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During his presidential debate performances and in subsequent TV interviews, Ron Paul has repeatedly used the unpopular Vietnam war as an example of how much better it is to disengage militarily with other countries and to trade with them, rather than intervene in their internal affairs with military force.

In doing so, he has created the impression that all the bad things of the Vietnam-era only happened while US troops were over there, and that after the withdrawal everything was just fine and dandy.

That, combined with the notoriously short memory of Americans, can lead to a perception that is (a) entirely unfounded, that (b) unnecessarily alienates the considerable Vietnamese refugee population in the United States, and that (c) may end up stifling his - so far meteoric - rise in public recognition during the very early stages of his campaign.

His mistake is, however, not one of endorsing a wrong policy (i.e., non-interventionism), but rather one of failing to point out how horrible the unintended consequences of misguided interventionism really are.

During the Vietnam war, our unprincipled leaders tried to use Vietnam as a staging ground for what they claimed to be a policy designed to halt the “domino effect” of one country after another falling to communist take-overs. However, just like our current leadership’s policy in Iraq, the Vietnam-era policy was not only fundamentally flawed but actually shows
itself to be a ruse.

Our current supposed “strategy” of attacking Iraq in order to ostensibly “go on the offensive” against terrorism rather than fighting it at home is immediately exposed as propagandistic garbage by the fact that we are simultaneously leaving the Mexican border open to unimpeded terrorist infiltration.

Likewise, the Vietnam era policy of fighting communism abroad rather than wait until it got here was exposed as a ruse by the fact that the US leadership under JFK had to resort to getting Vietnam’s then-current leader, Ngo Dinh Diem, assassinated by Duong Van Minh, the very man whom the US subsequently installed as his successor.

President Diem did not want US troops to be stationed in Vietnam. He only wanted a few military advisors - but that did not coincide with the CFR/Henry Cabot Lodge directed plans our leadership had for his country.

ubsequently, we sent division after division into Vietnam to “fight communism” but prohibited them from seeking out and attacking their Vietcong enemy. Our troops were under orders not to attack but to only retaliate after first drawing enemy fire.

The result are the more than sixty thousand dead US soldiers whom we now annuallycommemorate on Memorial Day.

US even forbade the South Vietnamese Army to ambush and bomb the Ho Chih Minh trail on pains of withholding all further military and financial support if they did.

Had the South Vietnamese military been allowed to do this, they could have successfullydefended the 17st parallel as their border to North Vietnam, and 50,000 US troops and in excess of 500,000 Vietnamese “boat people” killed at sea in the post-war years would still be alive today. They would also very likely still be able to live in freedom, instead of under the brutal communist yoke that still muzzles all opposition today.

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For this reason, using Vietnam as an example of how much more beneficial withdrawal from Iraqwill be, rather than letting the country sort out its own internal problems and then trading with it, could be a flawed strategy on Congressman Paul’s part. It gives his interventionist opponents the chance to say “see, I told you he’s wrong. Look what happened to the poor South Vietnamese when we 'cut and ran', back then.”

Because our memories are so short, Americans will not remember what actually happened in Vietnam, and how the very misguided interventionism the neocons are trying to defend today was the root cause of all that gut-wrenching human drama and the horrendous loss of life experienced by all parties.

In other words, Ron Paul is dead-on correct when he points out that we never should have been in Iraq because Al Quaida simply wasn’t there when we attacked. He is dead-on correct when he shows that staying there now will only make things worse, not better, because we have no real enemy over there that can be defeated.

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Alex Wallenwein, J.D., is a former attorney in Houston, Texas, and a grass-roots activist for the rule of law and American liberty. He organizes the Houston 4 Ron Paul 2008 Meetup.
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