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Was in a conversation recently where someone wondered aloud if Joe Biden would send U.S. troops to Ukraine.

I've never been a Biden fan. Like all politicians he has his good and bad points. When it comes to wars, though, I've always seen him as anti-war, even kind of luke-warm at best on trusting the military. And that may surprise some people considering one of his sons served in the military.

Biden opposed the Vietnam War and he has criticized it many times. Heck, everyone has criticized that war. When I was 12 years old my father and I were watching the news one night, and they were reporting on battles and casualties, etc. Dad had served 27-1/2 years in the U.S. Army. He was in the Civil Service at the time, doing physical therapy with soldiers coming back from the war. He turned to me and said, "If this war is going on when you turn 18, I'm sending you to Canada." I was shocked when he said that.

Not that I wanted to go to Vietnam, but I had (until that moment) always assumed I'd end up serving in the military. One of my grandfathers, one of my uncles, my Dad, a cousin (or few), and various generations going back to the Civil War had all served in one or more branches of the military. It wasn't a foreign topic to my family at all. I grew up around military bases, saw military doctors, shopped at commissaries, etc.

Anyway, it's said that Biden opposed the war on "strategic" grounds rather than moral grounds. The Vietnam War was complicated. You could say in some ways it culminated 1,000 years of hostility between the northern and southern factions of the Viet peoples. The modern conflict lasted for 30 years, dating from the end of the Second World War. The United States first got involved in (I think) 1958 or thereabouts under President Eisenhower. Kennedy sent special forces to Vietnam. Errol Flynn's son went there as a war photographer and vanished.

So there was a lot of history leading up to the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1975, two years after the U.S. pulled its forces out of South Vietnam. The pullout was long overdue and we all welcomed it. Our troops were, regrettably, treated badly by many Americans who opposed the war. That was shameful, in my opinion.

But I've long believed the reason why South Vietnam fell was that the U.S. Congress didn't honor the Nixon administration's commitment to keep the South Vietnamese government provisioned with arms and munitions. Many people wrongly believe the South Vietnamese soldiers refused to fight for their freedom. The truth is that 250,000 of them gave their lives in that conflict - many in the last 2 years. But they didn't have the support they needed to wage a successful defensive war. Congress let everyone down.

One of the reasons why the U.S. reneged on its commitment - so people said at the time - was that the South Vietnamese government was struggling with corruption. Of course, the U.S. had no problem supporting many other corrupt governments around the world. I think people in Congress were simply sick of the war and wanted nothing more to do with it. The U.S. never committed to actually winning the war - so no one saw any way out, except to let the South fall.

Fortunately, the United States and Vietnam now have cordial relations. I wouldn't say we are friendly nations at all, but after two generations we've found ways to move on despite a lot of pain and misery that followed the war.

Biden has been soundly criticized for the way he handled Afghanistan. But it was typical of his policies, in my opinion. When Obama was President, Biden (by his own claims - and not contradicted by Obama) advised him NOT to listen to the generals.

Now, when we went into Afghanistan (and not everyone wanted to do that), the Bush administration was advised that the United States and its allies would have to remain there for at least "two generations" (about 50 years) to ensure that two generations of Afghan women could grow up in a free and educated society. Long-time specialists in central Asia and the Middle East advised the Bush administration that they also needed to neutralize Pakistan's influence in Afghanistan. The Bush administration allegedly (as I've heard) threatened to reduce Pakistan to rubble if they didn't help us overthrow the Taliban. But they gave refuge to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the past 20 years.

The Bush administration couldn't make a 50-year commitment. That was a huge glaring weakness in our strategy. Bush hoped to quickly conquer the nation, set up a placeholder government, and leave. That was a naive plan from the beginning. His administration also made the decision NOT to equip the Afghan air force with western aircraft - but instead refurbished old Soviet aircraft ("because the mechanics were only familiar with Soviet technology").

By the time the U.S. agreed to switch to American aircraft for the Afghan Air Force, Bush, Obama, and Trump had all pulled their punches on providing support to the "corrupt" Afghan government. Yes, the Afghan government was a mess. But everyone had forgotten (or chose to forget) that the Bush administration was given a 50-year estimate for putting a real Islamic democracy in charge. We didn't even make it to the halfway mark.

So last year, when the military warned the Biden administration that the Afghan military (which had fought the Taliban for 7 years with only logistical support from the U.S. and NATO) would collapse without continuing aid, he once again chose NOT to listen to the generals.

So, here we are faced with a war in Ukraine that threatens members of NATO - countries who came to our aid.

I don't know what the best strategy is. But if you're going to fight a war, you need to listen to the generals. They're the guys who form the strategies and lead the troops. Given the chance, the U.S. military can clear just about any battlefield of combatants.

Of course, the elephant in the room - as everyone acknowledges - is that you need to do something AFTER the battlefield has been cleared. And if your post-conflict strategy sucks (as it obviously did in Iraq and Afghanistan), then new combatants will return to the field. And then you need to send in the troops again.

So my point with all that is that I fear Biden will do everything he can to avoid sending in the troops. He may wait too long. And if he does send them in, he'll most likely pull them out too soon. He's not a war-time president. We haven't had an effective war-time president since Bush 1 left office (and while I'd say his foreign policy was pretty effective, I strongly disapproved of his domestic policies then and now).

In my opinion, there are no good prospects on the horizon for an effective American war-time president. None of the last 5 did a very good job, in my opinion, although Clinton did finally prove that, yes, you CAN win a (small) war with only air power (by destroying nearly all the Serbs' fuel, supplies, and equipment). That strategy won't work against Russia in Ukraine.

I don't know what strategy WILL work. But I'd like to think we won't wait too long to find out how to end Putin's War. He's not entitled to conquer other nations. Regrettably, we don't have a Churchill or Roosevelt to face off with him. Zelenskyy is Ukraine's Churchill, and they're very fortunate to have a leader like him (and a former president like Petro Poroshenko who set aside differences to fully support his successor).

I think that no matter how badly Putin miscalculates on Ukraine and NATO, he knows he's facing a man who "doesn't listen to the generals." That's a big, big problem for us all.