Wednesday, September 5, 2007

On Lacking Sufficient Legitimacy

George Bush not so very long ago referenced the Vietnam war, comparing aspects of it to the current conflict in Iraq. The left of course went apoplectic over the analogy, crowing if you will over how insurgencies and civil wars are unwinnable. War hero Lt. Sen. John Kerry said it was an "irresponsible" comparison, and accused Bush of being "ignorant of the realities of both of those wars." Yes. It seems perfectly reasonable to say that the commander in chief is "ignorant" about the war. He must not have sources of information of the same high caliber that are available to US senators. And, per Kerry, it's deja vu all over again, since "more American soldiers are being sent to fight and die in a civil war we can't stop and an insurgency we can't bomb into submission." This is how Kerry supports the troops. Ted Kennedy, a famous senator, stated that Vietnam was lost because its government "lacked sufficient legitimacy with its people." Kennedy of course is famed for his ample legitimacy -- the fact that he can prove his descent from Old Joe is the reason he is a famous senator.

We must never argue about facts. Facts are to be demonstrated. If they can't be, they are opinions, inferences or theories. Yet conflict persists over the meaning of Vietnam. The reason for this conflict, according to Mark Moyar, is that the institutions of the hoary left "chose to rely on outdated historians or their own prejudices. The insurgency in Vietnam was dead by 1971, thanks to South Vietnam's armed forces, America's forces, and a South Vietnamese civilian population that overwhelmingly viewed the South Vietnamese government as legitimate. During 1972, after all American combat units had departed, South Vietnamese forces defeated a massive North Vietnamese invasion with the help of American air power. The so-called Christmas bombing of 1972 bombed North Vietnam into submission, resulting in a peace treaty. Had the antiwar Congress not slashed aid to South Vietnam and prohibited the use of American aircraft over Vietnamese skies, the South Vietnamese probably could have repulsed the North Vietnamese when they violated the peace treaty in 1975."

Certainty is an irresponsible luxury when dealing with might-have-beens. But the reality of what has happened should not be open to dispute. Thus, Cambodia. I've referenced its killing fields on several occasions. If you ever delude yourself into thinking that mankind is basically good, I commend your attention to the Killing Fields, whereby you might be disabused of that misconception. Salient to all this is the statement of Stanley Karnow, author of an old but influential history of the Vietnam War. In 1975, urging the abandonment of our ally, Karnow rationalized that the so-called loss of Cambodia would be "the salvation of the Cambodians." Straight out of the Ministry of Truth: defeat is victory, death is life, betrayal is loyalty. Then-Representative Christopher Dodd said "The greatest gift our country can give to the Cambodian people is peace, not guns. And the best way to accomplish that goal is by ending military aid now." The Khmer Rouge murdered a quarter of the country's population.

Does history teach us anything? "When America shied from tough military action -- in 1964, 1968, and 1975 -- Hanoi tried to win the war rapidly by military means. When America and South Vietnam employed their military power effectively -- in 1963 and 1972 -- the North Vietnamese developed a serious interest in negotiations." I'm tempted to be vulgar. Enough to point out the greatest lesson the History Channel could teach us -- taught on a daily basis on Animal Planet: predators kill the easiest prey.

Moyar's research shows "that American intervention in Vietnam saved Indonesia from going Communist in 1965. It probably also prevented countries such as Thailand, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia from becoming Communist or pro-Communist. Furthermore, American intervention fractured the Sino-North Vietnamese alliance and tamed China." Yes, that might be the luxury of certainty. And after all, who's afraid of the Communists? They're a joke ... now. But they are that joke because the USA stalled them with holding actions until that system of oppression collapsed under its own corruption.

The current problem, of islamism, isn't that ideology's corruption. Holding actions will not do. The familiar historical analogy holds, of opportunistic aggression, but the means of meeting the challenge are different. It just seems like a wise thing to do, to repeat methods that have worked. It seems irresponsible to the point of self-destruction to repeat catastrophic measures. Our betrayal and abandonment of South Vietnam was for us only a tragedy. For those oppressed, primitive and barely human natives of Southeast Asia, our behavior, our cynicism and cowardice had nothing to do with national angst. It simply killed them. Being murdered is worse than feeling a painful emotion, except of course if you're a leftist and it's only gooks or ragheads who are being killed because we left them to fend for themselves against predators. I'm sure that's the lesson I'm extracting from current leftist attitudes. Such an attitude must be correct. After all, me first, right?

If and when we abandon Iraq, the bloodbath that all sides predict will be on our heads. Saddam's murders were organized and had a sort of logic behind them. The mutual genocides ... sectocides ... that the Sunnis and Shiites will work upon each other will make the Baathists look like Quakers. It is not wrong to overthrow tyrants. It is not wrong to spread liberty. It isn't wrong to use force to intervene against a deadly threat. But it is wrong to bring instability and leave chaos.

Sometimes I just get sick of myself, with my painfully obvious moralistic preachments. It makes me feel stupid, to be so obvious.


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