Thread: The Vietnam War

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    The Vietnam War

    Keeping the spirit of controversy going here ( global warming ), I would like to ask - Was the Vietnam War wrong or was the US subject to perhaps the most successful leftist propaganda campaign in history. A campaign so successful that any dissent from the given line is even now veered from with trepedation and appears to have entered the Western psyche as some accepted group mind thought that can not be questioned?

    I mean at core is there any real difference in the US defending Iraq/Kobane from an army which wants to impose its totalitarian views today, and defending South Vietnam from a North which also wished to impose its own brand of totalitarian ideology back then?

    What I'm not necessarily saying is that the Vietnam War was absolutely right. What I am saying is that in the context of the times it certainly wasn't absolutely wrong. And if you are interested in liberty and democracy, the attempt to defend the South was a political decision which made sense in the context of those times.

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    Yeah, anytime the war you're fighting turns into guerrilla warfare, it's time to just leave. Those that do survive usually wind up with PTSD out the butt. I don't think humans were meant for that psychological torment.

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    Point taken on the military aspect, although most conflict over the last decade or so could be categorised as guerrilla warfare - so if you are not willing to engage, no matter how difficult, you leave yourself at a strategic disadvantage. But on the particular issue I'm addressing - I don't remember any anti-war protestors holding placards reading "stop the war because we don't like guerilla warfare" !

    In fact if anything - from what I've seen a lot of the positions could be categorised as

    1) War is bad, so stop it. ( True, but naive)

    2) Stop the War - as if it was merely a War between the US and the North which the US should disengage from to stop. When in fact
    it was a war between North and South with the US supporting the South.

    Also there appears to be a complete silence on the struggling South Vietnamese from the anti-war demonstrators - almost as if they were unaware they were actually there. And a complete silence too on their fate after the war - refugees, sent to "re-education centres", and the suicides of many of their officers. No one amongst the anti-war protesters seemed to voice any concern over their fate before or after. They appear to have largely been forgotten, although I found a website in which many South Vietnamese expressed their gratitude to the US for trying to defend them.

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    @Gemera - You've expressed that you support(ed) the war because it spreads liberty, and protects people. So I was wondering if you considered it the role of a state to spread its ideology, or to protect people of other states?

    If so, do you also support the same in other countries? For instance, Vladimir Putin has said he has the right to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine. Yet by doing this, he would be spreading a political system that is not very democratic.

    That is my reason for opposing most wars where we aren't being attacked. The morality used to justify it is subjective (doesn't hold universally). I realize this gets fuzzy when there are different factions already at war, but I'm generally uneasy about doing something that would make me uncomfortable if someone else did.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gemera View Post
    1) War is bad, so stop it. ( True, but naive)
    Naive how? I believe that this is the most rational reason to stop fighting war. I believe every nation needs a strong national defense, but to instigate conflict outside your own borders is morally wrong, and even to get involved in someone else's conflict is morally questionable. Humanitarian aid is one thing, but direct military action in a war in which you hold no stake is a slippery slope.

    Every war in the last 200 years (or more) has been fought for one thing: money. On the surface, they've been labeled as wars of independence, wars to end slavery, wars to liberate nations from sadistic regimes. In reality, they've been about nothing but money. The war that the Russians fought in Afghanistan was ultimately for natural resources, and the continuing US operations exist for the same purpose. Even the civil war was more about money than anything else. The central banks fund the wars, and of course wars incur massive debt. WW2 was funded on both sides by the central banks, which funded the Germans, because the central banks are mostly run by Germans, but they also funded the Allies, in hopes that they would defeat the anti-Semitic Nazis, because those running the central banks were, at least at that time, also primarily Jews.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alpo View Post
    @Gemera - You've expressed that you support(ed) the war because it spreads liberty, and protects people. So I was wondering if you considered it the role of a state to spread its ideology, or to protect people of other states?
    To say I support the war would be putting it too strongly, I disagree with the position that it was completely wrong. Vietnam Vets still appear to be treated as a breed apart, when I would argue they were doing nothing different to their colleagues in WW2 and Korea.


    If so, do you also support the same in other countries? For instance, Vladimir Putin has said he has the right to protect Russian citizens in Ukraine. Yet by doing this, he would be spreading a political system that is not very democratic.

    That is my reason for opposing most wars where we aren't being attacked. The morality used to justify it is subjective (doesn't hold universally). I realize this gets fuzzy when there are different factions already at war, but I'm generally uneasy about doing something that would make me uncomfortable if someone else did.
    Well there is a degree of subjectivity in all judgement. Is fighting to impose a totalitarian state morally equivalent to fighting to uphold a democratic one. If you believe there is no real difference between a state that imposes a version of reality on you, and one which allows you to reach your own conclusions then clearly as I indicated you wouldn't necessarily be interested in protecting liberty.

