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Dash of Pepper

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Watching, waiting and hoping
The Gazette Staff
I come from a generation that can recall the last half of our involvement in Vietnam with some clarity.
Unlike some of my peers, who viewed the war and withdrawal, with its horrible consequences in the aftermath, as an unavoidable tragedy, I viewed it as a betrayal - a betrayal of our country and its soldiers by bureaucrats and politicians.
Every meeting I've had since then with Vietnam veterans has confirmed my thoughts. One friend who led men on the ground in the jungles said the war was eminently winnable from a military standpoint. It was not a quagmire. It was lost, he said, in Washington via the lack of political will and a willing mainstream media. There was no "alternative" media at the time.
The shameful withdrawal had both the immediate and long term effect of emboldening our enemies. We lost credibility. Totalitarian regimes and tin pot dictators across the globe took heart. With the desperate plight of the Boat People and the massacre by the Khmer Rouge of two million Cambodians, who wanted freedom, we also lost credibility with our allies.
President Bush, last month, made an important speech about Iraq. He deflated the commonly held views about Vietnam that have solidified over the years, and outlined the "real lessons" of Vietnam.
The Left, since Vietnam, has consistently held that any conflict we fight is destined to be "another Vietnam." The President pointed out that "then as now, people argued that the real problem as America's presence, and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end."
We spend rivers of printer's ink and hours of cable broadcast time on savage pedophiles and murderous spouses. Women's daytime TV inevitably carries sad stories of spousal abuse. I guess mounds of corpses don't resonate. Or perhaps we think all that stuff happens "over there." Yet events that brew "over there" have a way of coming here when we least expect them. Another casualty of the post-Vietnam, post-Watergate eras was our CIA. But that's a whole other column.
As Mark Steyn wrote last weekend, "In the wake of Vietnam, the communists gobbled up real estate all over the map." They tried to seize Grenada and an ambitious general in Argentina made a grab for the Falkland Islands. Only Ronald Reagan and Maggie Thatcher stood in their way. These attempts were made because the West, as a whole, was perceived as weak. As Steyn points out, Syria invaded Lebanon shortly after Saigon fell. Assad Sr., the father of today's Syrian ruler, told the American Secretary of State, "You've betrayed Vietnam. Someday you're going to sell out Taiwan. And we're going to be around when you get tired of Israel."
For those in Moscow, and Havana and Damascus, the Vietnam outcome was all about American WILL. Because we ran from Vietnam, and Somalia, we will also run from Afghanistan and Iraq. Osama bin Laden told his minions he was convinced we had gone soft.
Those who advocate cut-and-run should know that our enemies are standing, waiting and hoping. And this time, we won't be able to say we couldn't predict the resulting bloodbath.
Last Updated on Friday, 12 June 2009 15:46  

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