My country because it's right
Posted by aogMonday, 12 February 2007 at 09:58 TrackBack Ping URL

There was a very long discussion about a side issue in this post. Originally it was about whether the MAL was critical in the fall of South Vietnam. I had thought that unarguable, as all of the parties involved (the MAL, the conservatives, the North Vietnamese) agreed on this point, that the “anti-war” efforts in the USA were absolutely essential in turning the military debacle of the Tet Offensive in to a strategic victory for the North Vietnamese.

Our dedicated contrarian Mr. Wood turned out to, in my view, to demonstrate the validity of my argument, that many on the left are still not only not embarrassed by this but openly proud of aiding the North Vietnamese cause by opposing the efforts of the USA. My point was that, contrary to those who claim that the embarrasment of causing the debacle in south east Asia in those years might inhibit the MAL in their efforts to assure a victory for the Caliphascists in Iraq, it was in fact the MAL who brought up the Vietnam analogy relentlessly, demonstrating not just the complete lack of any guilt but active pride for those events. I consider that matter settled.

However, the discussion on the post rapidly drifted in to arguments about the propriety of American involvement in Vietnam (the argument against being a key point of the anti-American effort). I am writing this post to clarify my own position, which I am quite willing to state openly — I have no need of obsfucating it.

American national interests above all
I am a national security hawk. First and foremost, I support those actions which best further the national security interests of the USA.
Good government is liberal democracy
I believe in objective standards for government and human relationships. I believe that the best marks of good government are maximal consent and rule of law, these being intertwined values. Liberal democracy is the best currently known mechanism for supporting consent and law and therefore I support it as a mechanism for achieving those ends.
Liberal democracy is good for American interests
While sometimes we may have to accomodate illiberal regimes in the short term, in the long term American national security interests are best served by the spread of liberal democracy with its almost uniform attendant consent and rule of law. I have discussed this at greater length here. Support for illiberal regimes is at best a stop gap measure needful while a greater danger is addressed.
Totalitarian ideologies and their spread are inimical to American interests
Deriving directly from the previous point, Communism and Caliphascism destroy liberal democracy and therefore harm American national security. Their spread causes even more harm. In this such ideologies differ from typical “right-wing” despots in that the latter have a much lower tendency to spread and therefore can be tolerated for longer.
A wise foreign policy does not attempt to right all wrongs or serve all interests at the same time
Resources are always finite, so the real world requires prioritizing threats and interests and acting accordingly. One must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

For these reasons I supported the American effort in Vietnam. I believe that had the USA properly supported the South, it would by now be roughly similar to South Korea, a prosperous and mostly liberal democracy. This would clearly be better for American interests than the current situation. I do not consider the intervention to be one that cost the Vietnamese the right to chose their own government as that was lost when the USSR and China intervened (a point that is desperately evaded by those who argue in favor of the North).

What I find deeply jarring is how much blood and soil nationalism is used by the Tranzis. For an alledgedly internationalist ideology, the appeal to “ethnic authenticity” is odd. The “blood” of the ruling class is held as far more important than the actual form of government. I suppose it’s an example of how the circle meets, that the tranzis have gone so far around that they’ve come back to tribalism. It does show just how intellectually bankrupt Socialism is, that it has shed all pretense of internationalism, one of its formerly defining characteristics. I suspect this is because Socialism can no longer use liberty and prosperity to justify itself due to the historically uniform failures in those areas. The case for North Vietnam as expounded by Mr. Wood is a classic, tribalism being the only thing that remains a non-laughable justification1.


1 And even that excuse fails when one examines it closely, given the heavy involvement of foreign powers in bringing the North Vietnamese to power.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Jeff Guinn Tuesday, 13 February 2007 at 08:20

AOG:

Apologies, I helped to sidetrack that discussion.

I agree with your position completely, while admiring the clarity and economy with which you stated it.

Along the way, I asked, then forgot about, a question of Mr. Wood: What do you think the ideal US definition of success in Iraq is? If pigs could fly, and dogs have qualities beyond loyalty, what would be the perfect outcome?

