RANGER AGAINST WAR: Eternal Return <

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Eternal Return

“When planning a military expedition into Pashtun
tribal areas, the first thing you must plan is your retreat.
All expeditions into this area sooner or later end
in retreat under fire.”
--General Andrew Skeen (early 1900's),
in NYT Op-Ed, Caution: Taliban Crossing (11/28/07)

Most Profound Man in Iraq:
an unidentified farmer in a fairly remote area who, after
being asked by Reconnaissance Marines if he had seen
any foreign
fighters in the area replied, "Yes, you."
"Secret Letter Form Iraq," Time (10/06/06)

Dirty little secrets
Dirty little lies
We got our dirty little fingers in everybody's pie
--Dirty Laundry, Don Henley

Arthur Schlesinger's journals were recently published (posthumously) showing among other things, uncanny parallels between the quagmire Richard Nixon faced in Vietnam, and the current Iraq and Afghanistan quagmire of George W. Bush's making. Walter Pincus in the WaPo writes:

"How many times has President Bush
used such phrases as "precipitous withdrawal" and remarked that only Americans can defeat the U.S. military effort in Iraq? Last April, for example, Bush said: "Precipitous withdrawal from Iraq is not a plan to bring peace to the region or to make our people safer at home. Instead, it would embolden our enemies and confirm their belief that America is weak."

"In a journal entry for Dec. 8, 1969, Schlesinger noted that President Richard M. Nixon, who was elected in 1968 having promised to end the fighting in Vietnam, had just given a speech announcing a plan to support the anti-communist regime in Saigon until it was capable of defending itself. Schlesinger correctly described that as "a policy doomed to futility and failure.

"He quoted Nixon as saying, "We really have only two choices open to us," which he described as Nixon's "own plan and precipitate withdrawal." Schlesinger wrote that Nixon's simplistic choice "plainly misrepresents the situation and misleads the country."

Ranger adds:

[1] The South Vietnamese government faced an insurgency that was largely defeated in the 1972 time frame. The threat to SVN's existence came from an external threat (North Vietnam) that could be addressed via military means, as the dispute was between two sovereign nations.
NVN's goals was to destroy SVN and to unite the country in a communist state. The political goal was implemented through force of arms. Plain and simple.

[2] In Iraq and Afghanistan,
the threat is not external, and cannot realistically be addressed by building armies. Armies that exist to control the citizenry of the country are hallmarks of tyrannical governments.

Armies are not police forces. Armies fight battles, and should not be internally-focused. Of course, that is only if democracy is the objective of the fight.
The Iraq and Afghan armies are farcical enterprises, since there is no external threat to either country -- unless, of course, one views U.S. forces as an external threat.

Another quote Schlesinger noted from Nixon's speech is echoed by Bush today. "Let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that," Nixon said.

Nixon was referring to the anti-war coalition within the U.S. The situation has reversed today, for how can ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan humiliate the U.S.? Precipitous withdrawal is a fine solution that Ranger heartily endorses.
Withdrawing from these areas is preferable to torture, excessive and unjustified U.S. casualties, diminution of U.S. citizen's rights, and all the rest of it.

From the inception, Ranger has not given one rat's ass for Iraq or Afghanistan, nor do I feel their welfare or existence as nation-states is a concern of America. If Iraqis and Afghanis kill each other off at prodigious rates, this is a U.N. concern and an internal problem for address by the Arab League. If there was one lesson of Vietnam it was this: The U.S. is not the policeman of the world.

The U.S. doesn't have a horse in either race. The oil is not ours. The ignorance demonstrated in both wars is palpable and self-destructive to U.S. interests.

The U.S. fought a brutal Civil War without foreign interference, and Iraq and Afghanistan should have the same opportunity. Equilibrium cannot be forced upon a closed, tribal society. Vietnam again proves instructive.

No one could keep NVN from uniting the country. It was their game and France, Britain and the U.S. were simply playing out their prospective colonial aspirations. The SVN government was never democratic, much the same as the puppet governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are not. All three entities are historically unsustainable due to this intractable fact.

