The Vietnam War and the Struggle Against Terrorism

street_scene_vietnamThe purpose of this post is to compare and contrast the Vietnam War and the ongoing Struggle Against Terrorism. I will describe what I believe went RIGHT in Vietnam, as an effort to gain insight about the US action in the Struggle Against Terrorism. In fact, I believe the Vietnam War can be seen as “dress rehearsal” for the Struggle Against Terrorism.

First, I will consider what the US and its allies did RIGHT during the Vietnam War; then, I will provide suggestions on how the US and its allies can proceed to confront and overcome the threat of religion-based extremism today.

What the US did Right in Vietnam

The US did three things right in Vietnam. First, it acted early; second, it acted decisively; and finally, it acted long enough. As a result, the world NEVER saw a full-scale war between Communism and free nations but only the “proxy war” of Vietnam. Also, the Vietnam War dealt a deathly blow to world Communism. Not long after that, the whole Communist world unraveled.

Acting early: Think of crazy ideologies–such as Communism, Nazism, or religion-based extremism–as an infection, something similar to ebola, Asian flu, hand-foot-and-mouth disease,  or influenza. The more it spreads, the more it tends to spread. Therefore, early action is crucial.

In Vietnam, the US and its allies acted early, that is, during the last year of Pres. John F. Kennedy’s administration. I believe Pres. Kennedy was keeping in mind what Sir Winston Churchill had said in his visit to Fulton, Missouri, in 1946, namely, that the Second World War could have been prevented by early action, and that the free countries should NEVER make that mistake again. So, acting early was something the US did RIGHT in Vietnam.

Acting decisively: In Vietnam, the US decided that it would NOT be intimidated or supplanted by the hordes of Communist guerrillas, terrorists, or regular armies supported by China and the Soviet Union. Battle after battle, the Communist forces were beaten, until their decisive defeat at the Tet Offensive in 1968. This is akin to the effort that it takes to confront and overcome the spread of a world epidemic. So, acting decisively was something the US and its allies did RIGHT in Vietnam.

war-goes-onActing long enough: Crazy ideologies are incapable of doing one crucial thing: they CANNOT create an economy. The Soviet Union could not do it; Cuba could not do it; North Korea could not do it. If it has “money coming out of the ground”—as Russia does, with its wealth of natural resources—it can sputter on and on, but this is no economy.

So, the economy is an ally of free people fighting against crazy ideologies. Eventually, people under those crazy ideologies will begin to wake up from their slumber and will begin to long for liberation and prosperity. That is what happened in East Germany, Eastern Europe, the Captive Nations in the Soviet Union, and in Russia itself. This is actually akin to fighting an epidemic: you need to continue the struggle long enough to make sure it is eradicated.

How to Proceed in the Struggle Against Terrorism

In our current Struggle Against Terrorism, the free nations will need to pay heed to the lessons of the US victory over Communism in the Vietnam War. Here, also, the US and its allies need to act early, decisively, and long enough.

soldiers_on_tankEarly action against terrorists. I believe the US did act early against terrorists. The decision to engage in military action against terrorists was made right after the attacks on September 11, 2001. I believe the quick response was the right call.

Decisive action against terrorists. I believe the US did engage in decisive action against terrorists. In fact, I believe terrorists know very well that, if the US and its allies engage in the fight, terrorism has no hope. Their best hope is for the US and its allies to shy away from the fight. So, they behead Americans and other free people in the hopes that the free nations will tire out, fold up, and go home.

Stay with the fight long enough. Did the US and its allies stay long enough with the fight against terrorists? The answer depends on how long that fight should be. If the US and its allies believe that terrorism is a threat to the American people and to free people everywhere, then, how long should the fight against terrorism last?

soldiers_with_childThe Gold Standard for a fight for liberation was stated by Patrick Henry when he said, “Give me liberty, or give me death”; by Brazil’s Tiradentes, when he said, Libertas, quae sera tamen (“Liberty, even if it be late”), or by Brazil’s D. Pedro I, when he said, Independência ou morte (“Independence or death”). In other words, the fight for liberty is open-ended. You either win, or you stop when you die.

Isn’t this also the Gold Standard for a fight against an epidemic? How long should we fight HIV/AIDS? How long should we fight Ebola? The answer is, “Until we are free from it.” I believe the US and its allies will stay long enough to see this fight to the end.

I conclude with a quote,

The sons of the sun are nourished by their deeds; they live by triumph; their own spirit emboldens them, and their strength is their joy.
(Excerpt From: Friedrich Hölderlin. Hyperion. iBooks.)

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti MI, USA
September 3, 2014 (as I read the news that the US journalist Steven Sotloff has been beheaded by the terrorist group Islamic State)

Photo Credits:
Photo: War Goes On
Author: manhhai
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Vietnamese_people_scene
Author: manhhai
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Soldiers in Iraq
Author: The U.S. Army
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Tank_Afghanistan
Author: The U.S. Army
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Soldiers with Child
Author: The U.S. Army
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

2 comments on “The Vietnam War and the Struggle Against Terrorism

  1. Olaf110
    September 4, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I agree. It would be interesting to talk about the things the us and the west did wrong in the period of the vietnam war. they where not able to get the support of the people at home, in europe , they where not able to win the hearts and minds of the vietnameese people and of the students in europe. the 68 movement began to raise, because it was not possible to get the support and understanding of the young people for the cause of freedom. so it came that among the students of the 68 “movement” raised terrorism ( rote armee fraktion ) here in germany. since then, it was like a civil war between students and the state. since then , germany is not the same as it was before. the best traditions and values of germany got lost and we became a nation of liberal left pacifits with no backbone and a lost future.

    • Paulo-Juarez Pereira
      September 5, 2014 at 6:06 am #

      Actually, for the most part, many people in the US supported the Vietnam War. The difference was that the supporters did not voice their opinions with the same intensity as the protestors.

      But in the 1960s people did not know what Communism was all about. Even priests, bishops, ministers, and preachers supported the Communist cause. For many people, Communism sounded good, because they talked about national liberation. Americans believe in national liberation. They fought for it, and they know it is good.

      The Communists talked about national liberation, but once they took power, they would impose one-party rule and suppression of opposition. Sometimes they even conducted random killing, for no reason.

      That is why hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people got themselves into boats and braved the oceans just to get away from the Communist repression. It was 20 years of hell for the Vietnamese from 1975 to 1995. I myself have interviewed many Vietnamese who fled at that time. The majority of the people who left Vietnam never made it to safety. Something similar happened in Cuba as well.

      The reality of Communism and the suffering of the Vietnamese people muted the opposition to the Vietnam War in the United States. Actually I don’t begrudge the anti-war protestors for having helped the Communists. The 1960s were a confusing time, and many people acted with good intentions when they supported the North Vietnamese dictatorial regime.

      Thank you for your comment.

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