It would be this: A self governing, territorial secure, non-sectarian, country encompassing the rule of law, individual & property rights, and a government subjected to regular approval by the citizens.

I can accept that people of goodwill have come to different conclusions about the war than I have. I don’t think that they, in general, have adequately addressed the status quo ante, but that is beside the point, which is: this isn’t a science experiment — we can’t repeat it. We will never know whether the outcome would have been better had we not invaded Iraq.

Given the desired outcome, a moral Left would have — while disappointed its preferred course of action wasn’t taken — do what it could to attain the outcome via the course of action that was taken.

Unfortunately, the MAL is so morally blinkered that it has actively suborned efforts towards that outcome, aiding and abetting our — and the Iraqi’s — enemies every step of the way.

Tom C. Tuesday, 13 February 2007 at 19:27

Jeff Guinn- Exactly so. The question the left doesn’t wish to deal with is: What’s next if we and the Iraqi’s fail to establish such a nation? Innocent lives beyond imagining might be lost. Saddam’s Iraq was a boil that needed to be lanced. One thing is certain, had we not invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, the Islamists and their backers would have continued on their path of indiscriminate jihad against America and her allies. What options would remain had that ocurred?

cjm Tuesday, 13 February 2007 at 19:49

you really need to stop thinking of the left as anything other than unadulterated evil, beyond reason and understanding. they need to be driven from this and any other countr they infest.

the mal is only as powerful as they are allowed to be. gutless republicans allow them o operate as a fifth column over and over again. take away their licenses, fine them, put them out of business.

until someone takes on the leftist government beuracracy all other battles are pointless.

i agree with some of what aog states above, but am an old school kind of guy. democracy should never be given more than a month to work, after which the siege engines are wheeled out and put to good use.

the vietnam effort should have incuded setting up car factories, etc, and flooding the country with consumer goods. military action alone isn’t enough (unless you are going roman :) so informational and other methods have to be part of your plan.

in the wot we should be going after the families of the known terrorists, make them pay the ultimate price then see what kind of appetite they have for mayhem.

Michael Herdegen Tuesday, 13 February 2007 at 22:41

“Good government is liberal democracy - Liberal democracy is good for American interests” is analogous to why I’m not too concerned about the rise of China and India.

They may well be rivals to America in the future, but they’re probably not going to be foes, as was the late, unlamented USSR. And while some people fear that they will supplant the U.S., my guess is that they will complement the U.S., just as it’s been good for America to have Western Europe and Japan as peers, post-WWII.

Being light-years ahead of any other nation is fun, but it’s not the most stable or profitable arrangement. The U.S. will be better off when half of the world’s population lives in technologically-adept and comfortable nations that use resources efficiently, and contribute to the sum of human knowledge.

Andrea Harris Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 04:50

Michael, China is not a liberal democracy.

Tom C. Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 07:04

In may get very ugly in China before it transitions to liberal democracy. The party will probably not give up it’s power and privilege without a fight.

erp Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 08:13

Sorry to disagree. There won’t be cataclysmic changes in China. As people prosper and have more options, they’ll demand more freedom and so changes will happen not top down, but bottom up.

cjm Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 09:33

one word — Tiannemen

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 09:44

Andrea:

Which is why I wrote that such a line of reasoning is “analogous” to why I’m not worried about the rise of China or India.

Just as it’s to America’s benefit to have many liberal democracies in the world, so too is it to America’s benefit to have many successful, technically-advanced capitalist nations. And, as erp notes in this thread, and others have in past discussions in this forum, with successful capitalism there usually eventually comes liberal democracy - e.g., So. Korea and Taiwan.

Tiananmen Square was a tragedy, but not really a harbinger of the future. Since then, China has become more open and much more dependent on the outside world, so it was a step back, not a change of course.

Tom C. Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 10:06

erp- Of course, I hope you’re right. The kind of folks at the top in China do not usually go quietly. Maybe this time things will be different.

erp Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 10:34

It’s a vastly different world since Tiananmen, end of cold war, blogosphere, etc. Tom, I hope I’m right too.

