The ghosts of Vietnam remain present within the United States military. It is the realization that the most powerful military in the world cannot win a war. World War II was the last war won by U.S. military forces, although there were other countries involved in that conflict that allowed the victory to happen. After that, the U.S. has been unable to win a war.
The U.S. lost the Korean War as evidenced by the existence of North Vietnam. The Bay of Pigs was a humiliation for the U.S. It only got worse with the Vietnam War. In 1983, the U.S, along with seven additional Caribbean allies invaded Grenada. The military dictatorship of Hudson Austin was disposed, making it a “win” for the U.S. The second military victory for the U.S. came in 1989 when U.S. military forces invaded Panama.
In 1990, the U.S. led a collation of several countries during the first Gulf War. The war was to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. Although the objective was achieved, Iraq remained defiant towards the U.S.
Although the U.S. continued to be involved in several skirmishes, none were what is generally considered a war. That is until after 9/11, when the U.S. first launched an invasion of Afghanistan, as the first volley on the War on Terror.
Then in 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Although victory was prematurely declared in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States still maintains a strong military presence in both countries to this day.
There are U.S. military personnel deployed in many Middle Eastern countries today. Currently there are about 9,000 military personnel in Afghanistan and another approximately 5,000 troops in Iraq.
The problem for the U.S. is not military superiority but rather it is asymmetric warfare. Afghanistan and Iraq were defeated militarily by the US on the onset, but the defeat did not end the enemies’ capabilities. Rather, the insurgencies adopted to fighting the superior force by adopting guerrilla tactics to continue the fight.
This is why U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq today.
It is also the reason that Donald Trump is unable to bring back the troops from Afghanistan. The only way the insurgency would agree to a cease-fire with the U.S. is for the U.S. to capitulate and leave Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban. Any attempt to stymie the Taliban or limit its operations will result in further guerilla attacks against Afghani and U.S. troops.
Thus, the United States cannot win a war. U.S. opponents now know that asymmetric warfare is the way to defeat the U.S. military.