Just received an interesting reply to my reply to Darren (July 23 entry). Here it is:
Bunny, Thanks for the reply....
I respect that your report was based on the enormous body of first hand documentation on the Vietnam War. It is disturbing how much information is available to the public but ignored in favor of convenient myths....
However, analysis of US foreign policy provides numerous case studies which support the idea that a campaign of brutal violence and destruction will promote cooperation out of necessity (beginning with Germany / Japan during WWII....and yes, I understand there is a huge difference between WWII and the Vietnam War).
Whether we supported a government friendly to US interests (El Salvador), a government installed by the US (Vietnam, Iran) or we simply destroy everything (Japan), the goal of submission seems secondary to creating an environment of pathetic desperation (West Bank and Gaza haven't submitted, but they are pathetically desperate).
I asked Noam Chomsky about this, and he agrees that, "In general US policy towards the third world — the former colonies - was to ensure that their markets and resources would be open to exploitation by Western, primarily US, concentrated capital. There's plenty of evidence on this, and it goes right to the present..." (Chomsky).
Domination and occupation are two different things- a country can be dominated without occupation, although an occupation cannot succeed without domination. The US failed to occupy Vietnam (literally or through a puppet govt), but we were able to dominate the country and eventually gain access to labor and markets.
Two main elements of colonialism are exploitation and pacification. The goal of colonialism is to exploit- generally, to the highest degree possible. Pacification is the method of control- to prevent the colony from using resources, labor, and markets for its own interests (occupation through domination).
Massive destruction- (natural, man made, economic or literal) can pacify a civilian population (domination without occupation). It may or may not achieve access to resources, labor or markets.... but if a country is in ruins, its rejection of predatory capitalism is usually destined to multiply suffering (North Korea...).
A united, communist Vietnam destroyed by the Vietnam War would not serve as a model for a popular communist movement in other third-world countries- no country wants to adopt a form of government that will instigate the US. At the very least, the Vietnam War persuaded other nations that communism (or socialism, which the US tried to equate with communism) wasn't a wise decision. In the best case scenario (for US policy makers) neo-colonialism takes hold very strongly- like in Latin America, SE Asia, or more recently, Iraq.
If you wanted to do an analysis of the Vietnam War's success/failure, it could be broken down this way:
objective- prevent the spread of communism SUCCESS
objective- To occupy Vietnam or install a government FAILURE
objective- To dominate Vietnam SUCCESS
Bunny: "When I said "the strategy failed" I was referring to the U.S. leadership's inability to get the Vietnamese - both in the South and in the North - to capitulate to foreign domination."
Once again, a country can be dominated without being occupied. We were unable to occupy Vietnam, but able to dominate them. In reality, it isn't even necessary to fight, let alone occupy- it is possible to get others to fight for you (El Salvador fought itself, we provided weapons and training) and it isn't even necessary to fight at all (sanctions, natural disasters, famine).
As Kim pointed out- "the main point is the US wanted to control Vietnam." To a certain degree, we did / do. Of course, to a certain degree, we didn't / don't, but this is assumed, since historically we lost. I think this is relevant to the Iraq War, since the objective of the War has changed from securing WMDs, to removing a brutal dictator, to bringing democracy to the region. The lack of a clear objective implies the intention of domination in Iraq as well.
Sorry for the lengthy reply....
And here is my reply to the above:
Thank you for your reply. No need to apologize for its length - 95% of the e-mail we receive is brief and stupid, so I view your e-mail as a good thing.
I agree with your basic points. I actually don't have any qualms with your assertion that the U.S. has found various ways to successfully infiltrate and control certain aspects of Vietnam's economy. But I think you are attempting to clarify something I wasn't talking about. Again, my original point was only that in '75, the U.S. leadership did not order an evacuation of Saigon with a knowing smirk - saying "Ah, this is all going according to plan...!" I was not trying to access what we now know would come later. The U.S. evacuation from Vietnam is evidence of a failed military and political policy. I think it's extremely important to acknowledge that regardless of the current economic and political relationships that exist between the U.S. and Vietnam today, the Nationalists' ejection of U.S. forces from Vietnamese soil in 1975 was a powerful statement which holds many important historical lessons. It's too easy to say, "The strategy worked perfectly." This was a Third World nation throwing a military superpower off their land! Obviously the meaning or symbolism of this event cannot be the same for Americans (or other First Worlders) and for people of the colonies. Now, when you say that the domination did not end with the physical expulsion of U.S. forces, of course I agree with you. But I think this is a different (though historically linked) lesson that must also be studied.
At any rate, I'll post your reply in the blog. It makes many good points and it's good to have some back and forth. Hopefully a few people will feel intrigued enough to do some research of their own. That's the main thing.
By the way, I got a pissy e-mail today asking why I'm blogging so much instead of Pinky. The short answer is Pinky's real busy with episode research and writing and that takes priority over blogging. So in the meantime I do more blogging. I always try to put a little picture of myself at the beginning of any entry I write so if you see my face and don't like my blogs, skip it.