Ali Choudhury Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 13:39

China’s biggest problem now isn’t the lack of democracy but the abysmal financial sector. The Chinese are rightly wary of putting their deposits in possibly-insolvent state banks wallowing under a 90s-era Japanese level of bad debt, and they can’t move capital overseas either. Thus their money goes into overheated real estate.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 13:51

Yes. That’s why I have consent and rule of law before democracy. The problems in China’s financial sector stem primarily from the lack of objective law and M. Ali is correct that democracy wouldn’t (directly or in a timely manner) fix any of that.

cjm Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 14:54

yes, the government that is harvesting human organs, and dealing with chavez, iran, etc is now on the path to goodness. charmingly naive, and deadly. guess you all think the same thing about putin and russia.

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 15:54
the government that is harvesting human organs, and dealing with chavez, iran, etc is now on the path to goodness.

No, not that government.

But our point is, that government won’t last. At least, not in a technologically-adept, capitalist China. And if China somehow goes back to being a third-world nation, then they won’t be much of a threat.

cjm Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 18:59

somewhere, over the rainbow…

David Cohen Wednesday, 14 February 2007 at 19:26

I missed the original discussion (been busy, busy, busy) but I find the topic interesting. I’m open to the possibility that, in hindsight, our involvement in Viet Nam was a mistake. I’m not talking here about the domestic turmoil or the loss to our international prestige, but that our reasons for going in were not well thought out. We probably shouldn’t have felt ourselves compelled to step into a French colonial adventure. More seriously, the “domino theory” was wrong and was wrong for an embarrassing reason: it assumed that communism could work. As it turned out, probably the best thing we could have done would have been to ignore Viet Nam.

On the other hand, hindsight is irrelevant. All we can ever do is make decisions based on what we know and what we believe at the time the decision is made.

Ali Choudhury Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 05:01

I’m not so sure about that. Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Malaysia all had vicious communist insurgencies during the 60s. In some cases those insurgencies succeeded. The domino theory didn’t presume communism worked but that communist success in one area would greatly improve subversion in the next. If it wasn’t for heavy Western involvement, a lot more states would have gone red and a big chunk of the world’s population would have been mired in tyranny, poverty and misery.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 08:27

Dang, Mr. Choudhury beat me to the punch on Mr. Cohen.

I concur strongly with the former that there is strong evidence in favor of the domino theory in the actual history of south east Asia following the Vietnam war. Because time was on the side of the Anglosphere, every year of resistance to Communist expansion was another year for places like Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan to become wealthier and more resistant to such influences.

cjm Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 10:02

the problem with the viet nam war was how we (didn’t) fight it. everyone thinks that the cccp would have gone nuclear if we had crossed the dmz into the north. i call bs on that. and we are making the same mistake in the wot. ike should have just nuked the prc and been done with it, instead of “threatening” to do it. oh well, it’s the same story all over, except for the romans — they knew how to do this kind of thing right.

David Cohen Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 13:04

Well, I think you guys might be playing a little fast with the history, particularly the argument that, without the Viet Nam war, Cambodia might not have fallen to a vicious Communist regime. Obviously, just because things happened a certain way we can’t say that they were destined to happen, but I do think that Singapore and Hong Kong (for example) were much less likely to go Communist than, say, Italy.

But that’s not my point. The problem with the Domino Theory, as with much of 60s and 70s geopolitical theory, is that it assumed that Communism was a workable alternative to capitalism. It’s not. Communism, as a economic theory and even as a political movement, is dead. All we have now are run-of-the-mill authoritarian states. I don’t see how Communism would have been any more workable if we hadn’t fought the Viet Nam war.

Obviously, if any state had flipped in this alternate universe that didn’t flip in the actual universe, that would have been bad for its people. But given the domestic costs of the 60s and 70s, I think it’s pretty likely that the US would have been better off.

