Last Friday, Bill Moyers did a service to the nation. He broadcast tapes of President Lyndon Johnson discussing what to do about Viet Nam. Currently, a similar situation involves President Barack Obama and another asian war, this time in Afghanistan.
In both scenarios the military wants guns, money and men to fight a native insurgency. Johnson worried about Nixon, Goldwater and the war enthusiasm of the Republican party. Obama also has war enthusiastic Republicans. The Republicans, in both scenarios, want this issue to help defeat the incumbent president in the next election.
The Republicans wanted virtually all of Johnson's domestic policy stymied. The Republicans want the complete failure of Obama's domestic policy. Why would a Democratic president co-operate in his own destruction, and allow the country to suffer so?
There are Viet Nam revisionists that claim the war was lost not on foreign soil but by traitors at home. The germans said similar things after 1918. Some germans blamed in on the 'jews'. In the United States it was blamed on the 'hippie anti-war protesters'. No, Viet Nam was lost, because it was unwinnable. The people who were against the war were sane patriots. The people who were for the war, both then and now, confused military success for national glory, or were, simply, worshipers of Mars.
Senators Richard Russell and Michael Mansfield advised Johnson correctly, that Viet Nam would be a long, bloody, expensive disaster that would devour the nation's well-being. Both South Viet Nam and Afghanistan had and has corrupt and incompetent governments. Those who advised the reluctant president away from war were right. Johnson knew Viet Nam was going to siphon America, and yet, he was pulled in. He had no desire for it, but still he fell into the swamp. The arguments for increased involvement were insipid. Ten years earlier Graham Greene had written The Quiet American. No dominoes were not falling, war delusion was growing.
It has been reported that Joseph Biden and Karl Eikenberry have advised President Obama against escalation and the military wants more war. The Constitution has the commander-in-chief to be a civilian, unfortunately a civilian can be overly influenced by military men, specially when he lacks the conviction to say, "NO!".
Afghanistan was a disaster for the British and Soviet empires. Viet Nam was not held well by the chinese, japanese and the french. By what fictive alchemy will this asian war be won? Tuesday President Obama is expected to ask for over 30,000 additional men to be sent to Afghanistan.
I have heard friends, of over fifty years in age, say unconsciously "Viet Nam", when describing the destination of relatives and acquaintances in the military over the last few years. They meant to say, "Johnny is going to Irak", or "Johnny will be shipped to Afghanistan". Their deep thoughts slipped involuntarily through their lips.
I have a pacifist friend, an extreme christian pacifist friend, who said to me, "You don't have to be a pacifist to be against these wars". Yes, it is that obviously simple.