Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Afghanistan and Vietnam

An argument occurs over the question: Is Afghanistan another Vietnam? Well, to me, the answer is a resounding "No!" But there is another question not so often, if ever, addressed: Are our politicians acting as our politicians did during the Vietnam War? And here the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"

Obama has acted on Afghanistan as the establishment acted during the Vietnam War. Back then when both Republicans and Democrats, that is, the leaders of these supposedly competing parties, saw that the peace movement was gaining power, that even some congressmen were moving toward embracing the peace movement, closed ranks immediately. Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic candidate for president in 1968, went to the White House to endorse Nixon's policies in Nam. Speaker of the House, Democrat John McCormack, had the House pass a resolution supporting Nixon's policies. In this way, the establishment, both Republican and Democrat leaders, took Vietnam out of politics, at the cost it should be said of many American lives. In fact, it was only after the peace movement had been marginalized that Democrats were allowed to come out against the war. Why did they act like this? To preserve their power and the power of the established political order, a political order that served the interests of both Republican and Democrat leaders. The peace movement constituted a threat to that order and, thus, had to be marginalized.

How to explain Obama's decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan? Simple. It is the same motivation that was prevalent in 1968 and thereafter, when it was necessary to take the Vietnam War off the front burner and put it on the back burner. Want to know why the Democrats did nothing after the 2006 Congressional elections in Iraq? The answer is the same: The movement for peace in Iraq, if successful, would have undermined the established order. Hence, they did nothing and the established order prevailed. Of course, Obama's decision will not be a deadly, as bloody as Nixon's because the establishment has learned, from Nixon's experience, to maintain a moderate level of bloodshed, of American deaths, or the people will in fact rebel. But then if that happens, there is always impeachment as there was with Richard Nixon. He had become disposable and Watergate was used to dispose of him. Note that a few years later, after the revelations of Iran-Contra, no one proposed impeaching Reagan. Wonder why? Well, because to do so would have threatened the existing order.

We Americans like to think that our politics is different from other politics but it isn't. It is the same and our politicians are the same as politicians elsewhere, viz., most concerned with preserving their own power and prestige. Looked at through these lenses, our politics begins to make sense.

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