Thursday, December 7, 2006

Iraq Is Not Vietnam, But We’re Working On It

In January of 1973, then President Richard Nixon, after years of war and failed negotiations, brokered a peace treaty between North and South Vietnam. The south had won its right to exist as an independent nation. It would receive financial and military aid from the US, along with the promise of air support from the US Air Force in the event of a future attack by the north. The north would get an end to the highly effective bombing campaign waged against it over the past few months, and would now have the necessary breathing room to regroup and rearm in case circumstances changed, allowing them the opportunity to invade the south again in the near future.
They wouldn’t have to wait long.
The Democrats, who were dominated by the anti-war crowd, had complete control of congress. President Nixon, who had promised support to the government of South Vietnam, found his Presidency in a death spiral in the aftermath of the Watergate break-in and resulting scandal. With American willpower dwindling, and congress cutting the necessary funding for the south, the opportunity the north was looking appeared, no more than a year after the end of hostilities, and far sooner than they had expected. They took the opportunity, and invaded the south again.
As the NVA pushed further and further into the heart of the south, the government of South Vietnam begged our government for the promised help. Funding had been cut by congress and the equipment actually getting through simply wasn’t enough. President Nixon attempted to use the Air Force to bomb the north again, but congress intervened to stop him. Not much later, Nixon was forced to resign rather than face impeachment over Watergate, putting milquetoast Gerald Ford in the Oval Office. Ford issued a pardon for Nixon, enraging the Democrat congress, and losing any potential support he may have had for helping the South Vietnamese. The south was on its own.
As the NVA pushed closer and closer to Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, and it became obvious that the south would soon fall, the US began making preparations to evacuate all remaining personnel from the country. As word of this spread, panic gripped the capital. It was understood that anyone who had opposed the north in any way would not survive for long once they had control over the south. Crowds of Vietnamese soldiers and citizens began clamoring at the gates of the US Embassy in Saigon, in the desperate, and futile, hope of being evacuated with the Americans. Very few made it out. On April 28th, 1975, the last Marine helicopter lifted off from the roof of the US Embassy. The footage of that event has been seen the world over. It is a stunning image of US weakness and lack of resolve, and the consequences of that weakness reverberated throughout Southeast Asia.
After Vietnam fell, several other countries in the region also fell to their own brand of homegrown communist insurgents. One of these countries was Cambodia, where Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, in an attempt to start Cambodian civilization over as a collectivist state, put nearly one third of the country’s population to the sword. The dominos were falling, just as the anti-communists had predicted they would.
Now, those who know me may be wondering why I’m bringing up these events in relation to Iraq. I’ve never been one to believe that Iraq-Vietnam parallels were particularly helpful, as the two situations are so radically different. I still maintain that this is the case. That doesn’t mean, however, that powerful forces in the media and the Democratic Party aren’t doing everything they can to make these analogies viable. Before the last election, the defeatists could be written off as marginalized throwbacks to a darker era. Now, the throwbacks have been thrown back into power, and, with the release of the Iraq Study Group’s final report, a repeat performance of the darkest chapter in American foreign relations may soon be upon us. This is not to suggest that the President will give in to the pressure to cut and run from Iraq, but, even if he stands firm on his principles, congress can still pull the rug from under him, just as they did to Nixon some thirty plus years ago.The President must stand firm against the forces of surrender, but, at the same time, we must stand in support of him. The American people must demonstrate to congress that we will not accept defeat or surrender. If we don’t, we may be watching that last helicopter leaving again, only this time it will be from our embassy in Iraq. And the consequences will be far worse: Our failure in Vietnam emboldened our enemy, the Soviet Union, into expanding into countries other than our own. If we fail in Iraq, our enemy will expand into our own country. Simply put, if we bring the troops home prematurely, the terrorists will follow.

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