Given the current presidential campaign, this may be hard to believe, but The Vietnam War is over… and it’s been over for thirty years. I am hoping, that after this campaign, that fact becomes abundantly clear, and our politicians (mainly those of the Democratic persuasion) can stop pretending that all rivers lead there.
There has been a pervasive meme in America that all military actions, and by extension most of our foreign policy, can be seen through the Rubric of that South Asian war. If we send military advisors to another country, it is denounced not on the merits of the current circumstances, but simply as, “That’s how we started Vietnam.” If we train foreign soldiers, the cry goes up, “That’s how we started Vietnam.” If we send troops, “It’s another Vietnam.” If we suffer casualties, “It’s another Vietnam quagmire.” If we loose battles, if we have to send additional troops, if we have change our strategy, the rebuttal is always, “Vietnam, Vietnam, Vietnam.”
This is illogical and crippling. Vietnam was a military campaign where we clearly failed to achieve our objectives. Whether they could have been achieved had the war been prosecuted differently no one can answer definitively. What is clear is that all of the actions taken during Vietnam, and the consequences thereof, can be seen in other wars where we did achieve our objectives.
Instead of saying, “We are sending in more troops, we must be entering another Vietnam quagmire,” we could just as easily say, “We are sending in more troops, we must be winning like we did in WWII”. Both statements are just as illogical, and not instructive in evaluating a current situation. All military conflicts can involve putting troops in harms way, battles lost, casualties, the need to send additional reinforcements, etc. Any of these actions in and of themselves proves nothing about the successful or unsuccessful direction of a current military campaign.
If we’re lucky, this Presidential campaign will make everyone so sick of Vietnam that all future conflicts will be argued on their respective merits.