Friday, August 24, 2007

Jim Webb Discusses the Consequences of Vietnam

And shows just why simply leaving a war zone neither serves America's interests abroad, nor "relieves suffering" of the country where the war is...

Webb On Vietnam
In Vietnam, the propaganda machines must work full time to convince an increasingly restless population that the communist war effort was uniquely nationalist and "pure," and that the rigid disciplines that allowed Hanoi to prevail in war still have validity as the future threatens to pass them by.
Here at home, a quiet but intense debate has raged over our involvement, with the forum largely controlled by the media and academia, two of the most staunchly antiwar communities during the conflict (a third being Hollywood). All of these groups have a large stake in having the war remembered as both unnecessary and unwinnable.
Simplistic, cartoonish mythologies accompany both the communist and antiwar versions of the war, no doubt bringing solace to those who were on the right side of its outcome. It is easier to understand why our former enemies persist in such notions than it is to comprehend why so many of our own best and brightest still cling to the illusion that allowing -- or in some cases assisting -- a Stalinist takeover in South Vietnam was an honorable enterprise. The communists paid a heavy price for this victory, and it is natural that they should continue to rejoice in it. What is not natural is that our own commentators, now provided with so much evidence to measure results, should abet the rewriting of history.
In order to justify the war as more of an inevitable reunification of the country than a communist takeover, scant mention is made of other nationalist parties inside Vietnam that the communists systematically eliminated beginning in the first days after World War II. The continuing focus on American and other "atrocities" (My Lai is a national monument) blurs the reality that assassinations were an essential part of the communist insurgency. According to the late Bernard Fall, communist terrorists killed an average of 11 government officials daily during the early 1960s -- the equivalent in this country of an Oklahoma City bombing every day, for years. In a form of deliberate amnesia, commentators rarely mention that such policy-driven assassinations continued throughout the war, with thousands being executed in the city of Hue alone during the brief communist occupation in the 1968 Tet offensive.
In order to demean attempts to nurture a democracy in the south even as a war was being fought, the South Vietnamese are continually portrayed as corrupt "puppets" of the U.S. Communist leaders, meanwhile, are elevated to the now-familiar caricature of the selfless noble savage. Communist soldiers -- who fought well but lost repeatedly -- are reverentially referred to as wily guerrilla fighters who continually bested the inept, over equipped forces of the U.S. and South Vietnam. These misrepresentations persist despite Hanoi's admission that more than 1.4 million of its soldiers died in the war, as opposed to 58,000 Americans and 245,000 South Vietnamese.
In terms of attitude, the most comprehensive survey of those who fought in Vietnam (Harris, 1980) indicated that 91% of those who served were "glad they served their country," 74% "enjoyed their time in the military," and 89% agreed with the statement that "our troops were asked to fight in a war which our political leaders in Washington would not let them win."
The American antiwar movement, whose former members dominate the present administration as well as many of the media and academic filters through which the debate must pass, is benignly portrayed as a reactive force that mobilized only in response to a failed American strategy. In truth, many of its core leaders were dedicated to revolutionary change in America even before the Vietnam War started (the infamous Students for a Democratic Society was created by the Port Huron Statement in 1962). Many of them -- including members of the influential Indochina Peace Campaign -- continued to coordinate directly with Hanoi after the American military pullout in 1973.
This vote was a horrendous blow, in both emotional and practical terms, to the country that had trusted American judgment for more than a decade of intense conflict. It was also a clear indication that Washington was abandoning the South Vietnamese even as the North Vietnamese continued to enjoy the support of the Soviet Union, China and other Eastern bloc nations. The vote's impact was hardly lost on North Vietnamese military planners, who began the final offensive only five weeks later, as the South Vietnamese were attempting to adjust their military defenses.
Finally, the aftermath of Saigon's fall is rarely dealt with at all. A gruesome holocaust took place in Cambodia, the likes of which had not been seen since World War II. Two million Vietnamese fled their country -- usually by boat -- with untold thousands losing their lives in the process. This was the first such Diaspora in Vietnam's long and frequently tragic history. Inside Vietnam a million of the South's best young leaders were sent to re-education camps; more than 50,000 perished while imprisoned, and others remained captives for as long as 18 years. An apartheid system was put into place that punished those who had been loyal to the U.S., as well as their families, in matters of education, employment and housing. The Soviet Union made Vietnam a client state until its own demise, pumping billions of dollars into the country and keeping extensive naval and air bases at Cam Ranh Bay.

The irony is that Webb gets Vietnam so right, and correctly argues that we owe our servicemen and women who served (no one wishes to slam their own service after all), he gets Iraq soooo wrong.
The two are damn near identical wars. But Webb wishes to glorify the lost Vietnam war, elevating the valiant serviceman over the incompetant Congress, while at the same time villifying Iraq and the Commander in Chief who wishes to avoid the mistakes of the past. Not only is it odd given Webb's stance on Vietnam, but it becomes downright paradoxical that Webb's son is in Iraq, and he seems to wish the same awful degredation of his son's military service that the anti-war radicals back then gave to his service. And he panders to the modern day anti-war factions while slamming the Vietnam variety.

Basically, if Webb has his way, history will repeat itself under his watch. What makes this so tragic is that he's so damned brilliant on Vietnam and so damned stupid on Iraq.

Like father, like son. In 20 years, we'll have this same article written by his kid, with Iraq replacing Vietnam, and Cindy Sheehan replacing Hanoi Jane.

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