Monday, March 29, 2010

March 27, 2010

         On this day in 1973, the last U.S. troops left what was then South Vietnam. That probably decided the war, but didn't end it.  Saigon, the Southern capital, fell to the Communist North in 1975.   We had half a million troops in South Vietnam at one point, but we lost the war.       It's a twisted history.  Vietnam had been a French colony before World War II. Japan conquered it during that war, but Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh took it back as the war was ending and proclaimed independence.  France said no, we want our colony back and the Allies, for reasons I have never understood, went along.  Ho conquered the French in 1954;  the country was split in two, North and South.  Ho, Vietnam's George Washington, wanted the whole country and fought for it.  He died in 1969 and did not see his victory.        It was a costly war.  58,000 Americans died in it and many more Vietnamese. But in the end America and Vietnam became friendly, exchanged ambassadors and all that.  The last time I was in Hanoi, some years ago now, it was full of middle aged American men saying things like, "I was at La Drang," "I was at Cu Chi," and so on--veterans come back to revisit their war.      I hope we're that lucky this time.  When Iraq's Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the first President Bush threw him out of it and then stopped, saying his coalition would crumble if he went further.  His son did go further and it did - crumble, that is.  Most Americans would like to leave Iraq;  we hoped the recent elections would help us in that, but the losers are all demanding recounts and the way out is far from clear.      Afghanistan?  I'd like to see us out of there, too, but the Karzai government is widely reported to be crooked and lazy and the odds seem good that if we leave the Taliban will march back in.      Sometimes winning on the battlefield doesn't solve your problems
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