Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 23, 2009
WAR/HISTORY: Remembering Paris
The peace we seek in the world is not the flimsy peace which is merely an interlude between wars, but a peace which can endure for generations to come.

It is important that we understand both the necessity and the limitations of America's role in maintaining that peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve the peace, there will be no peace.

Unless we in America work to preserve freedom, there will be no freedom.

But let us clearly understand the new nature of America's role, as a result of the new policies we have adopted over these past four years.

We shall respect our treaty commitments.

We shall support vigorously the principle that no country has the right to impose its will or rule on another by force.

We shall continue, in this era of negotiation, to work for the limitation of nuclear arms, and to reduce the danger of confrontation between the great powers.

We shall do our share in defending peace and freedom in the world. But we shall expect others to do their share.

The time has passed when America will make every other nation's conflict our own, or make every other nation's future our responsibility, or presume to tell the people of other nations how to manage their own affairs.

Just as we respect the right of each nation to determine its own future, we also recognize the responsibility of each nation to secure its own future.

Just as America's role is indispensable in preserving the world's peace, so is each nation's role indispensable in preserving its own peace.

Together with the rest of the world, let us resolve to move forward from the beginnings we have made. Let us continue to bring down the walls of hostility which have divided the world for too long, and to build in their place bridges of understanding--so that despite profound differences between systems of government, the people of the world can be friends.

Kissinger & Le Duc ThoThose were the words of Richard Nixon's Second Inaugural Address on January 20, 1973. Two days later, on January 22, the first business day of the new term, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. And the following day, on January 23 - 36 years ago today - a second event of that week we should memorialize: the Nixon Administration and North Vietnam signed the Paris Peace Accords, ending the war in Vietnam (the South signed the agreement on January 27, the date of the cease fire). The Paris peace holds a perilous lesson for the Obama Administration in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To make a very long story short, peace between the U.S. and North Vietnam was the inevitable result, by early 1973, of mutual exhaustion: the U.S. had already withdrawn the bulk of its troops to mollify a war-weary public and Congress (contributing significantly to Nixon's landslide re-election in November 1972), while the war had gone gradually worse for the North since the 1968 Tet offensive. Aggressive bombing campaigns in 1972, combined with U.S. rapprochment with the North's Chinese and Soviet sponsors and efforts to cut off the North's use of neighboring nations to resupply its forces had impressed on the North the need to reach an accomodation with the Americans. The Paris Peace Accords didn't guarantee South Vietnam's territorial integrity or even recognize it as an independent state, but if the agreement had been honored, it would have accomplished the principal goal of the war: end North Vietnam's efforts to militarily conquer the South.

Of course, the North, being a Stalinist tyranny, never intended to honor the agreement; Le Duc Tho even went so far as to refuse to accept the Nobel Peace Prize jointly awarded to him and to Henry Kissinger. Nixon and Kissinger can be accused of many things, but a lack of cynical realpolitik is not one of them; they of course recognized that their adversaries were not dealing in good faith. But they promised the South Vietnamese continuing support if the North resumed hostilities. The South's very existence was left to depend on the word, and the constancy and commitment, of the United States. Nixon's speech pledged to the world:

[T]he terms of the agreement must be scrupulously adhered to. We shall do everything the agreement requires of us and we shall expect the other parties to do everything it requires of them. We shall also expect other interested nations to help insure that the agreement is carried out and peace is maintained.

As night follows day, the North violated the agreement and eventually escalated to a full invasion designed to conquer and enslave the South. By this time, Nixon was crippled and ultimately driven from office by Watergate, and liberal Democrats were in full command of Congress. Liberals who had spent years arguing that peace could be negotiated with the North didn't react by angrily demanding that the United States hold the North to the treaty it negotiated with us, nor did they honor our own treaty commitments; instead, they cut off funding for the U.S. to support the South, condemning it to the darkness of a brutal tyranny and the entire Indochina region to another half a decade of war and genocide.

