26 November 2006

History Lesson

Let's review.

VietNam was lost, not by the troops on the ground, but by Walter Cronkite somberly reporting we had our asses handed to us with the Tet Offensive.

For those of you who were not aware, the Tet Offensive was the last major push that the VC ever made towards American and South Vietnam combined forces. After initial VC successes, the Americans and ARVN rallied and threw them back over the line to their own side. Subsequently the fighting ability of the VC was broken, and the war was all but won at that point. In other words, we won the Tet Offensive.

Overwhelmingly so.

Thanks to Walter and his buddies, the outrage at home led to an amazing turnaround and we were able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Overwhelmingly so.

Sometime later the last helicopter left Saigon, leaving all our "friends" to face the music themselves regardless of our promises to them. Sometime after that all funding was cut off to the South Vietnamese, who against all odds were holding their own, and resistance soon collapsed completely.

It's called defeat. Not defeat on the battleground, but defeat at the bargaining table. Utter, crushing, wholesale defeat. We didn't have our asses handed to us at Tet, we had our asses handed to us in Paris. And it wasn't soldiers that did the handing, it was diplomats. Our diplomats.

It is difficult to say what the ultimate outcome would have been had we not lost our guts in VietNam. Certainly the VC would have been defeated, and the post-war atrocities avoided. American power would not have taken the hit that it did, and our friends would have retained their utmost confidence in us that we would do what we say we would do and never abandon our friends. If this had been the case, how many more wars would have been prevented? How much anguish could we have saved our national psyche? Many questions, with as many answers as there are philosophers to dream them up.

There are some who will say that Iraq is VietNam redux, and partially they are right. It is a victory on the ground that is painted as a defeat in the press, and defeat will come to us not from enemy combatants (they don't have soldiers) but from our own diplomats. What's particularly sad is that in this case we have won the war, the war is over. This particular piece of nastiness is the occupation, the aftermath of the war. And while there have been setbacks, it's not going as badly as the press and some politicians would have us believe.

Slowly but surely we are turning large bits and pieces of Iraq over to the Iraqis, and if we just continue in the way that we are going we will be able to pick up our toys and go home. We will be able to go home with our heads high, knowing we didn't leave our friends in the lurch. This is known as victory.

In my opinion, the last place in Iraq that we should leave is the Kurdish north. We should linger there a bit where we are liked and appreciated, speaking of hypothetical situations where the adults in the north would be forced to either spank the kiddies down south or lock them out of the house at their discretion. Then we should make gifts of various things that go boom and the means to make them do so, along with the pledge to keep them on our Christmas card list.

This is victory with honor.

No comments: