Postmodern classic?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Iraq is Vietnam?

This blog is mostly just a recording place for when I find funny stuff on the net. I usually don't post political stuff, but I couldn't resist after I saw this column in todays WaPo- "Echoes of Vietnam". All this criticism of the president, blech.

Iraq is Vietnam... but this is not a bad thing. It is a bad thing if you buy into the commonly held perceptions of why we, the US, left Vietnam.

I was raised and exposed to the reason that we 'lost' the Vietnam War because it was 'the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time'. There was some vague explanations saying we had stretched too far- an unspoken assumption of latent imperialism, or our policies following the domino theory were too 'abstract and ideological'.

Most of my family believes this, this is what's taught at school- but the weird thing is, people who fought there don't seem to buy it. This always puzzled me, then I read more, about the actual execution of the war. We lost some good Americans there, just as in any other war. Didn't really seem to lose any battles, though. Then how did we lose? How did Southeast Asia dissolve into the chaos, anarchy and repression that characterize the aftermath of Vietnam- Pol Pot, etc... was the victory of the Vietnamese Communist Party 'inevitable'?

'Inevitable'- that's a great word, but so loaded with meaning, if one is to accept the Marxist-Hegelian definition. The forces of history and progress, as imbued in the vanguard of the people, the Communist Party. By being at the front of 'progress', these revolutionaries are legitimized by this knowledge that only they are privilege to. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

However, what scared me when I began to research this material was not it's inanity or the actual result of those who followed this ideology, but instead my preexisting familiarity with this line of thinking. Since when have I been a Marxist? Who was exposing me to this during my short 25 years? A number of things could contribute: some could be my exposure to liberal family members (of which none could be called communists), but the majority of the rest must be attributed to academia and the media. I don't wish to get bogged down in the details of attempting to quantify which percentage is this or that, assigning blame; like any other individual, there have been many events, people and arguments that have influenced me.

The dilemma is that I alone am responsible for my thoughts and actions, not my parents or my teachers. But as Socrates has been famously quoted as saying, "The unexamined life is not worth living". I, too, subscribe to this; for myself as well as my environment. This process of examination began to consume me as I discovered more about this world and the assumptions we live under, aware or not. It was puzzling to look back over my life and decisions, my assumptions, especially in the last years of political confrontation and war that have dominated my academic and military careers.

This was not restricted to one field of my life, like the illusion of sterile compartments, separating this from my reality. I realized that my assumptions regarding the conclusion of American military involvement in Vietnam were heavily influenced by this line of thinking. This being the case, it is of utmost imperative to examine them further. Ideally in the vein of a Socratic dialogue would I find this- not just to replace one ideology with another, but to explore different explanations and reasoning. I found this, to my surprise, in blogs.

The caliber of exchange and access to information has been a wonderful experience. I discovered many who agreed with me on this subject (among others), whom I will call 'Vietnam War Revisionists'. This is in the sense that, like me, they don't accept the common explanation. While we can never know what might have happened, it seems probable that our perspective was wrong, but the current explanation is not good enough. How did we lose despite such an overwhelming military presence? Hearts and minds- did it actually work?

I fight the urge to devolve into the gritty details of tactics or the abstract ideals of strategy in this attempt to explain. And I'm not trying to write a PhD thesis here. Looking at the same material, a differing point of view emerges- it might've been different.

If we could've won there, then we should be able to win now in Iraq. Not in a perfect way of course, no conflict ever is or will be. But we must not be restricted to one intellectual framework or the other- and that is why people who straddle both sides are the most interesting to me. They know what the other side means.

My thinking has changed, as I hope it will continue to- questioning and probing, open to the possibilities of the future. Yet I have discovered that there are unchanging principles, among the writings of the ancients in the Western tradition from Greece and Rome, alluded to in many of the worlds different religions.

More to come- there are implications beyond our current political situation.


  • I see a connection between "the Domino Theory" that governed our intervention in Vietnam, and whatever umbrella concept is currently in use to justify our most recent imperialistic venture, namely, government policy makers who are wrong or lying. I suppose it's inevitable that we should take full advantage of "the best military money can buy"; I only wish these people weren't so serious about being stupid.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:58 PM  

  • Can't say I agree with you on that one. Or really on much- I'm of the opinion that the military should only be used when it is a national security issue and it frightens me to hear that 'Madeleine Albright' rhetoric.

    I don't think we can blame this on the 'Domino Theory', even if our enemies believe it too (like they did in Vietnam and almost worked for them). But we're still in a bit of a problem if every time we move to protect ourselves it is considered an act of imperialism. Not only absurd in any historical context, that is not a healthy path we go down. Unless what was loosely called imperialism has changed into the vague and faceless behemoth of 'globalization', which is a far cry from historical precedent. Can we relook this 'imperialism' thing? I think it's necessary.

    At this point, we are in the middle of the storm so it's rather hard to get a focus on things. I'm not so pessimistic, but I would be if I thought things would never change as they have in the last 15 years.

    By Blogger sunguh5307, at 7:04 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home