Ed's Blog

"Some people know everything, but that's all they know."

IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN: WORSE THAN VIETNAM?

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The way things are going in Iraq and Afghanistan, the prospects for lasting victory are fading with worse long-term consequences than Vietnam. The human cost of the Vietnam War was far greater than it has been in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I choose to believe that our warriors did not die in vain in Vietnam because we ultimately won the Cold War of which the wars in Korea and Vietnam were part. Still, we lost the Vietnam War and suffered lasting consequences as a result. What’s at stake in the Middle East is greater than what was at stake in Vietnam. (Read the full column at EWRoss.com

 

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11 Responses

  1. It will take us a generation, assuming the right Presidential leadership, to undo the damage that the current occupant of the WH has done. His ruinous policies at home and abroad will continue to set us back no matter who controls the house and senate because he will continue to rule by decree. Obama sees himself as a Ruler, not as an Executive governing a democratic republic. There is a dangerous mindset among the elites who continue to support his arbitrary and mean spirited abuse of Presidential power that obstructionism by the minority party is not to be tolerated as shown by their support for Reid’s so called Nuclear Option that stripped the minority party’s constitutional power to oppose and when necessary, prevent Presidential actions they regard as harmful to the national interest. The charge of obstructionism is a well known device historically employed by authoritarian political forces. We are closer to a tyrannical political regime than at any time since the Civil War. One thing I hope we have learned by Obama’s brutal and mean spirited use of the IRS, DOJ, EPA, DHS, Health and Human Services and other available levers of power including the actions of the federal employee unions is that all this power in the hands of the wrong person can destroy our democratic republic. We can expect that Obama and Reid will jam through Circuit and Supreme Court appointments with judges who will extend Obama’s abuse of power for a long time to come. God help the USA.

  2. rmcavstabops says:

    Having served three tours in Vietnam as a Marine officer who was part of the first CAP unit in Phu Bai in 1965, an advisor (Co Van) with the Vietnamese Marines 1966-1968, and a battery commander during TET, and later served as an advisor in Iraq in 2007 and a USAID Field Program Officer with the Marine in Helmand and Nimroz provinces in Afghanistan 2009-2010, permit me to share my perspective.

    “God helps those that help themselves
    He will help only those who help themselves
    He cannot help those who do not help themselves
    Outsiders can contribute but cannot win an unconventional war by themselves.”
    Douglas Pike

    It was not the US administration that failed to arrive at an agreement with Malakai, it was the Iraqis who refused to meet the demands of the accord that US personnel were immune from Iraq laws and punishment, especially incarceration. Second, both of these actions are the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfled fiascos that the current administration, is trying to clean up and they are receiving no help from the Republican party of “NO” whose obstructionist tactics have harmed this country. The Tea Party is a bunch of hotheaded know-nothings who care nothing about this country but are chaffing under a president who happens to be black.

    “Brutal and mean-spirited” and “tyrannical political regime” are perfect adjectives for the Republican controlled House.

  3. Bill Jordan says:

    Mr. Pike, are you related to the Douglas Pike that wrote PAVN, and Viet Cong? Both seminal works and apparent the non-military decisionmakers didn’t read them.

    Sounds like you saw the elephant and heard the owl hoot in both Southeast and Southwest Asia.

    Bill Jordan
    (I was an Army Duster-Quad 50 platoon leader serving OPCON to 3MAF in northern I Corps, 1967-68. Hats off to the Marines.)

  4. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge killed six million Cambodians after Vietnam Ed. The People’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam killed about 10 million, many elderly, and put another 4 million in “reeducation” camps. Two million fled to our shores ending up mostly in California. We have a perpetual stalemate in Korea and Vietnam is now firmly 100% Communist. I don’t see how either of those wars contributed in any way to winning the Cold War. The former Soviet Union didn’t give a hoot about Korea or Southeast Asia. China cares only because so many Koreans and Vietnamese are ethnic Chinese or part-Chinese. During WWII China was dreadfully afraid that Japan would get a foothold on the Korean Peninsula leaving them vulnerable to attack by the imperialist Japanese emperor. I fail to see how what’s happening or is going to happen in Iraq or Afghanistan is any way comparable to Korea or Vietnam. Iraq was a totally contrived war, moreover, removing Iran’s most heavily armed and avowed enemy, Saddam Hussein, has left Iran free to meddle all over the Middle East, from Libya, to Syria to Lebanon and beyond. They are a client state of North Korea and fund Hezbollah terrorist activities throughout the Middle East. Iran is the single biggest threat to the Jewish state, and the costs in American human and financial capital to remove Saddam Hussein, and to maintain a war in Afghanistan far beyond its original purpose in punishing and removing the Taliban from power has been a big mistake. There can be no stability or democracy in a region that is still living in the 13th century culturally. We need to leave it alone and let it evolve on its own without western influences trying to dictate the outcomes.

    By Robert Stover

  5. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    If you look at the aftermath of Vietnam and Cambodia, the human costs were tremendous not even considering the Allied troops loss. The extremists have murdered many, but I haven’t seen any figures on their atrocities. Many hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians were lost during and after the combat. In agreement with you, I think the current extremists are worse because they have a religious bias whereas the communists had a radical political ideology. I don’t know how America can fight wars with people who have no respect for human life. They are a cancer in the heart of the world.

