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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Predictably, 'Victory' Is Unraveling




And now the Chechens have struck back, hard. Over the weekend and on Monday, large Chechen forces hit Russian positions in Argun, Gudermes and Shali - the republic's largest towns after Grozny. At least two dozen young Russian men, and probably far more, have lost their lives.


Like the Tet Offensive of January 1968, which demonstrated to the Americans that they were not in control of the situation in Vietnam, the New Year's uprisings of January 2000 underline the obvious: This campaign is not working.


It is not possible to occupy Chechnya and "end terrorism." They are mutually exclusive goals. To defeat all resistance, one must be able to distinguish between civilians and guerrillas. And that is not possible - as Russian soldiers on the ground complained during the first Chechen war (and as Americans complained in Vietnam).


What's worse, an operation like this eventually creates terrorism. When non-combatant civilians see their neighbors and relatives killed - or their communities looted by troops wilding and destroyed by aerial bombardments - they go on to become combatants. This is as old as the eye-for-an-eye justice of the Bible. Yet the authorities have proudly, and foolishly, occupied as much territory as possible. Now they will sit and try to defend it, against guerrillas. It will be bloody and useless.


It makes us wonder what lessons of history have ever been learned - period. For an answer we turned idly to the Internet. It is, after all, supposed to be making us all smarter.


Type in "Tet Offensive" on a search engine and one of the first offerings is part of the American War Library, a U.S. veteran's group site, and then a brief critique of the war by Howard Zinn, a historian and former U.S. Air Force officer.


"To me, the war was a disaster," Zinn writes. "The dispatch of a huge army to a small country, the merciless bombing of both 'enemy' and 'friendly' territory, the deaths of perhaps 3 million people and the destruction of a beautiful land, the brutal massacres at My Lai and other places - these were all morally indefensible, win or lose."


He goes on to argue that "with the indiscriminate nature of modern military technology, all wars are wars against civilians, and therefore inherently immoral." And he cites "a terrifying common thread" in recently released audio tapes of White House decision-making under presidents John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson: "They were willing to watch soldiers and civilians die in large numbers while they calculated the effect on their re-election of stopping those deaths by withdrawing from Vietnam."