Dienstag, März 29, 2011

A Day of Infamy...

Today is the day that the US fighting troops withdrew from Vietnam. The war had become so unpopular that President Johnson decided not to run for re-election, leaving the winding down of the war to his successor, President Nixon.

It was a day of infamy. Not like Pearl Harbor, which was a surprise attack held during diplomatic talks, but a day of infamy in the original sense of the word, from the Latin infamia, the inversion of fame, the flipping of fame to infamy. It is a state of extreme dishonor, a black spot on US history.

But not for the reasons that the Left would have you believe.

The popular conception is that the Vietcong was fighting for independence against a corrupt government and that the North Vietnamese were helping their oppressed brothers (and sisters) fight against tyranny. The Tet offensive was a popular uprising that the US had to put down to save the regime. The US was involved because we were knee-jerk reactionaries, trying to prevent the spread of communism and willing to kill innocent civilians for the sake of geopolitics. My Lai and "We had to destroy the village in order to save it" proved that the war was horrible and we shouldn't be involved. It was nothing but a colonial war and the US was on the wrong side. We fought a war of genocide and were outfought by peasants.

As usual, the popular conception is wrong.

The Vietcong were financed and run by the North in order to destabilize the South, which, for all its failings, was a functioning government with popular support. The North was financed in turn by both China and Russia, with the latter dominating, who sent billions in weapons and supplies in the hope that the Vietnamese, if successful, would turn over Cam Rahn Bay, a lovely natural harbor, over to the Soviets for their geopolitical games with the US. The North Vietnamese were ruthless Leninists (and remain so today, largely) that were more than happy to massacre the Catholics in the North; they violated each and every agreement signed with the French that split Vietnam without regard to anything but their revolutionary ideals. They beat the French at Dien Bien Phu in a set-piece battle that reflected less on their abilities as much more the incompetence of the French military command which allowed the battle to happen at all. They fought to unify Vietnam under the banner of the Vietnamese Communist Party, hard-core Leninists who learned their trade at Moscow's knee at the start of the Cold War.

The US was involved because the South asked us for help at a time when Wilsonist idealists were running US foreign policy, more than happy to give a helping hand to anyone trying to emulate western political philosophies. The massive amounts of foreign aid corrupted the capital thoroughly and created a political system rife with corruption and incompetence. Tet was a deliberate suicide mission aimed at US public opinion, complete with wide-spread political assassination of Southern politicians by the North, resulting in the destruction of local guerrilla fighters (the Vietcong); thereafter, the war was fought by North Vietnamese regulars, using tactics that were illegal under the Geneva Laws of Warfare (disguising soldiers as civilians and use of cultural sites for military operations). The US was indeed involved to prevent a Communist takeover: there are good reasons to do so, and the fate of those fleeing Vietnam as Boat People should be an object lesson as to how far people will go to flee Communist rule.

Civilian lives were lost, but largely because of the way the North fought. They lost every single set-piece action they tried to fight, every single one. They lost tactically, they lost strategically, the only victory they achieved was political, sapping the will of the US to continue to fight. They fielded an army of peasants that was thoroughly trounced by drafted US soldiers and South Vietnamese soldiers. The story of the ARVN 18th Infantry Division defending Xuan Loc gives absolute lie to the claim that the South Vietnamese were incapable of fighting and worthless: that division outfought the North Vietnamese 4th Army Corps to a standstill until, outnumbered and running out of ammunition (that the US Congress denied them), they withdrew, with one unit staying behind to be completely wiped out to cover the withdrawal.

That is why this is a day of infamy. It is a day of infamy for the US congress, which made foreign policy by cutting aid, making it impossible for South Vietnam to defend itself. They prevented the US military from intervening via what we now call a no-fly zone, giving air support to the South at a time when it was being attacked by the North. The North Vietnamese had tried something similar before and was stopped by US air power

Put bluntly: the US failed in its commitment, failed in its duty, failed to stand by a country - South Vietnam - which by 1973 was fighting the war without US troops and holding its own, indeed winning back the countryside. It finally fell to a combined arms attack using more tanks and artillery than the Germans had when they started WW2.

The North broke every treaty it ever signed, broke every promise it ever made, and after the war was over, killed millions of Vietnamese through "re-education" camps and political oppression that led to desperate attempts to escape. They fought a war of lies and deceit, a typical Communist "war of liberation" that did anything but liberate the country. The Vietnam we see today is still run by that party, mellowed by age (and the dying-out of the Leninists) and itself thoroughly corrupted.

It is also a day of infamy because it led to an entire generation of Democratic politicians whose careers were made by opposing US actions, bordering on treason and sedition, typified by John Kerry, who used his service as a tool to gain and hold political office by making the US look as bad as possible in order to appeal to those who were disgusted by the war. This is nothing but brazen opportunism and is indeed infamous.

Lessons were learned. The US no longer has a drafted military, moving to a purely professional army instead because of many of the problems faced. Allies also knew that the US could only be relied on if led by the right politician, and indeed this gave solace to our enemies because they also knew that the US could not be relied on if led by corrupt and incompetent politicians. The US showed that it is vulnerable to the manipulation of public opinion and that there are more than enough willing and useful idiots more than happy to further their own careers by advancing viewpoints that damage US interests.

Now some reading this might roll their eyes and say "another revisionist..." but I dare anyone to state the case that the facts are different. You're entitled to your own opinions, but the facts speak another language. One of infamy.

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