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Vietnam And Iraq - Two Different Views

Map of Vietnam. The United States has become Vietnam's No. 1 economic partner, a government source said, mostly owing to U.S. investment in the Vietnamese food and textile industries, which mostly supply the U.S. market.
by Dmitry Kosyrev
UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Nov 21, 2006
On Nov. 18-19, U.S. President George W. Bush attended the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vietnam, the country where his predecessors were defeated in a war more than 30 years ago. The U.S. president made the trip soon after his party's failure to maintain control of the U.S. Congress because of the country's unsuccessful strategy in Iraq.

Judging by how Vietnam views the United States and by their bilateral contacts, it is possible to forecast what will happen "after Iraq," only with some caveats.

One important difference between Vietnam and Iraq is that U.S. losses in the latter have only just climbed above 3,000 soldiers. According to Vietnam, the United States lost 58,000-60,000 servicemen in its war. On the other hand, at least tens of thousands of Iraqi and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed in both wars, and some Iraqi reports speak about hundreds of thousands, to say nothing of the devastated infrastructure and economy.

As in the case of Iraq, which is still occupied by U.S. troops, few people expected Vietnam to feel friendly toward the United States in the 1970s. However, this weekend, President Bush visited Hanoi, and in 2000 his predecessor, Bill Clinton, visited the country.

Though Clinton visited Vietnam 25 years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saigon, any reminder of the war and contacts with the United States still provoke such strong reactions that my interlocutors in Hanoi asked to remain anonymous.

According to a Vietnamese government official, the last hurdle was cleared in 1995, before Clinton's visit, when diplomatic relations were reestablished with the United States. He said that by then Hanoi had resolved to "let bygones be bygones, and to look forward to developing relations with all countries."

A Vietnamese political analyst failed to produce any specific sociological data on how the Vietnamese felt toward the United States. in the 1970s, the 1990s, and today, as no surveys have been conducted. However, people in Vietnam are unlikely to forget anything. The war touched every family, and it has not been forgotten yet.

The political analyst himself, who is a war veteran, was among those who were exposed to Agent Orange, a U.S. defoliant that proved to have genetic effects on both Vietnamese and American soldiers. The Vietnamese veteran was very worried before his daughter was born, and last year he was anxious before his granddaughter was born. He was lucky, and neither girl had any birth defects. Other families have been less fortunate, even now in the third post-war generation.

In 2000, many Hanoi residents wanted to see Clinton in person not because he was the president of the world's strongest country, but the richest one. Vietnam has always understood the potential of U.S. force and persistence. However, they were more concerned with economic recovery in their own country.

The United States has become Vietnam's No. 1 economic partner, a government source said, mostly owing to U.S. investment in the Vietnamese food and textile industries, which mostly supply the U.S. market.

Over 30 years ago, during the war, China and Russia were Vietnam's major allies. China has become Vietnam's second largest trade partner after the European Union, and bilateral trade is expected to reach $10 billion this year. However, China has invested less in the country than the United States or the EU.

Russia retains key, though not monopoly, positions in the Vietnamese oil sector and is involved in joint research in hi-tech spheres, such as biotechnologies. Yet its trade is only one tenth of that between Vietnam and China. Economic reality is a major factor for a country that has survived post-war depreciation.

Yet developments in the Pacific are peculiar. Bush visited Vietnam as U.S. president and as one of the 20 leaders of the Asia-Pacific economies. Among other functions, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is designed to coordinate natural economic competition with regional cooperation, which is transforming the Asia-Pacific region into a single economic space. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Hu Jintao, as well as the other leaders, visited Hanoi with this objective in mind. All of them have contributed to the region's economic growth, no matter whose side they were on in the war.

It is hard to predict if similar events will take place in Baghdad in 25 years or even in a decade. Nor is it known if U.S. veterans of this war will seek permanent residence in Iraq. Former U.S. soldiers are moving to Vietnam to have families there, or help American-Vietnamese businesses, or in some cases to provide charitable assistance to Vietnamese victims of the bombings and Agent Orange.

earlier related report
Outside View: Vietnam redux in Iraq?
by Lawrence Sellin
UPI Outside View Commentator Washington (UPI) Nov 21, 2006 Seldom in life does one get to see such a vivid example of history repeating itself as we now see unfolding in the Middle East. It is almost as if we are reading from a script.