    If you are interested in protecting liberty then again what constitutes protection is not clear. For instance I think it would be simplistic to think that a democratic state could protect itself merely by guarding its immediate borders and allowing the rest of the world to descend into various forms of totalitarianism. Vietnam took place in the context of a Cold War in which the USSR and China were effectively spreading and supporting their ideological goals worldwide. The US had no choice but to counter this as it did constitute an ultimate existential threat not just to the US but to liberty in the world. From that standpoint an attack on democracy anywhere can be viewed as an attack on a democratic US. These are qualitatively difficult judgements that have to be made with ultimately no clear answers if they are right or wrong in the short term.
    Last edited by gemera; 01-06-2015 at 12:03 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elkvis View Post
    Naive how? I believe that this is the most rational reason to stop fighting war. I believe every nation needs a strong national defense, but to instigate conflict outside your own borders is morally wrong, and even to get involved in someone else's conflict is morally questionable. Humanitarian aid is one thing, but direct military action in a war in which you hold no stake is a slippery slope.

    Every war in the last 200 years (or more) has been fought for one thing: money. On the surface, they've been labeled as wars of independence, wars to end slavery, wars to liberate nations from sadistic regimes. In reality, they've been about nothing but money. The war that the Russians fought in Afghanistan was ultimately for natural resources, and the continuing US operations exist for the same purpose. Even the civil war was more about money than anything else. The central banks fund the wars, and of course wars incur massive debt. WW2 was funded on both sides by the central banks, which funded the Germans, because the central banks are mostly run by Germans, but they also funded the Allies, in hopes that they would defeat the anti-Semitic Nazis, because those running the central banks were, at least at that time, also primarily Jews.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gemera View Post
    Well, the US is independent, slavery is ended.
    Yes, and those are indeed great things; however, the American Revolution's moral justification is questionable. The British government was taxing the colones to pay for a war they fought on the colonies' behalf. The American Civil War was fought over states' rights, not slavery, as we are typically made to believe in school. The simple fact of the matter is that the President of the United States lacked the constitutional authority to free the slaves. The states retained that power, due to the 10th amendment to the US Constitution, which states "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Since there was no constitutional provision for the president to have that power, he was in violation of the law. I don't think anyone will question the morality of the action, but legally, he didn't have the power to do it. Lincoln's motives were also less than noble. His intent was to free the slaves so that they could be deported. Lincoln is documented to have been quite a racist, at least before his election to the presidency. Like most politicians, he probably said what he needed to say in order to be elected.
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    Well I certainly don't examine things for "moral purity" - human affairs are intrinsically messy and we kinda fumble our way towards solutions, bearing masses of contradictions as we go, and often as not having to consider the lesser of several evils rather than some easy black and white, right and wrong choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gemera View Post
    Well I certainly don't examine things for "moral purity"
    Perhaps you should. There are a few things that are rather objectively immoral. Among them is slavery, which could be considered an extension of a denial of the right of self-determination. That right was denied both to the slaves, and to the colonies under British rule.

    Quote Originally Posted by gemera View Post
    having to consider the lesser of several evils rather than some easy black and white, right and wrong choice.
    Choosing the lesser of two (or more) evils is still choosing evil.
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    You misunderstand. Of course slavery is wrong.

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    Going back to guerrilla warfare, the problem is, the solution is typically total war. Total war is an extreme. It works but at a high cost and it's usually rarely ever justified. So it's either, mentally break every one of your troops that survived or you kill every person on the opposing side. Neither one sounds particularly good which is why I think it's important to be hesitant about engaging in these types of conflicts.

    Tbh, I miss the days when wars were more or less about conquest and there were troops lined up and you knew exactly who to kill instead of this whole, "Is this kid approaching me going to hand me a grenade?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by gemera View Post
    Well there is a degree of subjectivity in all judgement. Is fighting to impose a totalitarian state morally equivalent to fighting to uphold a democratic one. If you believe there is no real difference between a state that imposes a version of reality on you, and one which allows you to reach your own conclusions then clearly as I indicated you wouldn't necessarily be interested in protecting liberty.
    It would depend on whether the totalitarian state was created by the people of that country I suppose. Liberty is freedom of choice, and goes along with the ability to make choices that are bad or that others might disagree with.

    However you say "we had no choice", because we must protect our country against the ideologies of other countries. There is always a balance between security and freedom. To be free, a person must recognize when they are giving up one for the other.

    On the Wikipedia article, it gives a different context of the war starting and progressing. The initial reason given by Kennedy was that it would hurt the credibility of the US for the South to lose. Then farther down the article it says the 2nd attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that prompted congress to give Johnson unilateral war powers never actually happened. All of this suggests the actual motivations of participants is less clear than is suggested.