The article mentions the leaked Pentagon Papers published June '71 as having no parallel today, and that is so, as everything is now a state secret and kept under strictest lock-and-key from the taxpayers. Secret courts, secret prisons and secret electronic warrantless surveillance do not bode well for a democratic future for America.

"Why anyone ever supposed that Vietnam so involved the American national interest or so threatened the security of the United States as to justify the frightful slaughter and destruction we have brought to this remote and alien country And what it also displays, at interminable length, is the frightening combination of certitude, misjudgment and ignorance that went into the making of decisions. . . . It is not a record of wickedness or criminality; it is rather a record of glibness, illusion and intellectual mediocrity."

Just substitute Iraq for Vietnam. Same-same.

The only change Ranger might make is adding "intellectual dishonesty and bankruptcy" to the mediocrity point. "Moral turpitude," more to the point.

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

the absolute biggest lesson to learn from vietnam was brutally outlined in the weinberger report. they noted, frankly and baldly that not one thing was achieved from 15 years of bloody and increasingly dirty war on the tables in paris which was not a demand by ho chi minh and the communists in 1958. the biggest change was in the attitude and mindset of the eventual victors. having expended such vast amounts of personnel and money to gain the bitterly contested ground of the south (and then finding that the delta had been so horridly polluted by defoliants and other wastes of war that it was no longer viable agricultural property and is only now beginning to repair itself) was that the northern communists were insanely implacable victors. there was a truly psychotic bent to their policies of unification which included a largely unreported and unnoticed genocide against the montangards of the central highlands, the hmong people of laos, and the meos of cambodia. our further involvement with the people of iraq and afghanistan is ensuring that the only people left standing when we finally leave will be the most murderous, the most brutal, and the most insanely vindictive.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 11:37:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I reckon it's not genocide if it's unnoticed and/or unreported.

Generally the people you mention were faithful to the US SF cadre, which is why they were targeted as genocide victims. As I understand it, some areas are still closed to foreign tourism, making the proof of these people's subjugation difficult to verify.

Lisa points out the phenomena of virulence you mention is also visible throughout the biological world, even on the micro. Antibiotics are a good example of this.

One can eradicate most strains, but if not all are knocked out, the most virulent persist. Not out persist, they then mutate into ever more resistant strains.


Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 12:31:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i met up with some meo folks i had heard about getting settled in northern california. i went out to see them and find out if any of the folks i worked with had made it out. i was told that entire villages and clans were wiped out by a combination of vietnamese incursion, air attacks and even the hiring of burmese mercenaries (the kachin are astonishing fighters with a millenium of mercenary tradition) i've heard that some of the zones in the central highlands are now open to western visitors, but that most of the folks living there are now vietnamese who have been brought in from the city. along the lines of mao's "cultural realignments." if you were a teacher or a business executive you have about one growing cycle to learn how to be a farmer.

if a tree falls in a viet nam cloud forest and nobody hears it, it's probably still our fault. our impact on the region was that intense, and that negative. i've heard that there are places in the islands outside of haiphong that are opened now and catering to americans. i don't think i could take it. some of the best memories i have from there were when my team and i were part of the "secure hamlet" program and i got to spend a great deal of time with the people. to know them is to love them. their simple practicality, their courage in day to day survival even in the extreme circumstance of war was amazing. i fought hard for them, because i loved them so very much. i felt sorry for the guys on my team that were unwilling or unable to break through the language barrier and really try to understand who we were supposed to be there to defend. most of the folks in my ville didn't give a whit one way or the other who was ruling in saigon or phu bai or hanoi. they just wanted to grow their rice, maybe have a mango and coconut orchard and be able to keep enough of their harvest to last until the next one.

Sunday, December 2, 2007 at 11:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Jim found it hard to reply to your eloquent response. The people were fine people he has said, as the people usually are. Your experience was unique as you were in direct contact, and gained some facility with the language.

Jim said in his camp, the Vietnamese he worked with of necessity were politically aligned, as they were in the VN army.

But from my readings, as you say, most people in a war zone are just trying to get by.

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 4:50:00 PM GMT-5  

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