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Wednesday, June 20

Wishful Thinking?

So I haven't felt too much like talking about politics, what with my liberal outrage fatigue and all, but something got me thinking last night. I was sitting there catching a buzz and vegging out watching the teevee. This commercial came on showing beautiful beaches, beautiful valleys, beautiful countryside and beautiful Asian people, and I knew before the final banner came on that the advertisement was for Vietnam tourism. And that's when it struck me.

The only good argument for keeping US troops in Iraq is that there will be a bloodbath if we leave. It's the same argument that was advanced against pulling out of Vietnam. When we left Vietnam, there was indeed a bloodbath, as there inevitably is in any civil war. Those South Vietnamese who could get out, got out; the communist North Vietnamese were victorious after the downfall of Saigon in 1975. There were mass killings and brutality, there were re-education camps, there was (and I assume still is) suppression of democratic ideals. There were years and years of international isolation. There were years of poverty.

Now, 35 years later, it appears that Vietnam is coming out the other side. While still relatively poor like many Asian nations, it is starting to prosper. The country is politically stable, and foreign investment (an affirmation of that stability) is thriving. I remember when I worked for an oil company in the 1990s, we couldn't wait for the US government to lift the trade embargo so we could get our asses in there to explore for oil. The country has transitioned from a planned to a market based economy, though Vietnam is still a communist country. And even though it is a communist country, the United States has normalized relations with Vietnam.

And it seems the Vietnamese have forgiven us, and more importantly, they seem to have forgiven each other. We had no business going there in the first instance. We killed a few million of their kin and millions more became refugees. We laced their countryside with herbicides and pesticides. We dropped millions of bombs and riddled the countryside with landmines. We attempted to impose our ideas of democracy at the point of a gun. Yet they have forgiven us. It took 35 years.

It is as sad to think of the Vietnamese who were killed in the bloodbath following the US withdrawal as it is to think of the Yankee and Confederate war dead in the 1860s. As sad as it is to think of the Yugoslav dead in their 1990s civil war. As sad as it is to think of the Rwandan dead in their 1994 civil war. As sad as it is to think of the Iraqis who will die in their own civil war following the US withdrawal. Yet there is nothing the US could have done, other than sacrifice the lives of more US soldiers, to forestall the Vietnamese civil war. Nor is there anything the US can do to forestall an Iraqi civil war, except to sacrifice the lives of more US soldiers. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong would never have surrendered except through utter annihilation that would have destroyed the entire country. Nor will the Iraqi insurgency be suppressed through force without the further destruction of the Cradle of Civilization.

Dare we hope that in 35 years, the Iraqis will forgive us as the Vietnamese have? Maybe one day Little Red State Blues will be sitting on her couch catching a buzz and watching the teevee, and she'll see an advert encouraging her to come visit Iraq for a fabulous vacation. I hope so. It's just a shame it will take a generation or more to get there.

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