Ed Driscoll

The Real Lesson Of Vietnam

On March 22nd of 2003, with the War in Iraq in its earliest phase, leading to a lightning knockout of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baathist infrastructure, I wrote a post tying together the seemingly disparate strains connecting America, the Middle East and Vietnam together.

Not surprisingly, Victor Davis Hanson does an ever better job in his latest syndicated column, “The real lesson of Vietnam“:

In response here at home, the ghost of Vietnam is once again being conjured. Given this tendency to compare the two wars, we really should re-examine the horror of Vietnam, specifically its final years.

By 1973, the goal of fashioning a South Korean-like, non-communist entity in Indochina was supposedly obtained and the war over. The Paris peace agreements recognized two autonomous Vietnamese states. Almost all American prisoners were returned. The last few American ground troops came home.

If the communist North, and its Soviet and Chinese patrons, saw 1973 as a breather rather than a peace, American officials at least promised the South material support and air cover should the communists reinvade.

They did just that in spring 1975, barreling down Highway 1 with conventional Soviet tanks. Americans apparently did not want another quarter-century commitment to a second DMZ to ward off a perpetual communist threat from the north. By 1974, a series of congressional acts had radically cut the funding of American military support for the South Vietnamese. The Saigon government abruptly collapsed in April 1975.

More than a million refugees fled the south. Tens of thousands of boat people drowned or starved. Another million were either killed, imprisoned or sent to re-education camps. The Cambodia holocaust followed.

The perception of American weakness prompted communist adventurism from Afghanistan to Central America. Few in the Middle East thought there were any consequences to taking American hostages, or killing American soldiers and diplomats. Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein alike had little fear of “the pitiful, helpless giant” (Richard Nixon’s phrase).

There are lessons here. When the United States has stayed on after fighting dictatorial enemies