Vietnam and the US involvement started out with win-lose thinking. It was us or the Communists and we had to stop them or die trying. It was “better dead than red.” The situation itself was clearly lose-lose. They had two or three million casualties. We dropped more explosives on that country than in the entire Second World War and our casualties, while few in comparison to theirs, were becoming unacceptable in the eyes and cost-benefit ratios of United States voters and among the young citizens with friends and relatives sent on this fool’s errand. We were bleeding out money and lives and getting nowhere. And the country of South Vietnam was artificial anyway, created by our NATO allies to try and preserve colonial power in at least half of this extremely old country. The South Vietnam democracy was a complete farce with rigged elections, excessive violence and foreign tax laws turning subsistence farming into tenant farming with feudal conditions in the countryside.
Finally, we pulled out. We just left. And all of a sudden, Vietnam was fighting Communists in Cambodia and fighting off Communist China’s attack from the North. Us leaving was the win-win solution and the only way our stated objective, stopping Communism, could be met and the only way we could stop this country that had had a number of previous colonizers from fighting us as well.
The bleeding of lives and of money stopped immediately, a positive outcome rarely seen by US taxpayers or soldiers. Even the Korean War, where we fought them to a standstill, continues to require 28,500 well-armed and well-trained soldiers to maintain the precarious armistice that, in more than half a century, has evolved into a nuclear standoff, which we taxpayers also helped fund on both sides1. And the World War II victory has cost us taxpayers the maintenance of even more troops to occupy Japan and Germany to the present day and, presumably, on in perpetuity despite the fact these nations thrive and the threat has vanished!
The solution in Vietnam was simple and effective. But the question remains, Why were we there in the first place? How could a few million rice farmers without a modern navy or a modern infrastructure have posed a credible threat to us? Why were our perceptions so far from reality?
Winning World War II gave the US a whole new set of headaches which we tried to solve with a Cold War between NATO and their World War II ally, the Soviet Union. Besides a divided Korea, we ended up with a divided Germany and a divided Berlin separated by a huge wall with massive troops on both sides and difficult logistics to Berlin, which was the divided capital of their divided country but inside East Germany and so surrounded by hostility.
When the Soviet Union finally gave up and withdrew from Germany and, eventually, East Europe, the Russian people were immediately relieved of a huge and expensive responsibility, which the Americans now took over. And Germany, despite the difficulties of rebuilding their Soviet-occupied Eastern half, was ecstatically reunited. If we had withdrawn as well, it would have been a win-win-win resolution! As it is, there were still 34,805 occupational US troops stationed in Germany last year as we commemorated the 73rd anniversary of defending our military superiority over all other nations by spending billions of tax dollars. Meanwhile, our relationships with both Germany and Russia deteriorate. If we bothered to look through another lens, we might get a glimpse of why we are no longer trusted among fellow nations. Maybe we could get just a peek at the huge boondoggle of neo-colonialism which pays and pays, both monetarily and in lives and limbs lost for the infamous title of “greatest nation on Earth,” a title won through bullying, killing, and destroying.
Apartheid South Africa was an economic boon to the people of European ancestry who dominated the native Africans and denied them civil and economic rights in a racist system not dissimilar to that in the United States prior to the Civil Rights Amendment. But, in all other ways, this economic win-lose system, this system of dominance and perverted justice, was lose-lose. Like the many unbalanced societies mankind has created, it was based on fear and violence. It was colonial in both form and practice, keeping the dark-skinned native majority separated from the power, privilege, prestige, and possessions of the white minority.
But, as with almost all unbalanced societies, there were fear and restrictions on both sides and this win-lose system which was faltering because it was opposed, not only by the black majority, but by a small but growing group of white dissidents who valued safety as well as justice and equality over acquisition. Furthermore, the World Community had condemned this racist system and South Africans were finding themselves isolated and shunned internationally.
Insurrection against Apartheid had been around for a long time, but was growing and taking over whole communities such as Soweto.
So, to make a long story short, one Nelson Mandela, having been imprisoned for 27 years, created an inclusive and democratic society out of the decadence of Apartheid and avoided the disastrous civil wars and tribal infighting that had ruined so many former African colonies after winning “freedom,” but then taking away the freedoms and rights of white settlers.
While this win-win might not have been perfect and did not readjust ownership rights and so kept in place some of the colonial imbalances, it was far preferable for everyone to the widespread killing and destruction that were the predicted outcomes of an all-out South African civil war or the tribal warfare and repressive dictatorships that have been the frequent outcomes in “liberated” colonies.
Kuwait and Iraq
Kuwait is a chunk of Iraq stolen by England just after World War I. They had lots of crude oil and a natural deep water port on the Persian Gulf. It was created by the Allies, not the local people. It was given British government, British law, and gigantic and ongoing bribes to keep crude oil flowing cheaply into the United States and the British Commonwealth. But not only is Kuwait an illegitimate stooge created for Western economic colonial dominance in the region, they had been (and, presumably still are) slant drilling hundreds of oil wells under their border with Iraq, stealing Iraq’s oil and selling it at a significant discount to Kuwait’s partners in crime, mostly US oil companies.
Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait because they were stealing Iraq’s precious oil and creating a deficit in Iraq’s ability to repay the substantial debt incurred during the Iran-Iraq war. Furthermore, April Glaspie, the United States career ambassador was instructed to lie to the Iraqi leader a week before the invasion (according to the transcript, by both the Secretary of State and the President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush (41), a Texas oilman). I have no idea why Bill Clinton continued to harass Iraq and fortify Kuwait with US bases, but it’s clear he did but did not invade. That idiocy was left to George Walker Bush (43), another Texas oilman whose Vice President was the ex-CEO of and major stockholder in Haliburton Corporation, the largest war profiteering company in the United States.
Iraq had no WMDs (weapons of mass destruction). The United States, on the other hand has WMDs all over the world both on land and at sea. Furthermore, the US is the only country to have used WMDs against civilians, killing the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945 and, about two decades later, using a carcinogenic defoliant on the people and food supply of an extensive part of South Vietnam. And, even after the war with Iran, the invasion of Kuwait, the beating they took during from the US during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and years of US economic sanctions, the country of Iraq was modern, progressive, and integrated between Sunnis and Shiites. Women were routinely going to college, working alongside men and walking around safely. I’m not saying Saddam Hussein was a paragon of virtue. I’m saying that the people of Iraq were still cooperating with each other and the country was doing fairly well under the circumstances created by outside forces, mainly the United States.
Our invasion changed all that. I think the best source of information about Bush 43’s invasion is a blog or book entitled Baghdad Burning, written by an Iraqi college student in her 20s. But you must know that we may have thought we were fighting for democracy and freedom, but the results show nothing at all like that occurred or was likely to occur. What we did was provide terrorists around the world with new horror stories about US murder and mayhem in countries where the enmity and destruction we brought were totally inappropriate and unwarranted.
We removed the stable government, disbanded the 400,000-man Iraqi army and terrorized everyone for a decade until almost the entire middle class became refugees; Iraq remains as damaged and unstable as we left it, And Iraqi citizens and American servicepersons are both experiencing the ongoing negative results of our ill-conceived invasion.
It was Western colonialism and greed that created Israel, Kuwait and the mess in the Middle East which is now spilling out of the Middle East and into Europe.
We’re currently blaming the current President for the disaster in Afghanistan, but (like Vietnam and Iraq and Mozambique and a lot of other foreign military exploits) we should never have invaded in the first place. After all, Russia (the Soviet Union) had tried that already and we had supported and funded the same opposition we were later trying to kill (including Osama bin Laden).
These wars were not really about religion. When an invasion occurs. all classes, all religious groups and all political factions unite to repel the invaders. I think you’ll find that’s true of ourselves as well. Think what you might do if your neighborhood suddenly was infested with armed and dangerous foreigners speaking a language you don’t understand, ordering you and your family around at gunpoint, and turning your lives into a nightmare.
Be realistic! Invasions haven’t worked AT ALL in the last 60 years. Every neighborhood has modern communication and common interests. Of course they oppose us and our local, greedy stooges! And, when we leave, the old factions re-emerge and some sort of balance is restored and the locals eventually work it out among themselves.
In the 1950’s and early 1960’s racism divided our country. A number of states systematically denied the vote to blacks with bogus “literacy tests” that few people of any color could pass and a segregation system that wasn’t equal or fair. But, while black citizens were required to sit in certain areas of a public bus and to use certain toilet facilities and to walk on only one side of a public street, whites were similarly limited to the other areas. Friendships between the races were violently discouraged by vigilantes. And entire communities ran on fear, hatred, and false pride – on both sides.
Furthermore, the police in many cities, North and South, treated people of color with disrespect and suspicion. Laws were not policed or adjudicated fairly.
By desegregating, the United States started a long process of actually uniting itself. We’re still working on it as recent protests against police violence in black communities have shown up in the National Football League and shootings of unarmed people occur due to the fear and distrust on both sides.
In any case, we can now be friends with anyone, no matter what their color, a clear win for all. The lawless KKK has stopped its lynchings which helped create this fear, although, again, there is still work to do and the inclusion of the LGBTQ community is still a work in progress.
One thing is clear, the less fear, the less society is coerced or controlled, the more freedom for everyone. Freedom is one of those things that is reciprocal in an equitable system. The freedoms given others turn into more freedom for ourselves. Of course, there is an anomaly here. It took an “invasion” by federal troops to stop racism, but they stopped short of terrorizing the South and were judicious and careful in supporting the civil rights of United States citizens in the country that each and every member of the government are pledged to uphold.
These freedoms we talk so glibly about aren’t won or preserved in war as is almost universally believed. They are won in peacetime through setting boundaries equally and fairly between everyone. They are won through compassion, not hatred; through nonviolence rather than violence; through mutual respect and mutual tolerance rather than bigotry or jealousy.
