Glaivester has a good post wherein he opines on what is and is not victory in the current Mesopotamian unpleasantness. His screed is, to me, not arguable. However, in reading it, I realized it would give me an excuse to be lazy and repost something from ancient times.
The Article below was written and published before the great crusade in Iraq and even before the liberation of Afghanistan, but after 911. Of the little that I wrote, it was found to be the most offensive. I think it is still valid.
America's greatest 20th century victory
Indeed, the only one
Every now and then someone on a talk show or in print will ramble on about how we lost in Viet Nam. Some act of cowardice or stab in the back is regretted, blah blah blah. I wish to dispute the idea that we lost "nam." If one truly reflects, the U.S. Army's ten year Southeast Asian Field Training Exercise that ended in the nineteen seventies was our only victory of the last century. Yes, yes, everyone is saying to themselves, "What is he talking about?" Well, folks, wise up, we lost all the other ones. Our friends and enemies alike bled us and continue to bleed us dry over conflicts that supposedly we were victorious in or at least managed a tie.
Now, granted we might not all agree on what constitutes a win. In order to set the tone, let us define terms.
The Agamemnon School of Victory: This consists of completely destroying your enemy, grabbing a lot of plunder and a great looking slave babe. After that, you go home to be murdered by your wife and her toy boy. It is only the last part that I think needs work.
The American Century School: After victory or tie, hunker down, rebuild the place, never leave.
The humilitarian School: After the war, you leave and forget about the place you left.
Believe me, I used to accept the conventional wisdom of our defeat. I remember being on active duty on the day the cease-fire went into effect and hearing the lieutenant in charge of our section sarcastically call it HPVN Day: Honorable Peace in Vietnam Day. I remember the collapse of the South's regime and thinking how it had all gone down the drain. It had, it was a waste, but that was the end of it.
Therein was our victory. Had the North given up the fight, we would still have troops and planes and PXs and condom dispensing machines all over South Viet Nam. We would have brass on the border taking meetings ad infinitum with the North's officers. We would be forever rebuilding the South. Heck, the North would by now have cozied up enough to us running dogs to get some aid, as in the North Korean nuclear blackmail scam. Swiss banks would be awash in skimmed cash from all the associated boondoggles.
Ah, but that was not the case. When the last of our boys left, we were gone. We had bled buckets and lost untold treasure, but, when we finally said au revoir, it was over. We even had a measure of revenge as Hanoi had its own Viet Nam in Cambodia.
Compare our "defeat" with our "victories," (not to mention "ties" and "incompletes" like Haiti). There was WWI, The Great War. I've wondered about that name, "The Great War." It is doubtful that the lads who spent all those years in the trenches would have thought it so great. We got into it because the president at the time, Wilson, wanted to "make the world safe for democracy" by fighting "the war to end all wars." Now sober reflection - an endeavor, I used to avoid like the plague - would tell one that such comments were moronic. Certainly, history has proved Mr. Wilson wrong. Still, it led our country to send enough men over to pull the Allies' chestnuts out of the fire. Wilson, fresh from a rhetorically successful Mexican adventure gave a war message that went something like this, "Oceania is at war with Eurasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia." No, well close enough.
Did our country get anything out of this? Of course: war dead, left where we had no compelling national interest. Worse, while our troops were overseas, the early twentieth century version of the soccer moms managed to slip through a constitutional amendment prohibiting the sale and use of alcohol. In a way, this brought about a continuation of World War I on the home front (Let me digress a second, religious Jews were allowed wine for certain holidays. I can see the handwriting on the wall. Maybe someone will want to join me in starting a new religion with bacon and other high cholesterol foods as sacraments so we can be ready when the health Nazis ban them.)
