Monday, April 12, 2010

Viet Nam Redux

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

It may be too late for America to avoid falling into a trap like the one that embroiled several U.S. administrations in Southeast Asia for decades. The parallels are frightening. Just as JFK/LBJ had inherited what had been given the Orwellian name 'presence' in S.E. Asia, President Barack Obama risks getting stuck in an Afghanistan quagmire.

President Obama has received a military report requesting as many as forty thousand additional troops in Afghanistan though the objectives are increasingly vague, perhaps because both the Pentagon and the 'hawks' wish to avoid calling it what it is: nation building!

Since 911, the U.S. has bogged down in this new 'Viet Nam', failing every stated objective because: 1) objectives may be framed for 'public consumption' for the P.R. value; 2) because the Pentagon prefers to hide the fact that it is almost always wrong about anything more complex than lobbing a big bomb on a little village! The Pentagon is filled with gung ho grunts!

Again, the U.S. fights the wrong war, in the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. Nothing was learned from Viet Nam, the war crime from which Viet Nam did not begin to rebuild until we were gone! Clearly --the Military-Industrial Complex is unconcerned. The M.I.C is simply doing what it seemed intended to do and that is enrich the defense contractors who make up the Military-Industrial complex.

It seems that every Democratic president gets stuck with the false paradigm: be tough or be wimp! I submit that it is a 'tough' President who repudiates the bullshit left him by predecessors. It is the 'tough' President who levels with the American people. It is the 'tough' President who exposes the heinous nature of the war left him by George W. Bush who lied about 911 in order to start it. It is a 'tough' President who just says 'no': we will no longer compound the many crimes of George W. Bush!
Vietnam became a war of attrition. Johnson would regularly characterize his decisions as taking the middle ground. He would not "pull out" as the "doves" and "nervous Nellies" suggested nor would he go "all out" as the "hawkish" military advisors recommended.

Fighting a war with limited and political objectives had an added liability. It was difficult to define and convey the idea of "progress" to the public. There were few set piece or conventional battles and American objectives were not defined in geographical terms (e.g., Berlin and Tokyo). Instead, the administration was forced to create and essentially sell indicators of progress to the public. Herein lies the origin of such commonly used terms as "pacification zones" and "kill ratios.

Questioners, critics, and opponents to Johnson quickly arose. Perhaps the most prominent establishment figure was J. William Fulbright, the Democrat from Arkansas, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Fulbright was a one-time friend and ally of Lyndon Johnson and had, ironically, served as floor manager of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964. He broke with Lyndon Johnson over the war in Vietnam and, in February 1966, led the Foreign Relations Committee through six days of televised hearings on the conduct of the war. To divert public attention from the hearings, Lyndon Johnson traveled to Honolulu to meet with South Vietnamese President Thieu. The Senate Committee would again hold hearings in August 1966 and in October-November of 1967.

--Conventional 'Warfare' in the Nuclear Age
Rory Stewart is the Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights. My first exposure to his thinking dates to his BBC interview of about two years ago. Stewart does not merely think outside the box, he denies its existence. The first conclusion is that the U.S. is in Afghanistan for all the wrong reasons; secondly, the recent military report given Obama has effectively changed the original U.S. objective. Instead of the eradication al Qaeda, the U.S. is now committed to defeating the Taliban and rebuilding a nation in 'our' image. Once again, the U.S. is suckered with stated 'goals' that are vague, imperial, grandiose, ill-framed and ill-considered.

At last, any intelligent 'enemy' should be expected to resist a foreign power, a foreign enemy. An enemy in Afghanistan knows the 'lay of the land'. We are fighting on their turf. We are the newbies. For all our flashy, high-tech, game-boy tech, we are just city slickers in the back country. We will never know Afghanistan as it is known by the Afghans.

This crisis for Obama is literally a dangerous opportunity. He can be suckered down a long road for which he will be remembered as LBJ is most often remembered --NOT for his 'Great Society' but for the escalation of hostilities in Viet Nam; or Obama can be remembered for having refused to be suckered by the merchants of death--the Military-Industrial complex and the sycophantic blood suckers on K-Street! We can bog America down in a long and ruinous war or we can break out of the trap that the seems always laid for Democrats by wars already begun and screwed up but left to a Democrat to clean up, a Democrat whose name will inevitably be stuck on it as LBJ's name is forever stuck on Viet Nam!

Rory Stewart on Bill Moyers Journal
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Also see: Published Articles on

Media Conglomerates, Mergers, Concentration of Ownership, Global Issues, Updated: January 02, 2009




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