Saturday, August 07, 2004

Could Kerry's Proposed Iraq Withdraw Work?

Candidate Kerry promised to bring the troops home from Iraq--in other words to abandon Iraq as we abandoned Vietnam 30 years ago. Which raises an obvious question--was America's mid-1970s pull-out a success?

Hardly. The January 27, 1973, treaty between the US, the VC and North and South Vietnam imposed a perpetual cease-fire (Art. 2), called for the withdrawal of all United States troops (Art. 5), froze NVA, ARVN and VC troop positions (Art. 3(a-b)) and "banned" "hostile acts, terrorism and reprisals" (Art. 3(c)). Articles 9, 10, 13, 14 and particularly Article 15 allowed the North to seek the eventual reunification of the country--but by consent, not force:
The reunification of Viet-Nam shall be carried out step by step through peaceful means on the basis of discussions and agreements between North and South Viet-Nam, without coercion or annexation by either party, and without foreign interference.
The promise to be peaceful didn't last. Less than two years later (December 1974), North Vietnam attacked; by February 1975, 20 NVA divisions invaded across the DMZ. President Ford proposed sending American troops to enforce the treaty. But, despite the treaty breach by the North, and our treaty commitment to the South, Congress made clear that
Sending American armed forces to South Vietnam was . . . out of the question. Congress cut the administration's requests for monetary aid to the Saigon government. . . .As Saigon was overrun, the last Americans evacuated in helicopters. South Vietnam surrendered in late April 1975 and Ford was unable to prevent the final, ignominious failure of Washington's Vietnam policy.
Having reunified unilaterally and by force, the Vietnamese government both perpetuated violence and left ordinary Vietnamese worse off than during the war: murdering nearly a million suspected "intellectuals" to purge the land for Marxism; bankrupting the nation; starving hundreds of thousands; and invading Cambodia in late 1978. After unification, Vietnam's GDP per person stalled until economic reform in the mid 1980s. The economy has improved since, yet even today--even measured at purchasing power parity--Vietnam's GDP per person ranks as only number 160 (out of 231), behind near-by Malaysia (84), Thailand (97) and even Cuba (155).

Only idiots and ideologues dream of a do-over. So it's no surprise Kerry's plan gets two thumbs down from the real experts: the Vietnamese people. According to NCM--an association of over 700 ethnic media organizations that promote inclusive journalism--Vietnamese immigrants to America (most of which fled following the 1975 Communist takeover) oppose Kerry's "cut-and-run" foreign policy:
90 percent of Vietnamese Americans said they would vote for Bush, and only 10 percent said they would vote for Kerry.
Which is about the same support Neville Chamberlain might have received from the Czechs and Poles--had they been allowed to vote.

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