As promised, I will answer the question posed by Rutherford in the last thread.
Yes, I think that leaving Vietnam when we did was a betrayal.
I think it was a betrayal to the Vietnamese people we made promises to…the same ones who showed up at the Embassy and begged to be taken when we left. I think it was a betrayal of an entire nation of people who will never know anything other than service to the state, and a life subsisting on what the state will allow them to keep. And most of all, I think it was a betrayal of every American, draftee or volunteer, who died there. I think that leaving before anything that resembled a victory was achieved there pissed all over their sacrifice and placed a price on their lives that in truth was no greater than the political philosophy we were there to defeat. Lives given in the service of freedom are wasted when we do not even hold that which we fight at bay, let alone defeat it.
And this message was only reinforced when those who survived returned to be spit on and vilified by those brave enough to follow their conscience and dodge the draft, rather than following the law and showing up when they were summoned, or maybe even enlisting. It was one thing to oppose the policies that put us in Vietnam, and sent thousands of 19 year olds there, but to vilify and scorn those who actually went? That was inexcusable. If you believed that the war was wrong, if you believed that the young men (and women) who went were victimized and taken advantage of by our own government, how did treating them that way on their return make sense? The disconnect of being against the war for “compassionate” reasons, yet being so uncompassionate against our soldiers, many of whom were not voluntary, does not portray a consistent or coherent message.
Was the war winnable? What would victory look like? I don’t know. I was 4 years old when those desperate people climbed to the roof of our Embassy in Saigon in the fervent hope that they would be lucky enough to be airlifted out, and even as I watched those images as teenager who had an almost geeky interest in history, those images actually brought tears to my eyes. Betrayal is the only word that can adequately describe how that conflict ended.
I do know that the military itself maintains that the Tet Offensive was a failure for the Vietnamese communists. Yet if you watch old television coverage, you would believe it was the beginning of the end. Being a theatre in the Cold War, and knowing the involvement of other communist states in the North’s war effort, it might have been the best that could have been hoped for was a divided country, like Korea. But unlike the so-called “Peace with honor” (and whoever coined that phrase should have been beaten to within an inch of his life), even that would have allowed people in the South to live their lives out of the shadow of the thumb of a repressive and brutal regime, and it would have meant that the lives of all the Americans there would not have been in vain. This is why I consider this conflict to be second only to the Civil War in terms of being such a sorrowful, wrenching moment in our nation’s history.
The questions were also raised in the last thread about DADT, and Volunteer forces vs. Draftees.
Time and some unresearched questions I have won’t really allow me to comment on these things at this moment, although I will not that the Solicitor General has asked the Supreme Court not to rule on the stay on the District Court order repealing DADT, essentially asking for time to allow for an orderly rather than abrupt change in policy by lifting the stay right now. If you accept the premise that this is a civil rights issue, than this might make some sense, as President Truman also set up a means for transition when he signed Executive Order 9931 which is credited with desegregation of the Armed Forces.