Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Vietnam Syndrome

The Emperor of Mespotamia today compared his splendid little war in Iraq with the U.S. police action (as it was officially known) in Vietnam. He invoked the "price of withdrawal" in Vietnam as evidence that terrible things will happen if the U.S. withdraws from Iraq.

Well gather 'round kiddies, I lived through the police action. I didn't end up being part of it because the year I turned 18 was the last year of the draft, and I had a high lottery number, but I knew people who were drafted, and who fought, and who wound up with purple hearts. I even met guys who were destroyed by it, horribly scarred physically and psychologically. Here's what I remember about Vietnam.

The U.S. entered Vietnam because we knew that elections, scheduled to reunify the country, would result in a win for the Communist government of the north. The purpose of the intervention was to prevent a democratic process from happening. We spent 10 years defending a puppet government in the south from the Vietnamese people. Nearly 60,000 Americans died in the process, and something like a million and a half Vietnamese (though estimates vary widely on the latter). A popular South Vietnamese government never emerged, and there was never any pretense of democracy in South Vietnam during that entire time. The South Vietnamese army never became an effective fighting force, largely because they really weren't fighting for anything they cared about. In the end, the U.S. withdrew.

The Emperor today invoked "boat people, reeducation camps, and killing fields" as the consequence. The killing fields, in Cambodia, had nothing whatever to do with the U.S. withdrawing from Vietnam. They were a consequence of the U.S. intervening in Cambodia. The boat people were U.S. collaborators who were forced to leave the country after their protectors withdrew. That's unfortunate, but hardly the stuff of nightmares. Reeducation camps were six month experiences after which the participants were fully accepted as citizens.

That's it. That's the catastrophe. Vietnam then actually went into Cambodia, deposed the Khmer Rouge, installed a halfway decent government, and left. No more killing fields, thanks to those commie bastards. No dominoes fell. Nothing bad happened. Today Vietnam sells us coffee and shrimp, and Americans go there as tourists. Even if we did "lose" Vietnam because we were stabbed in the back by liberals and hippies, it turns out to have been a good thing. Maybe it's time for another backstabbing.

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