The intentional increase in violence by the insurgents prior to the U.S. midterm elections was the Iraqi equivalent of the Tet offensive, which began on Jan. 29, 1968.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger just had his Walter Cronkite moment now declaring the war in Iraq unwinnable, and to quote from Cronkite's Feb. 27, 1968 commentary: "The only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."

The Washington Post recently revealed the recommendations of a military review of the situation in Iraq. Three Pentagon options were identified: send in more troops, shrink the force but stay longer, or pull out, dubbed, respectively, "Go Big," "Go Long" and "Go Home."

The most likely scenario would be a combination of a short-term "Go Big", a temporary increase of 20-30 thousand troops, to reduce, as much as possible, the sectarian violence and "Go Long" with a lower U.S. combat presence and overall troop level, while accelerating a training and advisory role. It is difficult to see how this approach is very much different from that we have been using during the last three years.

The 1970 Department of the Army Historical Summary states:

"Progress in the Vietnamization program became more and more apparent. Vietnamese forces carried out an increasing number of operations, both day and night, some in areas beyond their previous zones of operation. Their dependence on U.S. support was considerably lessened... This shift in responsibility and the speed and size of U.S. troop withdrawals testified to the success and promise of the Vietnamization program."

From the 1971 Department of the Army Historical Summary: "The redeployment of U.S. Army forces from Vietnam continued at a high rate during fiscal year 1971... in line with the objectives of full South Vietnamese assumption of battlefield responsibility and American transition to advice and assistance... "(U.S.) Army support of a combined Vietnamese Army and Regional and Popular Force numbering over 950,000...Vietnamese Army's artillery arm increased by about 100 two-gun 105-mm. howitzer platoons...855,000 small arms and crew-served weapons; 1,880 artillery pieces and tanks; 44,000 radios; and 778 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft...Two civil affairs companies and four platoons operated in Vietnam during the year, chiefly at province and district levels, contributing to the over-all pacification effort by conducting water surveys, providing medical and dental care, assisting refugees, constructing schools and sanitary facilities, and providing agricultural advice."

Nevertheless, all this eventually led to President Nixon's "Peace with Honor" broadcast on Jan. 23, 1973, which had such notable statements as:

"At 12:30 Paris time today [Tuesday], Jan. 23, 1973, the Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam was initialed by Dr. Henry Kissinger on behalf of the United States...A cease-fire, internationally supervised, will begin at 7 p.m., this Saturday, Jan. 27, Washington time ... The people of South Vietnam have been guaranteed the right to determine their own future, without outside interference...The United States will continue to recognize the Government of the Republic of Vietnam as the sole legitimate government of South Vietnam ... We shall continue to aid South Vietnam within the terms of the agreement..."

The factors, which contributed to the U.S. defeat in Vietnam are much the same as we now face in Iraq, not fully understanding the war we are fighting and a lack of political will. Negotiating from a position of weakness will not improve our situation.

Iran and Syria want the United States to lose and leave Iraq, hopefully so politically debilitated that we will lose all credibility and effectiveness in countering their vision for a new Middle East. One needs to look no farther than Lebanon to understand that vision.

Like the Vietnam-era Montagnards, friendly to the United States and surrounded by potential enemies, the Kurds may be the big losers in Iraq. The one potential success story could come to tragic end, an Iraqi version of Darfur.

The big winners of a U.S. failure in Iraq will be global radicalism, both the Islamic and the more general anti-American variety. The United States will find itself assaulted on all fronts, political, military, economic and at its borders. Terrorism against U.S. targets will increase. Smelling blood, America's enemies will mount a comprehensive campaign to disable the United States permanently.

Fueled by a hostile media, the global perception of a pending U.S. defeat in Iraq might soon become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have the skill and still some time to regain the initiative, if only we have the will to do so.

(Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is an Afghanistan veteran.)

(Dmitry Kosyrev is a political commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)

(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interest of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century

Iraq Civilian Slaughter Grows
Washington (UPI) Nov 22, 2006
The good news is that the rate of U.S. fatalities in Iraq has significantly fallen since the end of Ramadan. The bad news is that the civilian slaughter keeps soaring to new heights. More than 1,300 Iraq civilians are believed to have been killed in sectarian strife in the first 20 days of November, making this month already by far the most deadly month of the entire insurgency for such figures.

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