for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Besides the comparisons, there is a risk of humanisation in Afghanistan. There have been some who may say there is only one similarity in these two cases and that is, the US imperialism and its failure. There have been some who opposed the US war in Afghanistan, but this opposition has largely not formed any type of international solidarity which could side with the Taliban. Within the US predominantly voices from the people are failing to create an impact as huge as the anti-Vietnam War protests.
In order to defend democracy and liberal internationalism, the US started mobilising its international order to fight this new enemy, although this enemy was manufactured by the US itself as the Taliban is the result of America’s own past. The international civil society seems to be very clear on the fact that the Taliban is a bigger threat to human rights for Afghanistan. The president Baiden has said that Afghans “have got to fight for themselves”, who previously added by saying that the US did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build.
Is it Kabul a far bigger embarrassment than Saigon, or will the era succeeding this war be deadlier than the post-US Vietnam. Anyway this will of course take decades to recover the whole region from this conquest.
(Yadav is the first year student of BALLB at Kathmandu School Of Law, Bhaktapur)