Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Communism and the U.S. in South-East Asia

This morning, Taeus responded to http://www.lawrencehelm.com/2009/01/re-legitimacy-of-russells-international.html as follows:

Dear Lawrence!

Thank you for your well argued answer.
You say:

"You haven’t really provided any arguments. What is the evidence for your assertions? What have you read that supports your assertions?"

My arguments for claiming that war crimes were commited in Vietnam can be found in the book "Crimes Against Silence", which was published by people involoved in the IWCT. And there are many other investigations coming to the same conclusion.

Perhaps not everything the Americans did was a crime in the technical sense, but it sure was in a moral sense, as all bombing of civilians is, including the bombing of Hiroshima. Besides most military experts are of the oppinion that bombing of civilians has very little effect.

But it would be interseting to hear your analysis of the war against the Vietnamese starting with the French invation in the middle of the 19th century.

Take it from there and try to convince me that the French cause was a just one and that the Americans take over of the torture of the Vietnames people was a just cause.

Best regards



Do you have the book you referenced? I just checked Amazon.com and it is no longer in print. It does have some used copies. It is ranked 4,933,151 in popularity. The last printing was in 1970 before the Vietnam War was over. Since this was just one endeavor engaged in by the “Left” there was a lot of triumphalism, left hands patting each other on the back, and a dropping of the whole thing. If the IWCT was serious, and this wasn’t just another Leftist propaganda ploy, why didn’t they continue?

America has traditionally been opposed to Colonialism. Its one adventure was the Philippines, and there were many reasons why we took over the Philippines back then. If we didn’t do it, then Germany would, or some other country, and it never set well with us, we who were a former colony to now have a colony of our own; so it wasn’t long before we set a schedule for Philippine independence. Later, when Wilson was part of the dividing up of much of the world after World War One (see MacMillan’s Paris 1919, and Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace), he opposed the French and British as they tried to regain the rights to their empires. He couldn’t end their colonialism, but he could make them agree, in areas being addressed after the war, to time tables for independence. Of course South East Asia and Algeria were not on the table back then. After World War II, Britain was too broke to want to try very hard to hang onto their empire. And France was coming off its Vichy period and was not very effective in managing its empire. Roosevelt did not agree to any splitting up of the world. That hadn’t worked. He wanted an organization controlled by the “Four Policeman,” the U.S., Britain, the USSR and China. He believed that if these four enforced their will, world peace would ensue. That was the beginning of the U.N. which never worked as Roosevelt intended. Roosevelt never liked De Gaulle, because, among other things, the latter wanted to keep the French Empire.

Later, when Eisenhower was engaged in fighting the Cold War, France was having difficulty controlling its South East Asian Colony. No one of any credence I am aware of seriously argues that Eisenhower wanted to take over from France in order to gain their South East Asian colony. Eisenhower had one concern, that this area didn’t fall under Communist control. It was Eisenhower who used the analogy of falling dominoes. The early part of the Cold War was one in which Communism was on the advance. There were supposed to be free elections in Eastern Europe, but the USSR put an end to that. Nation after nation was forcibly converted to Stalinism, with its attendant mock trials and purges and subsequent adaptation of that Totalitarian form of government. No one had the insight back then to understand that Communism was eventually going to fail; so the American “Cold Warriors” took their war very seriously.

Those who want to persist in opposing America’s efforts during the Cold War are faced with having to argue that a Totalitarian form of government was better than the Liberal Democracy favored by the U.S. and the West. Did we support a lot of nations who didn’t have Liberal Democracies? Yes. Back then, if they opposed Communism that was good enough for the time being. We saw things in terms of “National Interest” and practiced a kind of Realpolitik: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The goal was always to preserve Liberal Democracy and to oppose totalitarian Soviet Socialism. We had no master plan during the Cold War. We were not engaged in the spreading of Liberal Democracy – something the Neocons attempted recently. It was good enough if we could “contain” the advance of Communism.

I know of no serious arguments that suggest we had other motives. Yes, there have been some recent books claiming that the advance of Liberal Democracy is a sort of Imperialism, that it is really the advance of the American way of life. In a sense this is true. We do want to advance Liberal Democracy. We believe as the Russian Sharansky argued that Liberal Democracies do not go to war against each other. A world in which all nations were free and had liberal laws and protection of individual rights similar to what we have in our Bill of Rights, would probably be a peaceful world.

As we know, Liberal Democracy was opposed by two forms of Totalitarianism in the 20th Century, Fascism and Communism. Liberal Democracy won out over those two totalitarian systems. Now there is a new form of totalitarianism that seeks to overthrow Liberal Democracy. This new form is variously called Radical Islam, Islamism, and Militant Islam. They make no secret of their opposition to Liberal Democracy. When they won an election in Algeria, they said that as soon as they took charge Allah would be running the country so there would be no further need of elections. Islamism isn’t above using Democracy (as Hitler did in his day) to gain power, but after power is attained then Democracy is swept away and a Totalitarian form of government takes its place.

Had we won in South East Asia we would have done what we did in Japan and South Korea. Are they our colonies? No, of course not. They are Liberal Democracies. They practice a form of government which is patterned after the American. Now, look at the great victory the Left facilitated in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. A book I recently purchased is Pol Pot, Anatomy of a Nightmare. On the back is written, “Why did it happen? How did an idealistic dream of justice and prosperity mutate into one of humanity’s worst nightmares?” Those are legitimate questions reflecting disillusionment. The Left, much of it, did believe, idealistically, that what the Communists wanted in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam was “Justice and prosperity.” But after the U.S. was defeated, reality set in. Justice and prosperity did not follow America’s defeat. The pattern of purges and interrogations and political imprisonment, in other words a Totalitarian, Stalinist form of Socialism occurred. More Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians were killed during the Communist governments that succeeded America’s defeat, than were killed by Americans during the war. So if someone wants to say, “hey look at all the killing the U.S. did during the war,” to be fair they must also say, “but of course the Communists did even more killing, especially after the war.”

Now as to using the term “moral standard,” and then criticizing America for violating it, that is legitimate only if you identify that standard, show that America has agreed to it, and then show how America violated it. I don’t think you can do that. The Left is in a very weak position when it attempts this sort of argument because it has very fuzzy nebulous moral standards they have always had the utmost difficulty explaining. Conservatives, and indeed the “Western Civilization” was based on Christian standards of morality. Secularism has made huge inroads, and many scholars think Christianity should no longer be invoked (see Marcel Gauchet’s The Disenchantment of the World, A Political History of Religion), but Christianity is in the framework, in the beginning of Liberal Democracy, so it might have validity for some of us if it could be shown that we had violated Christian moral standards “as a policy” during the Vietnam War. There are always crimes committed by individuals and small groups in any military operation. We have military laws to punish soldiers who violate these laws, so it won’t do to say that a soldier who engaged in some crime that was punished by the military nevertheless represented official military policy.

I note, by the way that you still haven’t advanced any arguments. Instead you are in effect saying, “I am not going to tell you what my arguments are, but you go ahead and advance some arguments against my arguments (the one’s I’m not going to tell you about) and I’ll tell you whether they convince me.

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