Hanson’s Vietnam Lesson

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007 1:12 am by Neal

Victor Davis Hanson on Bush’s statements — and subsequent reactions — on Vietnam:

In all the hysteria over the Bush Vietnam evocation, people are losing their sanity. Now those in Vietnam are being dragged out and quoted by the mainstream media to prove Bush’s lunacy. But what are subjects of a police state supposed to say — “I wish our present Communist dictatorship had lost”? Do we think Cubans routinely give widely publicized interviews criticizing their Castroites — and live?

And then there is the “they weren’t that bad” strain of criticism, as if we are supposed to have forgotten that well before the partition hundreds of thousands fled the north to escape Communism, that Ho’s collectivization efforts, as was true anywhere in the Communist world where such confiscations took place, killed thousands, or that during Tet hundreds, maybe even thousands, were taken out and shot in Hue by Communist thugs. No need to mention the boat people, the reeducation camps, and Cambodia.

The problem with talking about Vietnam is the paradox that all seem to wish to forget — reminiscent to Thucydides’s remark that an ill-thought out thing like Syracuse could have nevertheless worked had the Athenians not torn each apart at home.

So few want to admit that something that was a clear-cut disaster from 1963-68, got better with Vietnamization and counterinsurgency between 1969-73, was largely stabilized and viable by 1974-5, and then completely undercut by Congressional military cutbacks, and refusal to fund promised arms. So Vietnam, like the expedition to Sicily, was a blunder that could have nevertheless — with a little more resolve — finally still been saved and followed the evolutionary path of a South Korea.

Note the recent quotes from Pakistani and Syrian strongmen to the effect that the U.S. abandons its friends. These are not right-wing talking points, but candid assessments by selfish, calculating dictators about the world as they saw it. Their referents, like bin Laden’s, are mostly Vietnam.

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