I could go on in this vein, talking about equal rights for women, people of color, the LGBT community, and the poor who are still being marginalized and colonized by the military-economic-political-religious system that has ruled most of the world for centuries, but I would be digressing. Instead, I’d like to peek into a possible future.
ON THE HORIZON
For the moment, let’s ignore the morals, ethics, and tactics of the North Korean leader and look at North Korea with compassion. The 2018 Winter Olympic Games might help us. The two Koreas marched as one and expressed their desire for peace and cooperation.
There are still 28,500 US troops still stationed in South Korea on a hair trigger, prepared for war … and they’ve been there for about 70 years! They are backed up by nuclear-powered submarines with medium-range nuclear-armed Trident missiles targeted to strategic sites in North Korea. Any war, even non-nuclear, would destroy Seoul, the center of South Korea’s rather impressive economic productivity, within the first 24 hours. However, it’s becoming clear that this war we’re preparing to fight will be nuclear, so we’re talking about a whole lot more destruction, particularly in places like Tokyo, Pearl Harbor, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Okinawa, Guam, and the Marshall Islands. Of course, North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang and any and all suspected missile locations would be destroyed as well and might even become highly radioactive since “hardened” bunkers could require ground strikes.
So there are rational reasons on all sides to de-escalate.
Yet the US is maintaining it’s irrational desire for nuclear dominance in the world and enforcing drastic sanctions and diplomatic pressure toward that end, all of which, at this point, is irrational and, I would dare to say, irresponsible. The Cold War should be over and our Cold War troops, especially in South Korea, should stand down and be repatriated and retrained for peaceful and useful occupations.
There are many incentives besides the destructiveness of a war that will encourage the two Koreas to reconcile their ongoing civil war. Our troops aren’t needed and only serve to destabilize the situation.
Bringing all our troops home would immediately erase our cities from being targets of North Korean missiles. Why? We have Trident missiles 200 miles off North Korea’s coastline and a Commander in Chief who gets airborne as soon as the threat gets serious. Attacking the US would be suicidal. Withdrawal, by itself, would be a huge boost to our nation’s security, giving no incentive to any attacks on us. It would free billions of tax dollars to be used on something actually beneficial to the American people, such as education, research or health care.
It would simplify the Korean cultural exchange and trade, and possibly even reconciliation.
It could be win-win-win. The path we are on cannot. The goal of total world dominance in the name of “Peace” and “Freedom” hasn’t helped much and each day, we inch just a little bit farther toward <Fuck the rest of the World! Give us MORE than everyone else!>
The Persians are a proud, intelligent, well-educated, modern people. They’re the closest to European of any Mideast country except, of course, Israel. They don’t speak Arabic as their natural language; they speak their own language, Farsee. And, as far as I know, they’re into nuclear power to generate electricity. They recently fought a costly war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to a standstill and have problematic borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
If they develop nuclear capabilities for warfare, it would be to balance the military dominance of the United States and Britain in the region, gained in the First and Second World Wars. They are not threatening any legitimate interests of the United States and, while enriching uranium, aren’t yet creating an arsenal of nuclear weapons with which to threaten the world as we’ve been doing my entire life.
The entire “defense” policy of the United States since World War II has been to outspend every other country in creating fear – with one significant 4-year period where we exercised restraint and used diplomacy to actively seek a just and lasting peace.
This other policy ended with a resounding rejection of Jimmy Carter by the electorate despite the effectiveness of his policies. Most Americans today still think of Jimmy Carter as a failure and recently elected another TV actor, Donald Trump, who used the same campaign slogan: “Make America Great Again” while actively dividing and disrupting any sense of normalcy, compromise, or fair play.
The problem is widespread ignorance, superstition, brutality and greed. The problem also involves win-lose thinking and an inability to think in ways that create win/win solutions. We’ve overused the word “evil” and overestimated by a wide margin the good intentions, benevolence, and expected outcomes of our nation’s actions overseas. We also lie to ourselves constantly by pretending that overseas warfare supports democratic values.
If you’ve been thinking that this is just the natural order of things, the way things have been and will be, I suggest consulting your Bibles as to what Jesus of Nazareth thought for most of his short life: think of how you would feel if in their shoes before acting (the Golden Rule); treat even enemies with compassion and understanding (the Parable of the Good Samaritan); give to the poor (a constant suggestion of His); and be humble and contrite when in conflict with others (turn the other cheek). What if we ACTUALLY were a nation “under God” that practiced these principles? What would our lives be like? Would we be bullying people halfway around the world until they rejected us and our pompous claims of benevolence? Or might we just be a nation among equal nations; a people among people with equal rights and the freedom of religion we think so highly of within our own circle of friends?
1We gave North Korea $1.3 billion dollars in aid while technically still at war with them. The money and assistance was given to the North Korean government for temporarily halting their nuclear weapons program and included unweaponizable nuclear power. It was, in essence, a bribe using US taxpayer money to get a foreign government to do as we wanted them to do rather than follow our own example and, even at the time, it was known to be only a temporary solution to the Korean War standoff morphing into a nuclear war standoff.