The Democrat-controlled Congress’s betrayal of South Vietnam, mentioned in my previous post, was of course only the latest in a long line of US foreign policy disasters. Curiously enough these disasters always seemed to occur when the Democrats controlled the White House, or at least the Congress.
The first and most spectacular of these catastrophes took place at Yalta in February 1945. The Second World War had been fought over the issue of the invasion of Poland by a brutal totalitarian dictatorship so naturally Roosevelt thought it would be a fabulous idea to had Poland over to a brutal totalitarian dictatorship. The rest of eastern Europe would soon follow.
Roosevelt’s Democrat successor Harry Truman continued the good work by handing China over to the Communists.
Truman did his best to lose South Korea as well, removing Douglas MacArthur from command when it became frighteningly apparent that MacArthur might actually win the war.
Jimmy Carter was to prove himself as a fine example of the grand tradition of Democrat Presidents. Iran had a strong stable pro-western government. Obviously that situation could not be allowed to continue. Thanks to Carter Iran got a new government. A fanatically anti-western government of mad mullahs. Most of the US’s subsequent problems in the Middle East can be laid at the door of Jimmy Carter. The fact that the word now faces the threat of a nuclear Iran controlled by mad mullahs is not the least of Carter’s legacies. Harry Truman would have been proud of him.
John F. Kennedy was something of an aberration, being a Democrat president who was actually a sincere anti-communist. Unfortunately he was also a weak president and allowed the opportunity of ridding the world of Fidel Castro to slip through his fingers by failing to provide air support to the Cuban rebels in the Bay of Pigs invasion attempt. Kennedy’s weakness would provide a major encouragement to the expansionist aims of the Soviet Union.
In fact it’s difficult to to see how communism could have achieved the success it did achieve from the 1940s to the 1970s without the assistance of the Democrats.
That would of course all change once Ronald Reagan, the only conservative president in living memory, came to power.
Most books on the Vietnam War concentrate on the early years of United States involvement in the conflict. They see the Tet Offensive in 1968 as the climax of the war and take little interest in subsequent events. As Lewis Sorley points out in his 1999 book A Better War: the Unexamined Victories and Final Tragedy of America’s Last Years in Vietnam such a focus is dangerously misleading. It concentrates attention on the largely unsuccessful early years of 1965 to 1968 whilst ignoring the extraordinary successes of the period from 1969 to 1972.
The US commander in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968 was General William C. Westmoreland. Westmoreland believed the key to victory was to use the superior mobility and firepower of US forces to win a war of attrition. His aim was to inflict losses on the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese at a rate that would be unsustainable for the communists. Unfortunately he failed to take into account the total indifference of the communist leadership to losses, and the fact that the communists maintained discipline in their forces through a mixture of fear and relentless indoctrination. They would keep fighting regardless of losses because they had no choice. The war could not be won by attrition but Westmoreland was unwilling to accept this and change his strategy. Westmoreland continued to put his faith in large-scale search and destroy operations that failed to pay dividends commensurate with their costs.
General Creighton Abrams had been slated to take over the command in Vietnam in 1967 but President Johnson had painted himself into a political corner and felt he had to leave Westmoreland in command for another year. This was to be a costly mistake.
Abrams knew how the war should be fought and he knew how it could be won. Unfortunately by the time he took over the command in June 1968 the political climate was changing. Abrams would be forced to conduct the war with ever-diminishing numbers of US troops and ever-diminishing resources. In spite of this Abrams achieved extraordinary successes. Abrams felt the key to victory was to deny the villages of South Vietnam to the communists. Such popular support as the communists enjoyed in the South was entirely due to fear and intimidation. Without access to the villages that popular support dried up completely.
By 1969 the Viet Cong was effectively destroyed. The war would from this point on be largely a conventional war against the North Vietnamese invaders.
Once Nixon came to power Abrams found himself having to implement the policy of Vietnamization. The South Vietnamese would gradually have to take over the ground war, supported by US airpower. This was a policy that Abrams was in complete agreement with. He knew that the only long-term hope for South Vietnam was for their military to be strengthened and improved to the point where US ground forces would not be needed. The policy succeeded beyond Abrams’ expectations. By 1972 the South Vietnamese army was strong enough to smash the North’s biggest offensive to date.
By 1972 the war was in fact won. South Vietnam was prosperous and largely peaceful. The South Vietnamese army was tough and efficient. The Thieu regime was popular. There was no longer any need whatsoever for US ground forces. All that was needed was the political will in Washington to continue to give South Vietnam two things – sufficient financial support to maintain their armed forces, and the promise of US airpower if North Vietnam violated the terms of the cease-fire.
Tragically that political will was not there. Had Nixon remained in power things may have been different. As it turned out the US Congress achieved what the communists could never have achieved on their own – the destruction of South Vietnam. Estimates of the number of people subsequently killed by the victorious communists range from 400,000 to 2.5 million. Every single one of those deaths can be laid at the door of the US Congress (and the anti-war activists who helped to create the political climate of cowardice and treachery. It was one of the great betrayals of history, and one of the mist shameful moments in US history. 58,000 American servicemen lost their lives to win a victory that was simply thrown away.
