“It is time to pull our troops out. … The longer we stay in … the more chance we have of being sucked into another Vietnam in that region. The longer we stay in … the less credibility we have with neighbors in the hemisphere that we are a nation of peace, not an invading force.”
Does it sound like the current debate in Washington?
It could be. The congressman doing the preaching still serves in the House today – the author of one of several bills to deny funding for any more troops in Iraq.
His name is Ed Markey, D-Mass. But this little snippet of an impassioned plea on the floor of the House isn’t from a debate last week. Rather, it is an excerpt of an equally impassioned and misguided plea he made in 1983 about that well-known replay of Vietnam – the successful, efficient, textbook invasion of Grenada.
Some people are just so afraid of another Vietnam, they are willing to ensure that any conflict in which America engages becomes just that – another Vietnam.
That’s what I think about the shrill, whiny, ill-informed comparisons being drawn between Iraq and Vietnam by so many in Congress today.
The people most afraid of another Vietnam are the very ones who will cause it. They don’t understand what went wrong in Vietnam. They don’t understand that their policies of capitulation and appeasement were what prompted the disaster of Vietnam.
It’s time for a history lesson.
Vietnam was the second undeclared war in which America fought – the first being Korea, a United Nations action and, therefore, even more misguided in some ways.
Being an undeclared war is where the problems began. Congress, under the control of the Democrats, by the way, was never given the opportunity to fulfill its constitutional obligation and to explore all aspects of the conflict, the threat and the potential for resolution. Congress was never asked to bless the war – to take ownership of it in the name of the people of the United States.
Instead, the war began innocently enough under the direction of a Democratic president, John F. Kennedy, with a limited number of U.S. advisers helping the non-Communist south defend itself from the aggressive Communist north. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and the presidency was assumed by another Democrat, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who promptly began to escalate the war – eventually sending more than 500,000 U.S. troops to Southeast Asia in this still undeclared war.
The mission was always unclear. Victory was never defined. It was a defensive war with extremely limited rules of engagement:
- no bombing of the enemy’s key strategic targets
- take a piece of real estate from the enemy and give it back a day later
- no significant incursions into enemy territory
- when the enemy extended its supply lines into neighboring countries, they were untouchable
- generals in the field didn’t make tactical decisions, politicians in Washington did
Nevertheless, despite how the deck was stacked against American troops, they fought bravely and successfully, ultimately winning every battle in which they fought against a fierce, cunning and determined enemy.
The enemy, with money and intelligence provided from Moscow and Beijing, knew they could never defeat U.S. troops on the battlefield. Their plan was to drag out the war and win it in the streets of the USA – on college campuses, in the media, with the help of movie stars and other self-loathing Americans, and especially in the Congress of the United States.
That’s just what they did.
The conflict extended through the disgraced presidency of Republican Richard Nixon, who discovered even new ways to mismanage a war. Eventually, Americans left behind their allies in the south to the fate of the Communist invaders. To add insult to injury, the Democrat Congress even pulled the plug on any funding for the South Vietnamese who continued to defend their homeland after U.S. forces left. They were no match for the might of the Soviet-backed North Vietnamese.
It is clear to me that the very people complaining about Iraq being another Vietnam are simply self-fulfilling prophets of doom and gloom.
Some are probably just plain stupid. Others, I suspect, have more sinister motives. They are actually eager to see America (which they trust about as much as the average Frenchman does) taken down a notch, humbled, defanged, emasculated.
If you want another Vietnam, follow the people who led us into the first one, repeat all the same mistakes, do not learn anything from history.
It would seem to me that if our goal was avoiding another Vietnam we should:
- stop electing Democrats to the White House and Congress
- stop launching undeclared wars
- stop handcuffing our troops and allow them to defeat our enemies at any cost
- stop the armchair generals in Washington and let seasoned military commanders call the shots on the ground
- get rid of all elected officials who had a role in the misconduct of the Vietnam War – people like Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd
- stop selling out our friends
- elect only members of Congress who have the courage and conviction to see tough conflicts through to victory
- engage in wars judiciously – and only with clear missions and the support of the American people
- accept nothing short of victory when we engage in wars
- kick butt and take names
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