The bottom line (and I think that this is why this topic comes up now) is the extent to which we are dependent upon our elected leaders to make these decisions for us. LBJ thought it was in our national interest to go to war and so we went to war. Having made that decision, the betrayal by the Democrats after Watergate was disastrous. It’s not that it made us look weak to the rest of the world, it was that we were actually weak. If the Democrats manage to pull the same trick now, the results will be similarly disastrous.

Added a “not” before “have fallen”.

cjm Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 14:25

communism isn’t sustainable in the way a fire isn’t sustainable. but as long as fuel is at hand, it will grow and consume. it was a way to bleed the cccp economy and it pretty much worked.

Ali Choudhury Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 14:34

Well, obviously they’re not workable. That doesn’t mean communist regimes can’t persist regardless (North Korea, Cuba), transition into one-man authoritarian rule (Turkmenistan, Belarus), multi-man authoritarian rule (China) or dysfunctional democracies (Yugoslavia). All of those offering persistently worse outcomes than liberal democracies.

I don’t know about the 60s and 70s, but it does seem obvious from the 80s and 90s the trade flows from a SE Asia that hadn’t had to waste valuable years in recovering from communism was quite beneficial to the West.

Tom C. Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 14:44

LBJ expanded the war in response to some considering him ‘soft on communism’because of his ‘Great Society’ statist nonsense and the alternative that Goldwater presented in the 1964 election. Nixon’s election, after LBJ’s disasterous handling of the war and his refusal to seek re-election, was in the face of an almost pure, personal hatred of the new president by the east coast and Washington ‘liberal elite’ which doomed his efforts to win the war from the get-go. Read the editorials of the NYT and WaPo at the time, their anti-Nixon attitudes had reached levels of hysteria thart are difficult to appreciate today. The blatant mis-reporting of Tet was the coup de grace. The opposition wasn’t so much anti-war as it it was in subtle support of communism while employing a ridiculous equivocation regarding the system as simply an alternative to the ‘open society’. A strange time whose history seems to have been swept into the memory hole.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 15:29

I get these comments emailed to me and I still can’t keep up. cjm took most of my point. Communism can “work” if all other competitors are destroyed (either through conquest or internal subversion). One might also argue that vigorous opposition, such as in Vietnam or later by former President Reagan, greatly shortened the tenure of Communism and was therefore of great benefit to the USA (as Mr. Choudhury noted).

But I can still bloviate about other things.

The first is that Mr. Cohen is quite wrong in his first assertion. On the contrary, it is tautologically true that, absent the fall of South Vietnam, Cambodia might not have fallen as well, unless one wants to assert that a non-Communist South Vietnam would guarantee the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rogue.

However, the real claim is that a non-Communist South Vietnam would have made the success of the Khmer Rogue less likely and that is something on which it is difficult to have an unequivocal opinion. This article which I have fortuitously seen cited several places recently, is (I claim) favorable evidence for the domino theory, if for no other reason that had South Vietnam held, it would have been far more likely to encourage similar intervention in Cambodia. Success breeds success as failure breeds failure, which leads to this

I don’t see how Communism would have been any more workable if we hadn’t fought the Viet Nam war

being answered by noting that the important thing wasn’t the unworkability but the general acknowledgement of that unworkability.

cjm Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 19:25

ironically, it was communist vietnam that drove out the khmer rouge. jimmy carter and chomsky are/were both bif fans of the kr. i am willing to put money on it, that our resident dunce is a big fan of their can-do spirit. the part that always makes me laugh, is they came up with new calendar to go along with their plans to redo society. they labeled it “year 0”; too funny. dc seems like a fine fellow on a personal level, but he is quite soft hearted.

regarding the role of the mal, now and then, it beggars the imagination as to why the gop doesn’t dismantle them. i guess they are dying now, thank goodness (and bill joy, et als)

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 15 February 2007 at 21:07

cjm;

Yes. That has to rank as one of the biggest ironies of the Cold War. I may not like the Vietnamese Communists, but they were no were near the depravity of the Khmer Rouge. I have to give them credit for intervening when no one else would.

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