There were other results from that "Great War" including Hitler. Yes folks, without Woody, Dolph would have probably spent his declining years raving in a Bavarian old soldiers' home. By demonizing Kaiser Bill and getting rid of the Imperial German Government we insured instability in Germany. Maybe an Allied victory did not lead to Hitler in an algebraic equation (Allied victory + German defeat = Hitler) but it is impossible to imagine the Third Reich, the holocaust, etc. had the Kaiser stayed in power after a peace of exhaustion.
While we are on the subject, would a German victory without our participation, have been all that bad? Yeah, they would have made a few annexations and would have tried to order trade to their liking. Sorta like what they're trying to do today in the era of the Euro.
In the inter war period (that is, between the big wars) we had adventures in Haiti and Nicaragua that brought peace and stability forever (yes, Nurse, I'll take my medication now)...
Now, class, let us look at World War II. The record shows that we were attacked by Japan whereupon Germany brilliantly declared war on us. There will always be controversy as to whether we pushed the Japanese into attacking us and intended to be in the war. Suffice it to say, I will not debate the issue and will display my maturity by stating a belief that the American and Japanese elites both suffered a temporary lack of humility that led them both into an inevitable and unwanted misunderstanding.
Though we took the surrenders, let us not claim a victory. We ended up supporting our allies and our enemies. We really did not want Japan and Germany rearming so we generously managed their defenses. The American Army became the Japanese Army. The U.S. Air Force served as the Luftwaffe. Those countries, freed from huge defense expenditures, had "economic miracles" that allowed pundits to tell us we should be doing what they were doing. (There are few American intellectuals so poor, that they don't own an inferiority complex about something.) Of course, that advice is no longer given today.
Eventually, by "containing" the Soviet Union" we were able to see it collapse. Now that should have been victory. We should have said to our NATO buddies, Okay, guys and girls, we're taking off, you have a few years to work out your modus vivendi for the next millennium, but, you're on your own. How naive such a sentiment is. No, all those bureaucrats out of work, Pentagon planners with nothing to plan, a president who couldn't refer to himself as "Leader of the Free World" (granted it doesn't have the ring of Dux et Imperator, but we do still pretend to be a republic. It will take awhile before even "Princeps" appears). So we have our cold war commitment, without a cold war. Our defeat continues.
On the other side of the world, there was Korea, an incomplete. The Communist Bloc doesn't really exist, yet North Korea is holding its own. This is amazing in that they are spending nothing on anything, if only because they have nothing to spend and their people are starving to death. Meanwhile, we hold the line with Seoul.
There are a few other items including but not limited to Haiti and Nicaragua again. See above, and, give me a larger dose this time, please.
We are all proud of how we ejected the Iraqis from that wonderful just and good democracy of Kuwait and ended the evil reign of . . . what's that, we're still bombing? Oops.
We have had success in the Balkans. We put a cop on the beat in Bosnia promised for one year. Of course, "one year" was like the question did creation take seven days as we know them or could each of those days have meant untold ages. I am no theologian, so I have no business discussing biblical chronology. Merely note that one year is going to last a long time. World War One started in Sarajevo and was so much fun, we just have to fight it again. Mr. Cohan should have written: "We're staying, we're staying over and we won't be back forever."
And of course Kossovo was another bada boom, bada bing, hurl a few bombs and go home. Nope, taxpayers are going to foot the bills until Camp Bondsteel becomes an archeological site.
Obviously, I've left out a few of our successes like Panama and Grenada. Well, I haven't any knowledge of their current situation, but maybe we just left them alone after we were done and are spending no money on them at all and we merely bask in their gratitude. Maybe not.
So, as we are about to start the second year of the new millennium while continuing all the foreign adventures of the last century as well as a forever war on terrorism, let us remember, our boys overseas. On patrol for us from the Maldives to Pristina, from Seoul to Berlin as well as Kabul, but not Saigon. Where is George McGovern? Wake him up at the Home for Failed Presidential Candidates. Let's say it again, George: "Come home, America."
And if you have any doubts about the Viet Nam victory thesis, let the record show that no one even remotely connects the Hanoi regime with 9-11.