Phil Mirzoev's blog

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A couple of words about the US wars in Vietnam and Korea

Unfortunately there are still many Americans who prefer talking about Vietnam war in terms of counter-factual history and in terms of 'ifs and woulds' - 'if we won then this and that then we would...'. Korean war still continues to be used as a kind of positive example and justification of other things, which otherwise look ugly, feel ugly, sound ugly... because they are ugly.
Among the recent typical questions on this topic I tried to reply to was the following: 'If we had won the Vietnam war, do you think Vietnam would be like South Korea? In other words...very developed, technologically advanced, awesome, etc? Such a shame the North was so brainwashed, and such a shame we were so afraid of communism'
Here I considered it my duty to publish my answer to this and many other similar questions (or conditional assumptions):
In other words, would there be two Vietnams, one of which would live more or less well and free, and in another one people would die in their millions like in North Korea because of starvation and state repressions and whose militarism - like that of North Korea - latter would strike terror into all other countries and peoples in the region sapping their resources up to this day? Interesting question.
I would say no, because Vietnamese type of civil was unlike Korean to my mind is not winnable in full. Korean war was a political war organized "from top" and controlled from center by 'official' political forces. In this respect it was not truly 'civil', rather too governments tried to carve up the country and nation for a number of reasons. But in case of Vietnam, at some stage the war became truly civil in the sense that it was organized 'from bottom', external American forces and their presence became absolutely illegitimate in the eyes of a critically huge proportion of population, and the practical methods the US allowed itself to use only too well served the purpose shifting the war irreversibly from ideological plane (in which it was wrongly represented in the American media) into nationalistic plane - one nation invades another and in reality fights with its people. The war was unwinnable in ideological and political sense.
Even if one assumes that some kind of purely military 'magic' success could allow the US to recapture the whole territory and even formally hand over a sort of political control to some kind of Vietnamese government, the war wouldn't have stopped and this political control would have existed more on paper than in reality. The war would have gone to a kind of smoldering phase, and returned in its full bloody strength to a full fledged state just as American military presence had been wound down.
There's no if, cos this war at a very early stage was lost both ideologically and politically. Power is not everything.
About South Korea: in place of many Americans I wouldn't be too much proud of this achievement. While fully recognizing the well-being of S Korea, it is worth remembering that the relative success of this half of the nation has been built on the bones and flesh of millions upon millions upon millions of killed people of the other half of the nation. The problem is still there, and now the whole region is a victim of Korean military and nuclear blackmail. America is also negatively affected. Communist totalitarian regimes could be veeery different in terms of their detrimental effect. Cuba is one thing, and North Korea absolutely another story. But it was the war and the division of the nation that would have predetermined North Korean regime as being in future the bloodiest and most dangerous on earth as well as most isolated and stable among all others much softer communist autocracies. Also let's not forget those millions of lives that were claimed by the Korean war, supported actively on the Western side by the US. The memory of this played and continues to play in the hand of Korean regime.
I know Americans like to claim rewards for their Korean involvement but at the same time they are not that much willing to recognize their responsibility for another 'gift' they at least partially were involved in making to the Korean people and the rest of the world - North Korea.
This again raises the question about the methods and successes of the US in the Cold War, which, to be frank, in reality was not so much about communism against capitalism, as about Russian militaristic and political aggression and 'influence' (in the guise of communism). Unfortunately it was Russia who partially taught America her ugly methods and her intrinsic cruel cynicism - not the other way around. Russia remained what she has always been - the land of terror, but the US became much more 'Russian' in its ways, habits and judgments, and this is, I think, a true shame. Shame for a great nation which before the end of World War II historically had been a very wise and pacifist nation, none the weaker for its pacifism. A nation which could produce such intellectual and political giants like Franco Delano Roosevelt, a nation that because of the Cold War mentality - ends justify the means - was in the end intellectually reduced to such a condition, that would become possible to elect people like Bush and Chaney. That's a shame, and this is a mental legacy of all those wars in the past. I could only imagine what would the late Roosevelt, or other American intellectual politicians of the past for that matter have said about all these Cold War mental transformations of the US. That's a shame. Trade blockade of the minuscule and non-dangerous nation of Cuba - that's a shame! And the last two wars, which are direct result of 'Cold War mental national degradation' - that's a shame. When a former intellectual giant behaves like a petty militaristic dwarf - that's a shame!
Let there be no mistake and misunderstanding, I believe in America and I am sure that the new generations of American people and politicians are already starting to 'recover' this great nation back on the normal trajectory - pacifist intellectuals of the 21th century like Obama. But it is precisely my worries and my wish of good to this country that forces me to criticize and deplore its inordinate mistakes and some times criminal mistakes of the second part of the 20th century and the first decade of  the new one. Of course the context of the Cold War helps us to understand many of those mistakes, but not justify.
I am myself Canadian but I love the US and what is more I believe in its good-protecting and good-creating potential, but the US will not be able to move forward into the 21th century if American people won't learn to recognize the national mistakes. And it's difficult, very difficult to recognize national historical mistakes bordering on crimes against your own and other peoples. It's very difficult to recognize that the state sent to death tens of thousands of American girls and boys to death under the grandiose and blissful slogans of help to the nations that would actually have been ravaged or even split as a result of those messianic lies. Moreover, all of what I say here, now is increasingly recognized by American top politicians themselves. Let's deal with the history honestly, draw the lessons, get wise again, and start moving mentally and culturally into the new century, into the century of peace and Enlightenment, not of war and cheap militaristic Messianic. Into the age of Christian values according to Christ and not according to Bush, Islamic values according to Muhammad and not according to Bin Laden, etc. Let's grow up, cos the mental and political health of America is a critical condition for the piece in the whole world.

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