    By Heber Hammon

  6. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    Ed, interesting and true points. I’ve long warned my Marines to stay humble, since our combat today is much different than that which was experienced in Vietnam. I’ve seen statistics that revealed the average infantryman in Vietnam experienced 170 days of combat in a 1-year tour. We, today, experience nothing like that; not to mention the wonderful homecomings we enjoy today as a result of such overwhelming support from the American people. In the war on terrorism, I do not believe there can ever be a victory; we are fighting an ideology. We could leave tomorrow or in 100 years, the enemy will claim that they ran us out and we will claim that we beat them. Unfortunately, this thing we call terrorism is not just in the two countries you mention; hence the reason I believe you state that this is much bigger than Vietnam. Thank you for your comments.
    Tim

    By Tim Weber

  7. Bill Jordan says:

    Your figures are way too high, Mr. Stover…Between one million and two million Cambodian citizens out of a total population of < than 8, 000, 000 perished under the Khmer Rouge at 1 April 1975. Between one and two million Vietnamese underwent 're-education' periods of a few days to many years. Some 600, 000+ reportedly died during the years after Saigon fell and Hanoi consolidated ints gain, but this was due to myriad causes, including starvation.

    I saw the effects of this in north in 1987 during a military mission. If the former Democratic Republic of Vietnam went on a killing spree it certainly didn't make it into intelligence circles or humanitarian documentation. Yes, they were bad guys and
    they're certainly communists, even Stalinists like their
    neighbors in Laos and North Korea (although after spending some time north of Pyongyang on another military mission I think you can call the DPRK something much more draconian
    than merely communist). While we're on Korea, the Japanese had established more than a 'foothold' in Korea–they had owned it completely since 1910 being victorious in the war with Russia and China at the turn of the century.

    I completely agree with your assessment of IRAQ 2, Operation Iraqi Freedom…the only good thing about it was the performance of American troops, run ragged between Afghanistan and Iraq thanks to a senseless drive into Iraq without any clear notion of what to do afterwards. To me it will be the the Politico-Military mistake of the 21st century, committed by the ignorant arrogance of an American government gone totally beserk.

  8. Bill Jordan says:

    Mr. Stover, I believe your figures are extremely high…everything I’ve read and residents I’ve talked to in Cambodia maintain that somewhere between 1 and 2 million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge. I seem to remember that the entire population of Cambodia was between 7-8 million at Year Zero. Also, undoubtedly many former RVN citizens died after 1975, and I seem to remember that over 600, 000 died in the aftermath of the fall of Saigon from myriad causes including starvation. I saw evidence of this myself in the late ’80’s on military missions into the northern reaches of Vietnam. But with a population of less than 20, 000, 000 at the fall of Saigon, 10, 000, 000 appears outlandishly high.

    During my second tour in Vietnam as an adviser in 1970–71/72 We frequently cited the land reform pogroms in north Vietnam during the 1950’s that killed thousands of wealthy landowners as examples of the bloodbaths that would follow should the DRV win the conflict I still don’t remember reading of any systematic killing of south Vietnamese by the NVA in either fact or policy during the years following the fall of the south in either classified or open source documents.

    I believe that if there was a moderating influence on the Vietnamese it was the chaotic consolidation that ensued for years, partly because of the US led embargo that at least some of the west honored, and some resulting from the finalization of the SINO-Soviet split and Vietnam’s own disenfranchisement of the ethnic Chinese. It was the latter, coupled with the Vietnmaese destruction of the Khmer Rouge following their invasion of Cambodia
    that largely led to the SINO-Viet War, at least in my opinion.

    There’s no doubt that hundreds of thousands went to reeducation camps for short periods to several years, and the release of their citizens from them was one of the primary pillars in the roadmap to normalization of relations between Vietnam and the US.

    Bill Jordan

  9. Reposted from LinkedIn says:

    Just curious– what would constitute winning in Iraq/Afghanistan? I think initially, our action was simply a reflexive response to having been attacked on 9/11. After all, we all but ignored these countries before that. We let the mission grow without ever stating it or debating it. It started as an exercise in retaliation and grew to a mission impossible – building “democracies” in these two countries.

    And, even if we cannot now agree on what the end point should be in this theater, what have we learned? If we are to be able to use military force effectively in the future, surely we will have to do things differently from what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    By irwin pikus

    • Bill Jordan says:

      We were trying to do two things in Afghanistan: the first was inflicting vengeance, albeit called ‘justice’, for all the attacks that started in the 1990’s when American public outrage removed the gloves in the wake of 9-11. The second was preventing recurrence by killing the cancerous body politic embodied in the Taliban, and the funding and philosophical core of Bin Laden and his acolytes. We were doing OK ’til we went off the rails in Iraq.

      In Vietnam we were trying to do many things, but the root of it was also in two things: the first was applying the Korean War model to a conflict that was entirely different in its root origins, cultural underpinnings, and aspirations of the combatants; the second was an attempt to keep the French in NATO when the Soviet and Warsaw Pact were viewed as much more important than a regional conflict.

      But Mr. Pikus is correct, in my view. And the things we do differently when it comes to spending American servicemen’s lives should be tied, not to our national interests, but to our vital interests–those interests that ensure our survival or our demise.

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