Thursday, August 23, 2007

Happiness Under This Sky -- For Most A Better Life?

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UPDATE III, 08/24. For a little perspective, I'm not sure anyone could say it better. Senator Lieberman release, posted at the Weekly Standard, (ht: Jon at Exurban League).
"I share the frustrations about the performance of the Iraqi government. But the fact is, as my colleagues know, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus are meeting every day with Iraq’s democratically-elected leaders to help them reach compromise and reconciliation on a range of complex, painful, and existential issues. Political progress in Iraq depends on this kind of steady statecraft and patient diplomacy on the ground in Baghdad, rather than scapegoating and congressionally-ordered coups.
. . .
"Ultimately, the choice we face in Iraq is not between the current Iraqi government and a perfect Iraqi government. Rather, it is a choice between a young, imperfect, struggling democracy that we have helped midwife into existence, and the totalitarian, terrorist regime that al Qaeda hopes to impose in its place, should we retreat."
. . . .
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UPDATE, 08-24. Scott's exhaustive post at Powerline, found here focuses a considerable amount of additional information on English writer, William Shawcross, and the evolution of his thinking on Cambodia and Southeast Asia, especially as that history now relates to Iraq. It makes for fascinating and provocative reading.
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Peter W. Rodman has published an important piece (ht: Hugh Hewitt) on the importance of considering the potential for a bloodbath, or even genocide, should we too quickly abandon Iraq. The reason it was so important is that yesterday, in his speech to the VFW, the President raised the issue in the context of not repeating what we now know was one of the great blunders of the Viet-Nam era.

The press today immediately miscast that portion of the speech, by saying that the President was comparing Iraq to Viet-Nam, when what he really said was that it would be tragic for us to repeat in Iraq, what the Congress back then forced on the Administration by precipitously cutting off funding in Southeast Asia.

And, in doing so, he forcefully laid down a line in the sand.

These days, of course, cutting and running is precisely what the left is vehemently demanding of Congress. Should they succeed in forcing the issue, one wonders if some of their attitudes, among their leftie "cultural heros" will be the same? One immediately comes to mind.

Asked for his reaction to the emerging Cambodian genocidal bloodbath, William Kunstler once said,

"I would never criticize the actions of any Socialist government."

One wonders what sort mentality would lead anyone to make such a comment? Hard to imagine, isn't it?

Hugh Hewitt, however, points out that the left is not only fully aware of the consequences of what they are demanding, some of them are actually gearing up for it!

Now we are watching a replay of that debate of 30 years ago, but this time no one is even bothering to deny that American withdrawal at this point would lead to a bloodbath. It is a strange time, because the "screw 'em" school of cut-and-run advocates includes many folks arguing for doing something for Darfur just as we did in Kosovo. It is as though the prospective slaughter of Arabs just doesn't rank with them.
English writer William Shawcross once published a book called "Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia," Simon & Schuster, 1979, suggesting that the Nixon Administration policy had devastated Cambodia. He later reconsidered some of what he wrote, at least in his assessment of what the expected impact of the fall would be, horrified as he was by the excesses of the Khmer Rouge. (See, UPDATE, 08/24, above).

Shawcross later became a strong proponent of deposing Saddam Hussein. Today, of course, the left views him as a traitor.

Recently, Shawcross and Peter W. Rodman, (author of the piece at the first link above), two men who had clashed sharply years ago over United States policy in Cambodia and Southeast Asia, joined in writing an Op-Ed piece, "Defeat’s Killing Fields," which was published in the New York Times (on June 7, 2007), supporting President Bush's determination to avoid a military defeat in Iraq.

The President referred to that piece in his speech yesterday to the VFW. He said:

Recently, two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon's foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration's policies. Together they wrote that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be disastrous.

Here's what they said:

"Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences." I believe these men are right.

The speech the President made yesterday is quite astonishing in the breadth of its historical perspective, and should really be read in the entirety. He addresses all of the historical commitments we have made since World War II, including pointing out the doubts expressed by the critics at the time, given their religious and cultural backgrounds, about whether Japan, or Korea would ever embrace democratic ideals. And he also addresses what he defines as the tragic consequences of our policies vis-a-vis a too-precipitous pullout from Southeast Asia.

Here is the link to that Op-Ed he referred to, as it appeared on June 7th the New York Times. Here are a few of the many points they made:

SOME opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.

We beg to differ.

. . .

The 1975 Communist victory in Indochina led to horrors that engulfed the region. The victorious Khmer Rouge killed one to two million of their fellow Cambodians in a genocidal, ideological rampage. In Vietnam and Laos, cruel gulags and "re-education" camps enforced repression. Millions of people fled, mostly by boat, with thousands dying in the attempt.

The defeat had a lasting and significant strategic impact.

. . .

Today, in Iraq, there should be no illusion that defeat would come at an acceptable price. George Orwell wrote that the quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. But anyone who thinks an American defeat in Iraq will bring a merciful end to this conflict is deluded. Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate. Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.

