(American Conservative) -- The American people don’t like long wars with uncertain outcomes—and never have. That was true in 1953, when the U.S. accepted a stalemate and armistice with the Chinese-backed North Koreans, and it was true again in 1975, when the U.S. suffered an ignominious defeat and 58,000 dead at the hands of pajama-clad guerrillas and the North Vietnamese army. “Never fight a land war in Asia,” General Douglas MacArthur famously said, and for good reason: in both Korea and Vietnam, the enemy could be endlessly supplied and reinforced.
The solution, in both cases, was to either widen the war or leave. In Korea, MacArthur proposed expanding the war by taking on Chinese military sanctuaries in China (which got him fired), while in Vietnam, Richard Nixon ordered the invasion of Cambodia and mined North Vietnam’s harbors, an expansion of the war that sparked a genocide and merely postponed the inevitable. America’s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have been as unsatisfying. A troop surge retrieved America’s position in Iraq, though most military officers now view Baghdad as “a suburb of Tehran” (as a currently serving Army officer phrased it), while the U.S. has spent over $800 billion on a Kabul government whose writ extends to sixty percent of the country—or less.