Lessons Learned: Comparing Vietnam and Iraq
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
Many arm-chair strategists are now comparing Vietnam and Iraq as a means to learn why recently America’s foreign policy has failed so miserably all over the world. Jim Guirard in his article of December 6th, 2006, in FamilySecurityMatters.org, entitled “Correctly Remembering Both Vietnam Wars,” raises the bugaboo of the domino theory, which would hold in the modern context that to withdraw from Iraq would cause an explosion of Muslim radicalism all over the world.
This comparison of Vietnam and Iraq fails to mention that the United States “lost” these wars not because we did not fight hard enough but because we tried to impose an American solution in the face of determined opposition by virtually everyone who was supposed to be the beneficiary of America’s self-perceived wisdom.
In Vietnam, Tran van Dinh, who was the youngest Vietnamese general in the war against the Japanese, personally liberated a large part of North Vietnam next to China by infiltrating through northern Burma, only to be denounced by Washington for inviting a Communist Chinese invasion. The threat of tactical nukes could easily have blocked such a Chinese move, but the stability-conscious doves in Washington were more afraid of this than of losing the war to the Communists.
The end really came in May, 1965, at what is commonly considered to be the beginning of the war against Communism, when General Thi, the only Buddhist general in the South, decided to run for the presidency against General Ky. Thi would have won more than 90% of the vote, because he considered that his people were in a war of liberation against all foreign occupiers, Communists and Americans. As Commander of I Corps, he insisted that all his field-grade officers work in the fields with the peasants every weekend so they would know what they were fighting for. Horrified at the thought of a genuine rival to American power, the CIA arranged for a secret meeting between Ky and Thi at Tran San Hut to arrange a coalition. The CIA then captured Thi and spirited him off to Washington in permanent exile. He flew back illegally a couple of years later and was imprisoned when the plane landed. From 1965 on, the government in the south was a total sham and was opposed by every decent Vietnamese nationalist.
The Communists won in Vietnam because the American strategy was to split Vietnam and defend the south in order to create two artificial constructs, which was anathema to every decent person in Vietnam. Tran van Dinh’s slogan was “defend the south, liberate the north, and unify the country.” The Communists picked up on this slogan by reversing it to read “Defend the North, Liberate the South, and Unify the Country.” In a country engaged in a national liberation war this was a sure road to victory. Even though most Vietnamese nationalists hated the Communists, some of the best of them served in the North because there was no other alternative. They hoped to eliminate the foreign occupiers in the North after they had removed them in the South. Unfortunately this never happened.
In Iraq we have almost the identical situation as in Vietnam forty years earlier. The only difference is that the American strategy for occupation today is to force naturally independent nations into an artificial colonial construct named Iraq. Every decent person of the three nations in the Fertile Crescent had to oppose this American strategy. They decided to accept temporary power relationships by fighting a holding battle in the form of a war among themselves to dominate in a lengthy American occupation. The Americans thereby guaranteed an international war within the Fertile Crescent, which some outsiders now consider to be a civil war. This is a total misnomer, because there is no Iraqi nation, never has been, and never will be. There cannot be a civil war within a non-existent nation.
The result may be the same in the Fertile Crescent as in Vietnam. The only difference, however, may be that radical movements will dominate in each of the three autonomous regions. These movements may reject a federation of the three nations and instead lead to the triumph of petty tyrannies, which, in turn, may be overthrown by Muslim radicalists as part of a global movement to destroy America.
Jim Girard says we should learn from history. How can one learn from history if the true history of the world has been carefully hidden by those whose stupidity is the best thing that the totalitarians in the world have going for them. He argues that withdrawal from Iraq would carry a domino effect, as did American withdrawal from Vietnam.
The domino effect has nothing to do with American withdrawal. It was and will be caused only by the bankrupt American strategy of stability through power rather than of peace through compassionate justice designed not to empower America but to empower others in the world against outside oppression. Only when Americans themselves learn to recognize that the only truly rogue nation in the world is America can we even begin to formulate and follow a policy to promote America’s enlightened self interests.
