October 25, 2009

THEY DIDN'T THEN AND THEY DON'T NOW UNDERSTAND WHAT THE GOAL IN VIETNAM SHOULD HAVE BEEN:

It's Vietnam, Again (Jackson Diehl, October 25, 2009, Washington Post)

"One of the lessons of Vietnam," said Democratic Sen. John Kerry, "is if you are going to send American forces into harm's way, you don't do it in a limited way. You don't do it tying hands behind your back ahead of time. You don't ask people to give their lives for something less than the prospect of success."

Kerry might have been talking about Afghanistan -- only he wasn't. He was talking about the Serbian province of Kosovo, in April 1999, in the middle of the U.S. intervention there.

Kerry, one of the country's best-known Vietnam veterans, makes a lot of comparisons to that war. But he's hardly alone. Each time Washington has debated sending troops to war in the past 30 years, or bringing them home, parallels to Vietnam have been drawn -- and endlessly argued over.


Comparing other wars to Vietnam is a worthwhile exercise so long as you understand what was wrong with the way that war was waged. By setting a goal of merely preserving South Vietnam's independence we had that conflict wrong from the get go. At a minimum, the goal should have been regime change in the North. Better still, we should have just skipped that bit player in the Cold War and regime changed the PRC and the USSR. The ultimate question wasn't whether the South Vietnamese should be free of communist domination but whether humankind should be. Shying away from ultimate questions always leads you into messes.

Similarly, the ultimate question in the Muslim World is whether its people should be free of Islamicist domination. The big difference between communism and Islamicism is that the latter is so easily regime changed if it crops up again anywhere. Chasing al Qaeda and the Taliban around is certainly time consuming but it requires so little in the way of men and material that there's really no reason for us to stop. A duck pond isn't a quagmire.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2009 9:03 AM
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