Part of the legacy of Paris is that other countries have learned the hard way the lesson taught by those Democrats: America may not keep its word when it promises support, and it may not impose any consequences when you break your word to America. That dynamic, in turn, was a major factor in how we got into Iraq: Saddam didn't believe we'd protect Kuwait in 1990, and after we abandoned Iraqis who rose against Saddam in 1991, nobody in Iraq thought there would be consequences if Saddam violated the cease-fire agreements that ended the first Gulf War. So Saddam violated them, repeatedly and in multiple ways, with minimal consequence for 12 years. And so, when the second President Bush finally decided that the violations of the cease fire (among other things) justified resuming hostilities, it took years of perseverance before Americans won the trust of ordinary Iraqis that we would, in fact, not do to them as we did to our South Vietnamese allies who relied on the false peace of Paris. This, from August 2008, sums up the trust that has finally been won even among our adversaries in Iraq:

Last month, in the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, once the nexus of the Sunni insurgency, the newest political player emerged. Leaders of al-Nassir Salah al-Din Army, a Sunni militant group, declared they would renounce violence and form a political party called the National Front of Iraq's Liberals to compete in elections. "We found out that armed action will not get the United States out of Iraq," said Majid Ali Enad, the group's leader. "After five years of directing painful blows to them, they did not budge from a single meter in the country."

That last, by the way, should go on George W. Bush's tombstone.

The lesson of Paris for Iraq and Afghanistan today is not that the United States needs to commit to perpetual war in Iraq, or even to a perpetual troop presence, although as Defense Secretary Gates notes, we will be escalating our presence in Afghanistan in the near term and will have a substantial number of boots on the ground in both places for "years to come," and would have regardless of the outcome of the 2008 election:

To be blunt, to fail -- or to be seen to fail -- in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to U.S. credibility, both among friends and allies and among potential adversaries...there will continue to be some kind of U.S. advisory and counterterrorism effort in Iraq for years to come...

The new Obama Administration will undoubtedly be tempted by the sentiments in Nixon's Second Inaugural: focus on America's limitations and the role of our allies in stepping up to take their own share of the burden. All of which is fine in and of itself, but it doesn't remove the essential lesson of Paris: our friends and our enemies alike need to know at all times that America's promises are honored, and that broken promises to America are punished. Every decision made about the extent of continuing U.S. commitment to these nations must reflect the danger of eroding the respect for American credibility in keeping its word that the Bush Administration has worked so hard, and American troops have sacrificed so much, to restore.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | War 2007-14 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

I think if there is one thing history teaches us is that treaties have never been worth the paper they are written on. This Nixonian one is one. Any we signed with any Indian Nation is another. Carter and Taiwan. Hitler/Stalin. All treaties really do is serve notice just what is in a nation's interest at that present time. And not 3 minutes later.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at January 23, 2009 11:42 AM

Darryl,

You are missing the point. To quote a lawyer "Contracts are only as good as your willingness to enforce them." If you have a contract with some one (like a treaty), unless you are willing to take action if the other person violates the agreement, then your agreements (and your word) is meaningless.

The Chosen One needs to learn this fast. The international area is not the same as the domestic political arena. You can wishy-washy yourself when it comes to domestic issues; go back on agreements and the only consequence is that you lose an election.

In the International area the consequecne is that people die or lose their freedom.

As I said in a previous post "Welcome to the Big Leagues, we play real ball up here!"

Posted by: Lee at January 23, 2009 12:45 PM

Lee, I didn't miss the point. I think few ever thought of Nixon by the 70's as an international neophyte. Or Kissinger either. I do agree with you that treaties are like contracts. If you have to enforce them then they are really valueless. OK, not to the lawyers for contracts, but a treaty is merely an illumination of national interests.

Look at Japan. Do you think if they really needed serious armed forces they would enforce the clause in their constitution (written by Macarthur) banning it? Andrew Jackson abrogated so many treaties with the Indians he should have started the original shredder business. You think Hamas would actually honor what they sign if it went even slightly against them?

Does Obama need to be conscious of history? Yes he does. However, unlike the former occupant, he at least has enjoyed reading them over the years.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at January 23, 2009 1:13 PM

"unless you are willing to take action if the other person violates the agreement"

That's a nice quote Lee. I assume you'll agree that we need to "look back" and try those who tortured and spied on US citizens without a warrant.