A true strategy for victory must build on the best of both Bush’s strategy and that of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group, rather that on the worst of each. A compromise to effect unity going into the 2008 elections would be the worst of all possible options.
As I explained it yesterday in my article in http://www.theamericanmuslim.org entit,led “The Final American Coup in Iraq?”, the end strategy of the Baker/Hamilton “Iraq Study Group,”designed to reap the benefits of three years of murderous conflict, calls for the orchestration of control over Iraq’s oil riches in what appears to be an act of enlightened liberalism. In fact, it poses two very retrogressive problems. First, it turns all the persons and peoples of the Fertile Crescent into socialist welfare addicts. Second, and almost equally important, it seems to assure that they will remain under foreign control.
The American plan, now to be imposed willy-nilly on the peoples of Iraq by the passage of a new oil law within the next three weeks, calls for distributing oil profits on a per capita basis to the autonomous regions. This is a good start on addressing the single issue that now has been admitted to be the key to peace in this region of the world. But, this still does not address the issue of peace through justice because it is fundamentally unjust to concentrate political power in a central government by giving it control over a centrally empowered oil corporation based on a business model of power through concentrated ownership.
It now appears that foreign control is what such enlightened liberalism is all about. The only remaining issue is whether the Kurds will lose control over contracting with foreign oil companies over future oil exploration and production. The Kurds recently discovered two new oil fields after signing exploration contracts with a Turkish company and a Norwegian company. American officials are trying to convince the Kurds to give up such regional autonomy by arguing that a national oil law could attract more foreign oil companies to exploration and development in Kurdistan. Specifically, “A large foreign oil company would have more confidence in signing a contract with the Kurds if it were to operate under the law of a sovereign country rather than just the law of an autonomous region.”
The American advisers are willing to compromise by allowing revenues collected by the central government to be redistributed into sub-accounts dedicated to the three regions, because this would have no effect on the central goal, which obviously is to concentrate political power in a central government more responsive to foreign investment.
According to the New York Times report of December 9, 2006, “The North and South Oil Companies, which currently manage production in their regions, would fall under the umbrella of the Iraq National Oil Company. Any exports would still be sold through a state marketing company. ... The working draft of the oil law re-establishes the state-run Iraq National Oil Company, which would operate using a business model and not through a government budget process. Iraqi and American officials say that would make management of oil production more efficient and separate it from the Oil Ministry, which has been rife with corruption.”
This sophisticated language may serve only to cover up a hidden foreign agenda designed to assure that one or more big multi-nationals will control both the governments and persons in this natural-resource rich region of the world.
The only way to remove such suspicions would be to privatize ownership of all oil resources in the Fertile Crescent through equal shares of inalienable and voting stock to every resident of this region. Such economic democracy, in turn, would make possible real political democracy with power residing in the people not in some state corporation beholden to outside interests.
The details of this strategy have been spelled out for several years by the Center for Economic and Social Justice in cooperation with the Freedom Party and other visionary leaders in Iraq and are available in the article by CESJ’s founding president, Dr. Norman Kurland, “A New Model of Nation-Building for Citizens of Iraq.” This was updated on July 27th, 2005, and republished last week on December 3, 2006, in http://www.theamericanmuslim.org Alth.ough the title perhaps should have read “A New Model of Liberation for the Nations in a Federated Iraq,” this article spells out better than any other source the principles of economic justice with all the necessary details for implementation.
In Alaska, the distribution of oil revenues at the discretion of centrally controlled power was acceptable because everything was American, but in Iraq such manipulation by legerdemain may run into the problem of “not invented here.” Instead of diffusing power downward, which is the key to stability in Iraq, the new plan is to concentrate it upward under the appearance of doing the opposite. It is tempting to speculate that the chaos in Iraq has been designed to make possible what now in the eleventh hour will eventually be seen by the peoples there as a coup in consolidating American control over their economic and political destinies.
The challenge now before the leaders of partial regime change in America is to change America’s foreign policy paradigm from “stability through power” to “peace through compassionate justice.” Empowering others, rather than merely itself, is the only way to recover America’s role as a moral model and as the “last best hope for the world.”