Vietnam: Retrospective Part 8 of 8
Ev'rybody's talkin' 'bout
Revolution, Evolution, Masturbation, Flagellation, Regulation,
Integrations, mediations, United Nations, congratulations
All we are saying is give peace a chance
All we are saying is give peace a chance"
– John Lennon/Paul McCartney, 1969
When Nixon replaced Johnson as President, the United States made one more attempt at driving the North Vietnamese out of the south. He raised the restrictions on pursuing the communists into their sanctuaries. He even authorized the bombing of strategic targets in North Vietnam. Then, in an unexpected move, Nixon drove a wedge between North Vietnam’s communist sponsors. He opened relations with China thereby allowing old rifts between the two communist giants to re-emerge. Border disputes flared up between China and Russia. They had differing views of the conduct of the war between communism and capitalism. They even had differing views of their shared ideology. Thus, the harmony that provided North Vietnam with seemingly unlimited war material began to dry up as Russia and China began rearming themselves for a potential Sino-Soviet conflict. Ultimately, like any schoolyard bully, the North Vietnamese had to accept the fact that they had met their match on the battlefield. Peace was about to be given a chance.
However, the North Vietnamese knew that they still held a trump card: The American anti-war movement. They used the peace accord as a subterfuge to remove the Americans from the battlefield and make one last push to invade the south. It worked only because the anti-war movement prevailed in convincing Congress to suspend all support of South Vietnam. There was nothing left to resist communist aggression. The path of pacifism was trampled under the feet of communist aggression, and more than 2.5 million people died in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Think about it. Who are America’s greatest allies today? The French? The English? The Russians? These were our main allies during World War II, and yet, they are failing allies today. They are weak. They make themselves small to avoid appearing aggressive (as they did prior to World War II) and their behavior encourages attacks. The once mighty British navy now numbers less than twenty ships. The French army never regained its strength after surrendering to the Nazis. These nations are now attacked by terrorists far more often than the United States.
Why can’t peace be everlasting? Every time we let down our guard and exhibit weakness, we encourage a new enemy. Today, they attack us with terrorism, and they’re winning. You disagree? Look at how your lives have changed. The economy has tanked. We have surrendered freedom of movement and peaceful assembly to agents who frisk and observe us as though we are the enemy.
We pretend to be strong. We invade Iraq and Afghanistan while the agents of terrorism lurk in other places, some even our “allies.” And, when we take command of a place, we gather tribal leaders and allow them to reestablish the same institutions and customs that inspired them to attack us in the first place. Why don’t we do in Iraq and Afghanistan as MacArthur did in Japan, and teach them a new way of governing themselves and living as peaceful, civilized nations.
More astounding is the fact that there are some, even in those places that sponsor terrorism, who plead for our help. How easy it would be to lend them a hand, even a kind word of encouragement would be welcome. And yet our government denies they even exist. We continue to exhibit weakness despite the fact that history cries out to us to be strong.
It reminds me of a popular TV series Kung Fu (1972-75) wherein a Shaolin Monk played by David Carradine, exiled to America in the days of the early westward expansion, wanders into one misadventure after another. Even though he has the ability to stop bad people from committing crimes or otherwise perpetrating evil deeds, he refuses until someone is hurt. Then, and only then, he acts, and the problem is resolved. Is there something more noble in fixing a problem rather than preventing it?
All that pacifists believed in and struggled for has proven illusory. The peace that they sought is always beyond their reach. They abandon tried and proven principles of what works, and replace them with what they believe ought to work. They are driven by the best of intentions only to discover that their path leads straight to the gates of war and hell.
Why won’t they learn?