Posted by: Berto at January 23, 2009 1:36 PM

Darryl,

So what is your point? Also, nice to slip in another Bush bashing. You guys never miss a chance to slime someone do ya?

Berto,

Red flag for you. You went off topic (again). Plus you also slipped in some Bush bashing.

So guys, care to actually stay on topic and make a point?

Posted by: Lee at January 23, 2009 1:43 PM

"Every decision made about the extent of continuing U.S. commitment to these nations must reflect the danger of eroding the respect for American credibility in keeping its word that the Bush Administration has worked so hard, and American troops have sacrificed so much, to restore."

Republicans should worry less about credibility and more about picking battles that truly affect our national interests. If we pick battles where our national interests are clear and all-out war is actually worth fighting, then we won't have to worry about significant public opposition to the war at home.

A communist Vietnam did not affect US national interests. Communism was not the monolithic block that we originally envisioned it to be, and those countries had their own national interests, a fact that Kissinger knew and exploited with China.

There were two places where we needed to make a stand: one was Cuba, which was literally on our doorstep, and western Europe to prevent the expansion of the USSR in that direction. We should have been willing to let the other states go, or at least pursue a strategy in those other places that was short of going to war.

The fact that Vietnam suffered oppression for a generation does not make it much different than countless other countries who face similar systems all over the world. We can't let that be the basis of our foreign policy.

Posted by: MVH at January 23, 2009 8:25 PM

The Republicans did not initiate/escalate the war in Vietnam. While Eisenhower had some advisors there, Kennedy and then Johnson ramped it up to a full scale war. The riots at the 1968 DEMOCRATIC convention in Chicago were about Johnson's expansion of the war.

When Nixon took over in 1969, he was faced with a very messy situation. Yes he expanded the area of the war (Cambodia, etc), but the strategy was to get North Vietnam to be so worn down that they would stop their assualt on South Vietnam. This did work and the US ramped down after the Paris accord. However the communists were just using rebuilding and then over ran the South.

So while the MSM depiction is that Nixon was the "bad guy", he was trying to find an exit strategy for a war he inherited from the Democrats. You can question if his strategy was the best one, but you cannot pin the initiation/expansion of the war on him. The Democrats (both the two presidents and a willing Congress) were the epople who got us into the mess.

Posted by: Lee at January 24, 2009 9:18 AM

To add on to my previous post, lets look at some major (pre- 9/11) involvements by the US. These would be Iran, Grenada, Somalia, Gulf War I, Bosnia, and Haiti.

Iran (Carter) has a revolution and our people are taken hostage. Carter tries a weak effort to get our people back that does not work. Only the election of Regan gets them home. What should Carter have done differently? What he did was not effective. This empowered Iran to thumb their noses at the US at every opportunity.

Grenada (Regan) initiated action. US citizens held hostage by Cuban troops. Definitely our fight.

Somalia (Bush I) was in support of UN action. Debatable whether should have been there. After Black Hawk down and Clinton took over, we left. This empowered Osama Bin Laden to step his terrorist activities against us. OBL saw the US as weak. This led to 9/11. Should we have left or taken a stand?

Gulf War I (Bush I) was not purely to help Kuwait but in response to UN action and to stop Iraq from going into Saudi Arabia. Our oil interests were threatened. It can be debated. But it stopped Iraq.

Bosnia (Clinton) was another one to support UN action but was all humanitarian. Did it work or not? Not always sure. A lot of ethnic cleansing done by all sides with the UN (US) watching.

Haiti (Clinton) was for what reason? No sure.

Summary? IMHO, it doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or Democrat-your are the USA. If by your actions the US is seen to be weak, expect people in the international community to kick sand in your face. I totally agree that the US needs to careful when we involve ourselves. But if we engage, engage to win!

Posted by: Lee at January 24, 2009 9:48 AM

Two more to ponder-Korea and Bay of Pigs

Korea (Eisenhower) was a UN sanctioned "police action" to stop the Communist Chinese supported North from invading the South. Invasion stopped and South Korea survives today; but with US troops still there. Should we have been there?