As in Indochina more than 30 years ago, millions of Iraqis today see the United States helping them defeat their murderous opponents as the only hope for their country. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have committed themselves to working with us and with their democratically elected government to enable their country to rejoin the world as a peaceful, moderate state that is a partner to its neighbors instead of a threat. If we accept defeat, these Iraqis will be at terrible risk.
Thousands upon thousands of them will flee, as so many Vietnamese did after 1975.

. . .

Our conduct in Iraq is a crucial test of our credibility, especially with regard to the looming threat from revolutionary Iran. Our Arab and Israeli friends view Iraq in that wider context. They worry about our domestic debate, which had such a devastating impact on the outcome of the Vietnam War, and they want reassurance.

. . . .

Peter W. Rodman, an assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs from 2001 to March, is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. William Shawcross is the author of “Allies: Why the West Had to Remove Saddam.”

And here is a link to an essay/review from Commentary Magazine entitled, "Was Kissinger Right?" by Gabriel Schoenfeld (ht. Powerline) that reviewed Henry Kissinger's book, and addressed the larger issues of genocide in the historical context of the Cambodian experience in the aftermath of the defeat of the United States in Viet-Nam, including the impact of the congressional cut-off of funds.

It is not for the faint-hearted, particularly, I would think, when you read the following account. Among other reactions, it will likely sadden and then anger you:

. . . Only six months after the Paris Accords were concluded, Congress barred the further use of American force "in or over Indochina," rendering the agreement impossible to uphold. Despite Ford and Kissinger's intensive lobbying, the provision of supplies that might have given South Vietnam a chance to defend itself on its own was progressively slashed by Congress, from $2.1 billion in 1973 to $1 billion in 1974 to a paltry $700 million in 1975 (not all of which was actually disbursed).

As SOUTH VIETNAM, deprived of sustenance and support, began to crumble, even longtime congressional supporters of the war turned their backs. Although Kissinger finds villains across the political spectrum, he singles out for special censure the late Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, "scourge of detente and Ford administration critic for its alleged softness on Communism," who in early 1975 abandoned his perduring support for the war and, to "our immense surprise and huge disappointment," voted to throw South Vietnam to the wolves just as it entered a last desperate struggle to survive.

With the United States reduced to the role of bystander, the fall came swiftly. Cambodia succumbed first. As he does also with Vietnam, Kissinger retells the riveting tale, recounting how, as the Khmer Rouge closed in on the capital city of Phnom Penh in early April 1975, the United States offered a number of Cambodian officials a chance to escape. The reply addressed to the U.S. ambassador by Sirik Matak, a former Cambodian prime minister, and reprinted by Kissinger in full, is one of the more important documents of the entire Vietnam-war era.

Dear Excellency and Friend:

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion.

As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it.

You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we are all born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Please accept, Excellency and dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.

Immediately after the Khmer Rouge took Phnom Penh, writes Kissinger, Sirik Matak was shot in the stomach and left to die over the course of three days from his untreated wounds.

In the beginning, middle, and end of this episode, Kissinger shows to telling effect, the barbaric natureof the Communist Khmer Rouge was painted over in soothing tones by much of the American press.

The New York Times was the most flagrant offender. In one dispatch, its correspondent Sydney Schanberg described a ranking Khmer Rouge leader as a "French-educated intellectual" who wanted nothing more than "to fight against feudal privileges and social inequities." A bloodbath was unlikely, Schanberg reported: "since all are Cambodians, an accommodation will be found." As the last Americans were withdrawn, another upbeat article by Schanberg appeared under the headline, "Indochina Without Americans: For Most, a Better Life." In short order, the Khmer Rouge proceeded to march nearly two million of their fellow Cambodians to their deaths in the killing fields. Also in short order, Schanberg went on to greater glory and a Pulitzer prize.*

The President also mentioned Schanberg's "report," though he did not not cast it polemical terms. There is no mistaking the meaning, however.
A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but better with the Americans gone." A headline on that story, date Phnom Penh, summed up the argument: "Indochina without Americans: For Most a Better Life."

One can only hope that Hugh Hewitt was correct when he said on a positive note:

The tide appears to be turning at home just as it has in Anbar Province, so the world may avoid a sequel to the killing fields played out in the desert. But if not, President Bush's speech lays down the clearest of markers: The United States has a choice between holding off genocide in the hope of seeing a stable government and renewed region come out of that effort and great sacrifice, or the U.S. can disengage and permit the killing to commence. President Bush is for the former. Most Democrats want to make the other choice. Clarity is a great thing, and nothing could be more clear than this choice.

UPDATE II: 08/24: In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed today, Max Boot argues that the President's analogy to Southeast Asia is not incorrect, but that it is incomplete. Again, as noted with the first update above, Scott Johnson at Powerline, covers the topic thoroughly.

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