“Déjà vu,” or “a feeling of already having viewed the present situation,” is another way of saying that history repeats itself. But does it really? Let’s compare the U.S.’s experiences in World War II with its experiences in Afghanistan.
Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the U.S. watched bad things happen to their allies, such as the French, before the attack on Pearl Harbor forced the U.S. entry into World War II to do what America’s allies were incapable of doing.
After the terrorists in Afghanistan did bad things to many people, it took 9/11 for the U.S. to send forces to do what the British, a century ago, and more recently, the Russians, failed to do.
Once in World War II, the U.S. used its industrial might to produce enough military equipment to not only supply its own troops but to arm the British, who left theirs on the beaches at Dunkirk; the Russians, who had retreated a thousand miles from the Germans, and others.
In Afghanistan, after years of a declining military budget, former President Donald Trump’s increases to the budget enabled U.S. and Afghan, troops to have $85 billion of the finest weapons in the world.
In World War II, the U.S. forces fought bravely in defeating the enemy. In Afghanistan, the U.S. forces fought bravely in defeating the enemy.
During World War Ii, in March of the 1944 election year, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s physical showing that he suffered from “heart ailments, high blood pressure and bronchitis,” was kept secret. Later members of his team admitted they noticed that he appeared haggard and weak, had flagging energy and lapses of concentration and memory.
However, his lack of campaigning was excused because of World War II, and he was able to deliver a few command performances that enabled his team, with the help of the press, to keep his condition a secret from most Americans.
In the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Truman,” author David McCullough wrote that F.D.R. relied on his team to select Harry Truman for his vice president over Mr. Burns because Mr. Burns, a better candidate, was from the former Confederate State of South Carolina. F.D.R. did not attend the Democratic National Convention and when they called to inform him that he had been nominated, he was lying on the floor of his place in San Diego: unconscious.
During the election year of 2020, similar to the case of F.D.R., a physician declined to comment on the cognitive ability part of Joe Biden’s physical. However, unlike in F.D.R.’s time, modern communications provide each of us with the opportunity to decide if a president appears “haggard, weak, low energy, with lapses of concentration and memory.”
In 2020, after Mr. Biden won the South Carolina primary, all the other candidates dropped out, and he selected Kamala Harris as his vice president as part of the “most diverse” cabinet in history.
He was excused from campaigning because of COVID=19, although he was able to deliver a few “command performances” from his basement. Reporters made light of his difficulties by labeling them “gaffes.”
During World War II, as the defeat of Germany appeared inevitable, in October,1944, a meeting was held in Moscow for Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin and F.D.R. to set boundaries on how to divide Germany. F.D.R. did not attend. In November he was re-elected.
In 1945, F.D.R. did attend the February 4-11 Yalta conference, where Churchill noticed that President Roosevelet was too weak to be effective in preventing Stalin from using an empty promise to help in the Pacific to take a large portion of Germany that isolated Berlin. Two months later, at his retreat in Georgia, on April 12, 1945, F.D.R. died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
During Afghanistan, as the withdrawal of troops became inevitable, President Biden abandoned President Trump’s plan for an orderly withdrawal by May 1. He relied on an empty promise from the forces the U.S. had been fighting for 20 years, the Taliban, for Kabul to be safe at least until the U.S. left on Aug. 31.
After World War II, the U.S. brought back much of its equipment.
However, in 1948, under the “Berlin Blockade,” the Russians blocked land access by the U.S., and others, to Berlin, which forced the use of the much less efficient “airlifts.”
Although the blockade was lifted in 1949, in 1961 the Berlin Wall was built so the airlifts were necessary.
This wall was not removed until President Reagan demanded it come down.
During Afghanistan, the abandoning of the two runways at the Bagram airfield, where at least airlifts were secure, made the airlifts into the one runway at the Kabul airport much more dangerous.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki displayed her skills, perhaps learned as a political commentator for CNN (2017-2020), to brag about the massive “airlift” while the rest of the press mercifully omitted the similarities to the exit from Vietnam.
It has been said that the U.S. “won World War II and lost the peace.”
Will Afghanistan follow the words of Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu, all over again?”
The author lives in Santa Barbara.