Bay of Pigs (Kennedy) a poorly planned/executed overthrow of Castro by US trained Cubans. Kennedy lost his nerve at the last minute and withheld air support. The Cuban "invaders" were captured and later exchanged for medical supplies. US looks like a fool. Did Kennedy pay with his life via a Cuban planned assassination?

Again-strong and determined action yielded results, while weak action led to failure.

Regardless if the decision to engage is right or wrong, is there a theme that if a Republican commits troops he playes to win while if a Democrat commits troops he handcuffs them? You guys tell me.

Posted by: Lee at January 24, 2009 10:22 AM

Two more but with the Democrats the strong responses. There were the Berlin Air Lift and the Cuban missle crisis.

Berlin Airlift (Truman) was a response to the Soviets shutting off Berlin. US responed with an airlift humiliating to the Soviets, who had repeatedly claimed it could never possibly work. When it became clear that it was, the blockade was lifted. Score one for the good guys!

Cuban Missle Crisis (Kennedy) was caused by the USSR placing long range missles in Cuba. Kennedy took bold action and the Russkie's packed up and went home. If Bay of Pigs had worked, maybe this crisis would have not occured. Kennedy had learned his lesson.

Posted by: Lee at January 24, 2009 10:32 AM

More incidents to ponder. The 1983 Beriut Marine Barracks Bombing, The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the 2000 attack on the Cole.

Beriut Marine Barracks Bombing (Regan) killed over 200 Marines. Regan did not respond in any significant way.

1993 World Trade Center bombing (Clinton) by al-Qaeda terrorists. The key conspiritors were captured (little fish) but the big fish (Bin Laden) was never pursued by Clinton. This also gave Bin Laden motivation for 9/11.

The 2000 USS Cole (Clinton) was attacked by al-Qaeda with loss of US sailors lives. Again no response by Clinton. al-Qaeda gets away with it again. Plans for 9/11 were well in place by now-only 11 months away!

Posted by: Lee at January 24, 2009 11:32 AM

The last one-the best!

Winning of the Cold War (Regan) ended the USSR and escallation of arms with the US. Millions of people were given their freedom. Achieved by a brilliant strategy of raising the table stakes with the SDI (and other initiatives). Bankrupt the USSR thus causing the end of the cold war. People of the world should thank Regan every day for what his administration accomplished.

Posted by: Lee at January 24, 2009 12:00 PM

In summary: Dems good at starting wars, not so good at ending them. Even the Berlin Airlift comes under this, for the right way to handle it would have been to force our way into Berlin overland. As he had in Korea, Truman settled for a stalemate.

Posted by: Dai Alanye at January 24, 2009 8:28 PM

What makes Gates think that Barry DOESN'T "want to deal a disastrous blow to America's credibility"?

Everything Barry does in the the next four years will be designed to humiliate America, first for the ostensible reason that he wants America to be no greater than any other country and second for the recondite view that America and his "one world" agenda will be well-served by a deserved humiliation....

So look for a series of unilateral declarations of policies which lead to weakness: the end of Star Wars, today, is just the beginning....

And Gates? He will last just as long as the withdrawal from Iraq; after that the DOD and the Pentagon will really come under fire!

America is about to lose it's cojones and Barry will be only too happy to provide the knife!

Posted by: elixelx at January 25, 2009 5:10 PM

What makes Gates think that Barry DOESN'T "want to deal a disastrous blow to America's credibility"?

Everything Barry does in the the next four years will be designed to humiliate America, first for the ostensible reason that he wants America to be no greater than any other country and second for the recondite view that America and his "one world" agenda will be well-served by a deserved humiliation....

So look for a series of unilateral declarations of policies which lead to weakness: the end of Star Wars, today, is just the beginning....

And Gates? He will last just as long as the withdrawal from Iraq; after that the DOD and the Pentagon will really come under fire!

America is about to lose it's cojones and Barry will be only too happy to provide the knife!

Posted by: elixelx at January 25, 2009 5:10 PM
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