Excerpt Of The Day: How We Lost Vietnam & The Consequences That Followed

“By 1973, the goal of fashioning a South Korean-like, non-communist entity in Indochina was supposedly obtained and the war over. The Paris peace agreements recognized two autonomous Vietnamese states. Almost all American prisoners were returned. The last few American ground troops came home.

If the communist North, and its Soviet and Chinese patrons, saw 1973 as a breather rather than a peace, American officials at least promised the South material support and air cover should the communists reinvade.

They did just that in spring 1975, barreling down Highway 1 with conventional Soviet tanks. Americans apparently did not want another quarter-century commitment to a second DMZ to ward off a perpetual communist threat from the north. By 1974, a series of congressional acts (Hawkins Note: Pushed through by the Democrats) had radically cut the funding of American military support for the South Vietnamese. The Saigon government abruptly collapsed in April 1975.

More than a million refugees fled the south. Tens of thousands of boat people drowned or starved. Another million were either killed, imprisoned or sent to re-education camps. The Cambodia holocaust followed.

The perception of American weakness prompted communist adventurism from Afghanistan to Central America. Few in the Middle East thought there were any consequences to taking American hostages, or killing American soldiers and diplomats. Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein alike had little fear of “the pitiful, helpless giant” (Richard Nixon’s phrase).

There are lessons here. When the United States has stayed on after fighting dictatorial enemies — admittedly for decades in Italy, Germany, Japan, Korea and the Balkans — progress toward democracy and prosperity ensued. Disengagement from unresolved messy problems — whether from Europe after World War I, Vietnam in 1973, Beirut after the Marine barracks bombings, Afghanistan after the Soviet defeat, or Iraq in 1991 — only left murderous chaos or the “peace” of authoritarian dictators.” — Victor Davis Hanson

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