The last US combat troops left Vietnam forty years ago on March 29, 1973. This was a result of a so-called “peace agreement” signed in Paris, but no peace occurred in South Vietnam. In fact, the ensuing year after the agreement was more deadly in South Vietnam than any year of the war. That’s because the US wanted out of Vietnam, cared little about consequences, and declared “peace with honor” by signing an agreement everyone knew would not be honored by North Vietnam.
The US abandoned South Vietnam; much like it is abandoning Iraq and, eventually, will abandon Afghanistan (the “good” war). That is the lesson we learned from the Vietnam War. Declaring a politically incorrect war to be over is as good as a victory if it can be “sold” to the public as a win. That has now been expanded to simply declaring the economy to be fine, declaring the deficit to be no problem, declaring contraception to be a right, or declaring that the rich pay no taxes. Ideology trumps all.
One’s opinion of the Vietnam War is irrelevant to the issue of abandonment. A commitment was made to South Vietnam as part of the “peace agreement” to provide assistance if North Vietnam continued aggression, but a Democrat-controlled Congress refused that assistance when it quickly became needed. The US blatantly reneged on its commitment, abandoning South Vietnam to a total collapse and slaughter – because of ideology.
With war comes a responsibility, regardless of the reasons for the war. One should enter into war with clear goals and to win, or don’t enter into it at all. Allowing changing social mores, public opinion, or ideology to override responsibility or dictate rules of engagement is wrong. A “humane” war is an oxymoron and a losing strategy. War is hell, and hell should be entered only with good reason and traversed through as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Forty years after Vietnam, we have still not learned. Our enemies, on the other hand, learned well: Stick it out long enough and the US will tire and retreat. Where is the honor in that?
David J. Hentosh