Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What If We Had Not Deserted Vietnam?


My thought for the day. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that whatever the end result of the invasion of Iraq is, the place is better for it, a fact which is causing some much-deserved gnashing of teeth and wailing in the halls of the Left. The decision was not easy, especially with doubters all along the way, but the removal of Saddam, two sets of free elections, the creation of a representative Parliament and Army for Iraq, and a check on the emerging ambitions of a madman in Iran, and such make for a pretty good return on investment so far. Which does not even address the notion of creating a functional Arab democratic republic, complete with free enterprise and women voters.

Now, roll the clock back to 1972. The U.S. was winning the war in Vietnam, as close as they ever came. Mining Haiphong Harbor, air strikes on selected North Vietnam targets, and diplomatic hints that the President was seriously thinking about expanding the war in scale and territory, all helped to chase the Viet Cong to the Paris Peace Talks. Imagine, just for the mental exercise, if Richard Nixon had done the following things differently:

1. Turned in the Plumbers as soon as he heard about them. 'Sorry guys, I love ya but you did this on your own’.
2. Supported free elections in South Vietnam, with promotional efforts made to help pro-democracy candidates?
3. Replaced Spiro Agnew with either Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan in 1973.
4. Met up with a few key Democrat hawks (the real thing did exist in the early 1970s) and decide to keep Southeast Asia secure.

Just thinking, what if? I know I know, it’s not to say we could have “won” in Vietnam under the conditions imposed on the military, but if South Vietnam could have been maintained the way we have in South Korea, and given what we know now about the Cold War and the political evolution in Asia, it’s tantalizing to think about the possibilities. And then to apply what we learn to the real-world conditions in Southwest Asia and the Middle East.

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