The British counter-insurgency expert Sir Robert Thompson (who spent a good deal of time in Vietnam and who greatly admired Abrams’ achievements) remarked, “perhaps the major lesson of the Vietnam war is: do not rely on the United States as an ally.”
Lewis Sorley’s superb book is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand one of the greatest tragedies of US foreign policy in the nation’s history.
If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to find yourself in conversation with a peacenik you will have encountered the futility of war argument. You will have been assured that war is futile and wasteful and settles nothing. In fact this argument, thanks to the tireless activities of the cultural marxists, is virtually a core belief on the intellectual class.
But is war actually futile?
The Greek and Persian Wars certainly weren’t futile. The Greek victories in those wars ensured the survival of classical civilisation, a civilisation that remains to a large extent the basis of modern western civilisation.
The Second Punic War wasn’t futile. The survival of the Roman Republic was at stake. Had the Romans lost Rome would never have become the dominant power in Europe and the entire heritage of Graeco-Roman civilisation would have been lost.
The Battle of Tours in 732 AD was hardly futile. Had Charles Martel lost that battle Islam would almost certainly have conquered the whole of western Europe. The survival of Christianity would have been in very serious doubt.
I doubt whether any American would consider the War of American Independence to be futile. Had the Americans and their French allies been defeated the United States would not exist.
I’m sure the Dutch didn’t think the Eighty Years’ War was futile either. And if the French had given up fighting the Hundred Years’ War after a succession of defeats France would not exist as a nation. On that occasion it took a seventeen-year-old girl to shame the French monarch into continuing the fight.
Even the dynastic wars of the eighteenth century were far from futile. Very large issues were at stake. A French victory in the War of the Spanish Succession would have allowed Louis XIV to unite the thrones of France and Spain, creating a Bourbon super-state that would have dominated Europe. It would also have established the Bourbon state as a naval power that might seriously have challenged British sea power, with momentous consequences for the history of all the English-speaking nations.
The First World War is a favourite of the “war is futile” brigade. They see it as the prime example of a useless war. But was it? Had the Central Powers been victorious it is all but inevitable that the German Empire would have dominated the whole of Europe. The German Empire was autocratic and hostile to democracy. The survival of democracy in Europe might well have been in doubt. The Russian Revolution was made possible by the First World War. Whether the world today would be a better place or a worse place without the war can certainly be debated, but there’s no question it would be a very different world. Communism might have been throttled at birth, which would obviously have been a very good thing, but we might instead have had a rather unpleasant form of authoritarianism. The point is that it is nonsense to say the First World War settled nothing – it changed the course of world history in a very profound way.
I don’t think any modern South Korean would consider the Korean War to have been a waste of time. That was achieved more than the salvation of South Korea. North Korea is troublesome enough today. Had the Communists overrun the whole of Korea we would be facing a much more powerful and far more dangerous enemy today.
The avoidance of war also has consequences, not all of them favourable. Ask Neville Chamberlain. It often appears what whenever they’re faced with a crisis our modern “statesmen” ask themselves, “What would Neville Chamberlain have done?”
I’m not suggesting that war is a good thing, but sometimes it cannot be avoided, and sometimes it is a deadly mistake to do so. And if a war becomes inevitable you’d better make damned sure that your side wins.
It’s been obvious for several decades now that the Left is determined to destroy Christianity. They are of course practising this intolerance for diversity in the name of tolerance of diversity. It’s also clear that their main target is the Catholic Church.
This was an agenda that was also pursued enthusiastically by the Soviet communists and the German National Socialists in the 1930s. Leftist hatred for the Catholic Church is nothing new. Interestingly enough the Italian fascists were much less keen on destroying Christianity, just as they were relatively indifferent to the idea of persecuting Jews (at least in comparison to other totalitarian regimes).
All totalitarian regimes are however basically hostile to any structure that is capable of acting as a focus of loyalty to anything other than the state. This is as true of today’s soft totalitarianism, the totalitarianism of political correctness, as it is of the hard totalitarianisms of the past.
Totalitarianism essentially means that every aspect of life is political, so therefore everything is the business of the state. If there is an organisation that stands against that view, it must be destroyed. And Christianity by its very nature has to take the view that some things are not the business of the state. Christianity by its very nature has to oppose the social engineering so beloved of the Left.
The Catholic Church was (and is) one of the few organisations with the moral authority to stand against the relentless growth of the power and pretensions of the State. And in the 1930s it not only had the necessary moral authority, it had the courage and the will to do so, as it has today. For those on the Left committed to the limitless expansion of State power, either in the 1930s or today, the Church represents a major obstacle. It must therefore be destroyed.