    "These crises made Kennedy believe that another failure on the part of the United States to gain control and stop communist expansion would fatally damage U.S. credibility with its allies and his own reputation."

    "On 2 August 1964, the USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam's coast, allegedly fired upon and damaged several torpedo boats that had been stalking it in the Gulf of Tonkin.[177] A second attack was reported two days later on the USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the same area."

    "The second attack led to retaliatory air strikes, prompted Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on 7 August 1964,[179] signed by Johnson, and gave the president power to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without declaring war.[180]"

    "An undated NSA publication declassified in 2005, however, revealed that there was no attack on 4 August.[182]"
    Vietnam War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    I consider that war conforms to accepted standards of natural behavior. It's an intrinsic part of being human and it is hard for me to question it from the point of view of a Realist. In fact, I consider War one of the natural equalizers that -- along with natural disasters -- helps to keep the numbers of individuals in check.

    While I believe that has been always a peacekeeping mentality, it's certainly not until recently in human history that our societies started to perceive at large war as an evil or morally objectionable action. And I suspect this is so because we started to live in healthy societies offering acceptable living conditions which we wish to preserve. We see war as a potential threat to our life style. Before that, war was largely accepted and endorsed by the populations. Often as a survival necessity. In fact, most, if not all, countries in the world shaped their modern societies through war. Conquest wars, Independence wars, civil wars, all largely contributed to the modern western societies we so much enjoy. A citizen of the USA will have an hard time questioning the Civil War as morally objectionable, despite its near fratricidal nature. A Portuguese will not question its 11th century Independence Wars, despite the country having been technically born of an act of treason.

    I would put my money on the fact if we conducted a world survey, countries with poor living conditions would see their populations with a more positive outlook on War, than countries living under stable economies.

    This, along with our more benign outlook on wars that happened in the past (we often study with gleeful respect the deeds of great historical generals and the happenings of great historical battles), makes me believe any outlook on war as an intrinsically evil or morally objectionable action to be a fabrication of our minds based on our we perceive the sides involved. Take the Vietnam War, for instance. When it started public opinion was strongly pro-action. Same with the Iraqui War. Generally speaking, there was no collective whisper of an evil action. War was an imperative, or at least an unfortunate necessity. In the Vietnam War the body bags eventually turned the USA public opinion into looking at their country as a victim, rather than a savior, while on the Iraqui War the absence of WMDs evidence helped shape around the world the Iraqui people as a victim rather than an offender. On both accounts public opinion turned their initial support into protest. And what better way to protest against war than to call on its evil nature? In contrast, the second Kuwait War was a "walk in the park" for the USA forces and to this day, this act of war isn't the subject of much debate regarding the possible evil nature of an armed conflict.

    Not that I want to imply that calling war evil is merely an act of hypocrisy. There's that side to it, no doubt. But I'd say primarily we do not really question war so much for its ability to exert power over another individual or group of individuals. We don't even really question war on its capacity to bring death and destruction. We question it based on how well that war has served us. Like a plate of meatballs with spaghetti, if it isn't good we reject it. But if it is good, we'll love it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alpo View Post
    It would depend on whether the totalitarian state was created by the people of that country I suppose. Liberty is freedom of choice, and goes along with the ability to make choices that are bad or that others might disagree with.
    That's kind of a contradiction in terms since by definition there is not and will be no poll of the people taken on what their choice is, and once imposed there will be no future choice to change the system by consensus until the system itself fails. Just because you have a revolutionary army of a few thousand doesn't mean the people as a whole have consented. And clearly many in the South were
    resisting.

    And in the case of the USSR there was an expansionist policy, so I think it would be wrong to simply think whether or not a country is totalitarian is simply a matter for that country, or in the case of the USSR - countries - most of whom had no choice in the matter.


    However you say "we had no choice", because we must protect our country against the ideologies of other countries. There is always a balance between security and freedom. To be free, a person must recognize when they are giving up one for the other.
    I should have been clearer - the US had no choice whether or not to counter the USSR expansion throughout the Cold War, whether
    or not it HAD to invade Vietnam I'm not saying positively yes. What I am saying is there is a good case for it,in response to the absolutism of the anti-war movement.


    On the Wikipedia article, it gives a different context of the war starting and progressing. The initial reason given by Kennedy was that it would hurt the credibility of the US for the South to lose. Then farther down the article it says the 2nd attack in the Gulf of Tonkin that prompted congress to give Johnson unilateral war powers never actually happened. All of this suggests the actual motivations of participants is less clear than is suggested.



    Vietnam War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    I don't think that article takes away from what I said previously.

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