In thinking about the war in Iraq I was prompted to reflect on the Vietnam War and the differences between the two situations and in particular how the irrational response of many liberals to the Iraq war is largely the result of their now-ingrained or even inherited response to Vietnam.
Looked back on from the vantage point of history 30 years later, the Vietnam war was clearly a mistake, not just in how it was executed – which we don’t need to go into here – but on the most fundamental, conceptual level. Ostensibly we went into Vietnam as we had gone into Korea before it, to stop the spread of international communism and make sure that Vietnam did not become the first step in the communist takeover of all of Southeast Asia.
This motivation for entering the war was mistaken for a number of reasons. We started out from the flawed assumption that communism was a truly viable political ideology and a genuine competitor for capitalism. This is something which we should have known at the time and which history has now proven to be true, but as a nation we were too consumed by fear of communism and not confident enough in our own ideology to merely sit back and let things take their natural course. The truth is that communism was never a viable political system, but merely window dressing adopted by dictators and perverted to serve their needs. Even the Soviet Union wasn’t really practicing communism, and even as an empire the USSR was already doomed as early as the 1960s, because with every new expansion and every new conquest they stretched their resources thinner and thinner. Had we not intervened in Korea and Vietnam and other places around the world in the 1960s it’s not unreasonable to suspect that the Soviet Union would have collapsed under its own weight even sooner than it did. To some extent our opposition gave it a certain amount of competitivel drive which it might not have had otherwise.
If our opposition to the expansion of communism and Soviet influence was mistaken, is our opposition to Islamic extremism and our War on Terror equally misguided? Many on the left seem to think so – their beliefs have been shaped by the era of Vietnam, taking the mistakes of that war and extending them to all wars and taking the excesses of our government in that situation and assuming that any government which takes us into war is equally corrupt and duplicitous.
There’s no question that the governments formed on the principles of radical Islam are just as evil or perhaps even more reprehensible than Soviet puppet dictatorships were. While communism as an ideology was easily perverted to oppression and abuse, at heart is was a relatively humane philosophy. Radical Islam on the other hand has built into it support for slavery, an opposition to education, extreme oppression of women, complete intolerance of freedom of expression and expansionist tendancies which make Stalinism look moderate.
While Communism wanted to subvert and dominate its enemies for their own good, radical Islam wants to destroy their enemies for being infidels. While communism took over innocent third world countries and dragged them halfway into the modern era through the implementation of inefficient collectivism, it was never given to vengeful acts of violence against civilian populations. The communists wanted to win over our proletariat, not blow them up or poison them. And that’s the key difference. Whatever their flaws and despite their atheism, communism placed a pretty high value on human life. In contrast, radical Islam values all human life at a low price, especially the lives of unbelievers and has no interest in conversion or subversion or any form of inclusion. You could negotiate with the communists for mutual benefit. All you can do to please Al Quaeda is die.
So there’s the difference. We didn’t need to fight Vietnam, but chose to do it out of a mistaken policy of defending ourselves. That makes the situation in Iraq look a lot like Vietnam superficially, but while our fears about communist expansion may have been exaggerated, our fear of terrorism and radical Islam is not. The Soviet Union wanted to take over the world and wanted us to stay out of its way. Radical Islam and its terrorist agents are driven by a hatred the communists never felt. They want to destroy us out of pure vengeance and resentment, a position which does not respond to reason or diplomacy, but only to clearly demonstrated superior force.
You’re going to ask at this point why we went into Iraq if it was not a haven of radical Islam under Sadam. But the truth is that it was an easier nut to crack than Iran, having already been weakened by sanctions and the prior war. It’s positioning is ideal for putting pressure on the problem countries all around it. Plus, as it turned out, all the terrorists in the Middle East conveniently decided to come to Iraq so we could kill them a handful at a time until they run out of brainwashed trigger men from impoverished countries like Yemen and Sudan to throw at us. So ultimately, even unexpectedly in many ways, Iraq has proven to be the perfect place to focus our efforts to break the growing power of Radical Islam.
Iraq is not Vietnam. In Vietnam we fought for a principle. In Iraq we are fighting for much more practical and pragmatic reasons and with a concrete, identifiable goal.
DavePowered by Sidelines