The fiasco for the U.S. that was Vietnam has shaped America’s politics and policy and even its identity for nearly four decades and yet the same thinking that found us in that morass is what is sinking us in Afghanistan today.
We are in a war that we are not likely to win in conventional terms, or any other terms, for that matter. And we are in it for the same reason as Vietnam. The Domino theory.
It was felt by Republicans and Democrats alike that if South Vietnam fell to the communists all the other countries in that region and even elsewhere would fall like a row of dominoes. That has not been the case. Yes, South Vietnam did fall. It could never defend itself alone because it had a corrupt government whom its own people would not support. Once the U.S. quit and left it to the South Vietnamese we lost the war by default.
California’s senior U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein, whom I would normally consider a font of wisdom, seemed to express that domino theory in a short interview with KGO Radio‘s Ronn Owens the other day, doing what I believe is an annual thing for him — visiting Washington D.C. and talking to our elected representatives.
I don’t recall her exact words, but she said that we have to fight in Afghanistan because if it falls to the terrorists, other nations, most notably neighboring Pakistan, which she cautioned has nuclear weapons that could fall into terrorist hands, might fall. So there you have it, the domino theory all over again.
Getting back to Vietnam, I note that besides Communist China, which was obviously already communist to begin with (since 1949), no other nations in the region became communist. And both of those nations, Vietnam (now just one nation) and China, are trading partners with the U.S. and operate under a hybrid system that still sees communist rule for government but much capitalism in their economies, leading one to wonder what would have happened if indeed all those nations in the region had gone communist. Would they all have communist governments and capitalist economic systems?
I would certainly agree that we cannot let the terrorists get ahold of Pakistan’s nukes. And furthermore, I think it could be disastrous to let Iran develop a nuclear weapons capability — fair or not, even though we have our nukes, for our own safety and for the safety of the world we cannot afford to let this nuclear bomb thing spread any more than it already has.
But that is what we should concentrate on, rather than full-scale land wars or anti-guerilla missions and nation building exercises. It should not be the role of the United States to act as the policeman of the world (save from protecting ourselves from nukes on a specific basis) and the creator of good democratic government around the globe. What with the political upheaval going on in our own nation and the near collapse of a democracy or civilization to the south due to the Mexican drug wars, we have our hands full already.
Feinstein also said that she wants to prevent the Taliban and/or Al Qaeda (to me the same) from retaking Afghanistan and taking control elsewhere if for no other reason than to save women from the barbaric treatment they face under a perverted form (my words) of strict Muslim law. That is a laudable and humanitarian goal but not a practical one. While we try in vain to fix the rest of the world our own civilization here at home could crumble.
And personally I do not feel our armed forces should be used for anything other than actual defense of our nation. No one should be asked or told they must die for the cause of another nation.
And now I might undo most everything I just said by also recalling now that Feinstein claimed that she saw intelligence that indicated that the 9/11 terrorists also had planned to make major strikes on the West Coast, to include in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Sounds like what George W. Bush and Dick Cheney claimed and used as support for committing us to an endless war on terror (why can’t we see those reports? Why are they secret? Surely the enemy already knows about them since they are the ones who supposedly were planning the attacks).
Nonetheless, I do not think we can let ourselves get bogged down in wars all over the globe. Our defense should begin and stay at home. World War II worked but I am not sure we could do that one again in our world today.