Friday, May 06, 2005
To finally take care of this shortcoming, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you direct from the pages of the Los Angeles Times, the distinguished Robert Scheer's "Our Loss Was Our Gain in Vietnam". Of course, I can't resist taking the scenic route, but bear with me, we'll get where we're going soon enough. We now join our columnist, already in progress:
Got that everyone? Since we get along fine with Vietnam today, we shouldn't have bombed them yesterday. I'll be watching for followup columns in Der Spiegel and Nippon News explaining how sorry Mr. Scheer is that the US bombed those countries -- if we'd only known how nice and industrious these people were!
So, if it turns out we can get along just fine with a communist Vietnam, why did we once upon a time try to bomb it "back to the Stone Age," in the words of U.S. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay?
Still, it's not like he's hoping the Iraqi insurgents beat our troops today, just because we are too stupid to recognize that if we'd only left Saddam in power, he and his people would soon be just gosh-darn neighborly.
If we'd just had the sense to lose faster, maybe to have surrendered without a fight, we could have had all the cheap wicker furniture we wanted that many decades sooner.
After our defeat by communist Vietnam, for example, Hanoi promptly diverted its troops to defend against an invasion from communist China. Now these historical rivals compete for shelf space in Costco and Wal-Mart.
Still, it's not like he's hoping American boys lose this war quickly so we don't get the Iraqi insurgents too angry to return to their cottage industries, exporting cheap trinkets and petroleum to a grateful world.
And terrifying people like that was a really dumb thing to do, because it caused the U.S. to fight communism for so many years, when if we'd been really smart, we'd have just invited the Russians to the grand opening of the new Target in Washingtongrad and gotten down to business. Fighting and beating the enemy is a fool's errand, when it's so easy just to lose instead and reap the commercial rewards, for surely the Russians love their wicker too.
Where Marx was totally wrong, of course, was in the fantasy that the international solidarity of workers of the world would overwhelm nationalist and religious identity as the main engine of history. Oddly, whether out of fear or through demagoguery, generations of U.S. policymakers made this same error, terrifying voters with the specter of a communist movement with a timetable for the takeover of the world.
Still, it's not like he's accusing modern day U.S. governments of hyping fear of terrorism just to fight a war we'd be better off losing, all because a few pesky hi-jackers got lucky one lousy time.
Perhaps the pattern wasn't recognized during the Cold War because it wasn't there yet. Vietnam wasn't free to work the night shift at CostCo until a few U.S. politicians terrified their poor constituents into such an irrational fear of Communism that the poor fools went out and beat it. It's easy to make the peacenik points now, after the Soviet Union has collapsed, leaving its constellation of satellite tyrants on their own to figure out how to feed the remaining part of their populations they hadn't killed yet. If the U.S. had taken every tyrant's 80% plus margin of victory as proof of peaceful intentions, this would be a different world. After all, every tyrant worth his salt, from Hitler to Saddam, has won by at least as much.
So why didn't the U.S. recognize this pattern during the Cold War -- particularly with regard to Vietnam -- and back off? After all, nobody then or now could plausibly deny that Vietnamese revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh was first and foremost a popular nationalist. As President Eisenhower wrote in his memoir, if free elections had been held across Vietnam after the defeat of the French, Ho would have won 80% of the vote.
Still, Scheer hasn't done much more than question whether it was wise to have engaged in an earlier war. What does that have to do with his wishes for his own troops deployed in the field today?
I'm sure he "supports the troops". And he's not kneeling in front of the White House sticking pins into a desert camoflauged voodoo doll. That's not saying much.
Three million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans dead in a war without purpose.
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