Q&A Friday #23: The Korean War, Vietnam, & The Gulf War — Were They Justified?
Question: “Something I have been wanting to do on my own blog is to write a paragraph or on each of America’s wars and military engagements from the Rev. War to today and give my opinion as to the justification and necessity of each. This was inspired by a leftist on a web forum I read stating that WW2 was the last justified war we have fought.
I disagree of course.
I would love to see Hawkins tackle this one. It is sure to spark some interesting debate. (hell, we could even leave out the current conflict in Iraq to keep the thread from being hijacked..)” — Trench Raider
Answer: Let’s just cover the big ones from WW2 up to 9/10/01: The Korean War, Vietnam, & The Gulf War.
The Korean War: The Norks, with the support of the Soviets, started this one by launching a sneak attack against the South. The South Korean military, in part because we hadn’t supplied them with heavy weaponry, completely collapsed. Without our help, they would have been doomed.
We jumped in partly to help save the South Koreans, but also because we feared the spread of Communism. We initially held on by the skin of our teeth, went on the offensive after McArthur’s legendary invasion at Inchon, and would have conquered North Korea and reunified the country as a Democracy had China not jumped into the fray. The Chinese almost drove us into the sea, but as their supply lines stretched out, we managed to push them back, fought them to a stalemate, and after negotiations, we basically ended up right back where we started.
Was it justified? Well, North Korea is a communist hellhole, run by a lunatic, where the people eat grass and moss to try to keep from starving. On the other hand, with our help and support, South Korea became a prosperous Democracy. Had we not gotten involved, not only would South Korea look like North Korea today, our non-action might have encouraged the Commies to be even more aggressive. As far as I’m concerned, this is an easy call. Justified.
The Vietnam War: The roots of the conflict in Vietnam are long and complex, but our first enormous mistake was to let the French keep Vietnam as a colony after WW2. Had we insisted that they give it up, they would have had to do so. Had that happened, it’s entirely possible that Ho Chi Minh would have never gotten into bed with the Communists and then there wouldn’t have been a need for a Vietnam War.
However, once we became afraid that Vietnam would fall to Communism, we decided that we needed to get involved because of the Domino Theory. We feared that one nation falling to Communism would lead to other nations also going red. So, we gradually ramped up our forces & aid in Vietnam in order to prevent the country from being enslaved by the Communists. Through the Kennedy administration, we had decided to aid South Vietnam, but we had not committed to war.
But then Lyndon Johnson made enormous mistake #2: He decided to go to war in Vietnam without having the will to do what was necessary to win it. We poured troops into Vietnam, but back in Washington, the politicians handcuffed our military to the point where it was impossible to win. Had we been willing to do whatever it took, bombing key ports, destroying Russian supply ships, following enemy troops into foreign countries, etc., etc., we could have achieved victory. Since Johnson wasn’t willing to do those things, he shouldn’t have gotten into the war in the first place.
Unfortunately, because of Johnson’s half-hearted approach, the war dragged on and on. When Nixon got into office, he got more aggressive, but by then it was essentially too late to really win and besides, the public wanted out. So, “Tricky Dick” did get us out of Vietnam and he did it in a more skillful manner than most people give him credit for today.
I say that because had we stuck to our agreement with South Vietnam and provided them with supplies and air support, I believe they could have held out indefinitely and would probably be a democratic nation today. Unfortunately, when Nixon went down in flames because of Watergate, the anti-war Democrats took advantage of the GOP’s weakness to cut off supplies and air support to the South Vietnamese. For all intents and purposes, that guaranteed a victory for the Communists.
Was it justified? This is a hard question to answer.
Had we fought to win right from beginning, I think we would have won the war at a fraction of the cost in American life that we ultimately paid. That would have been a serious setback for Communism and it would have likely led to 80 million Vietnamese being free today. On the other hand, again, since we weren’t willing to fight to win, we shouldn’t have gone to war.
So, let me just split the difference and say that had we been willing to do what it took to win the war, I would say that it would have been justified and worth it.
The Gulf War: Saddam Hussein started this war by scarfing up Kuwait and it’s likely that he would have continued on from there or invaded Saudi Arabia had we not chosen to intervene.
The reason we decided to get involved was ostensibly to guarantee the sovereignty of Kuwait, but in actuality, we feared the consequences of having a maniac like Saddam Hussein controlling such a large percentage of the world’s oil.
So, after building up our troops, we rolled in and liberated Kuwait with a large coalition at our side. Unfortunately, we didn’t finish the job for a number of reasons. Our “UN Coalition” would have shattered had we gone into Iraq, we feared weakening the Iraqis so much that Iran would move in, we didn’t want to occupy the country for obvious reasons, and we believed it was likely Saddam would be toppled by a military coup after his humiliating defeat.
Unfortunately, Saddam managed to hold on to power and was a thorn in our sides for more than a decade before we removed him in 2003.
Was it justified? Absolutely. Imagine Saddam Hussein, an aggressive dictator with an eye towards conquest, controlling the oil fields in Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. He would have likely modernized his armies, built nuclear weapons, and could have used his control of such a large portion of the world’s oil supply to blackmail the West into staying out of his affairs. It might have started with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but it’s doubtful that it would have ended there. At some point, you have to think that wars with Israel & Iran would have happened and who can say how far Hussein would have gone from there.
Given the state of the Middle-East today, maybe some people don’t think that sounds too bad. But, a wealthy, Middle-Eastern, super state controlled by a fascistic madman would not be an improvement over what we have today in the region — not by a long shot.