The Left faced a particular problem from 1978 onwards. The Catholic Church had as its head not only a strong and courageous Pope, but a very popular one. John Paul II won the respect of the entire free world for the part he played in destroying the evil of Soviet communism. And most importantly, he was no doddering bumbling do-gooder. He was an intelligent man who understood politics. Suddenly the Catholic Church was looking like a very dangerous enemy indeed for the Left.
Interestingly enough, the methods used in the 1930s were the same as those used today – allegations of excessive wealth and allegations of sexual misconduct against priests.
While some accusations of sexual misconduct against priests are undoubtedly true there is no question that the Left has a huge incentive to magnify and if necessary to manufacture such accusations. In the case of the allegations made by the National Socialists the vast majority were untrue. That is almost certainly the case today as well.
When false accusations of sexual impropriety are rewarded (and they are lavishly rewarded these days) then there is not the slightest doubt that the numbers of such false accusations will be very high indeed.
The other method favoured by the Left today is one that it embraces with fanatical fervour – the rewriting of history. The fact that both Pius XI and Pius XII vigorously opposed both Soviet communism and German National Socialism is conveniently removed from history, as are the courageous efforts by the Vatican to save Jews from the Holocaust. The Church continued in these efforts after the Nazis occupied Italy and the Vatican found itself isolated in the midst of the enemies of civilisation. The Left certainly doesn’t want us to know about the huge number of priests and even bishops who were martyred in the struggle against these evil regimes.
The not inconsiderable part played by Pope John Paul II in bringing down the Soviet empire is another inconvenient truth that the Left would like us to forget. They don’t even like the idea of discussing the fall of the european communist regimes unless they can spin it as a example of American wickedness.
The even more inconvenient truth that the trades unionists in Poland who toppled that particular communist dictatorship were mostly devout Catholics must also be suppressed.
I am not personally a Catholic but to ignore these truths is both dangerous and intellectually dishonest.
I get very annoyed by the sorts of attitudes towards the past that are all too common these days. The arrogant assumption that the people of the past (whether it be the 1950s, the 1930, the Victorian age or whatever) were bigoted and stupid compared to our own gloriously enlightened era. I get particularly irritated by condescending statements like, “Those were simpler times.” No they weren’t. Life has never been simple, and if human beings had been more naïve and more stupid than the people of today they would never have survived.
These attitudes always include the assumption that the beliefs and values of people in the past were less valid and less enlightened than the beliefs and values of today. They weren’t. They were simply different.
Those people of earlier eras may have believed in ideas like the sanctity of marriage, ideas that are treated with derision today, but they had perfectly good reasons for believing in such things. And when you survey the wreckage of western civilisation in the 21st century it becomes very difficult to argue that our contemporary values are obviously superior.
These attitudes toward the past of course imply an almost complete ignorance of history. If you don’t know any history then you’ll accept this sort of temporal stereotyping without question.
And that’s exactly what it is. The people who espouse such contemptuous attitudes towards people who lived in earlier periods of history are the sorts of people who would become filled with righteous indignation at any hint of racial or sexual stereotyping and yet they are quite happy to stereotype the people of the 1950s or the 19th century. This kind of what might be called temporal stereotyping is naturally very congenial to the agenda of Cultural Marxism.
One gets used to liberal hypocrisy but it never ceases to irritate.
Michael Burleigh’s Earthly Powers is a fascinating history of religion and politics from the French Revolution to the First World War. It was published in 2005 and followed in 2006 by a second volume, Sacred Causes, taking the story up to modern times.
Burleigh is an academic who has taught at Oxford among other places. How a non-Marxist like Burleigh ever got a teaching job at modern British university remains a mystery. He is also open-minded and not hostile to Christianity, which adds to the mystery.
For anyone who thinks the culture wars are a modern phenomenon this book will come as a revelation. The culture wars started in earnest with the French Revolution. And raged throughout the nineteenth century. Most bitterly of all in France where anticlericalism became a kind of secular religion, but also in Italy and in Germany and indeed the whole of Europe. The main theme of the book is the rise of secular substitutes for religion, most notably the idea of the state as a focus for religious devotion.
Some religious leaders, most notably some of the nineteenth century popes, fought back, but mostly the nineteenth century saw the Christian religion not merely on the defensive but adopting the kind of defeatist attitudes that have become so characteristic of mainstream Christianity in our own day. Most fatally the century saw Christianity implicitly accepting the new superiority of the state and falling back on a species of vaguely Christian socialism or do-goodism or various other compromises with the rising tide of liberalism.
Bismarck’s war on Roman Catholicism, the kulturkampf, was a key struggle.
The end result was the exaltation of the state as an alternative religion, a development that would have catastrophic consequences in the twentieth century. The willingness of the disciples of Reason to resort to mass murder (a quarter of a million people were slaughtered in the suppression of counter-revolutionary revolts in the Vendée during the French Revolution) was a particularly chilling foretaste of the future.
In the nineteenth century though the culture wars mostly followed the pattern we are familiar with today – bitter struggles to control the education of the young and to undermine the family.
A superb and fascinating book presenting an almost unique view of the history of the nineteenth century as essentially a religious struggle.