Pro Deo Et Patria- An Army Chaplain

I am a chaplain in the US Army, serving in Iraq. I'm keeping a blog to share my thoughts and experiences while deployed. They are my thoughts and they don't necessarily reflect the opinions of the US Army! :)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Another Denton Quote

Tactically, the wars in Iraq and Vietnam are very different. Comparisons between the wars are inappropriate in that respect. However, comparing the political, cultural and leadership climates is probably an important task. Here is another quote from Sen. Denton, in his book When Hell Was in Session. As you read it, think about substituting our current conflict in Iraq, for the Vietnam War, and see if the comparison, and the possible outcomes in Iraq, are appropriate. His words are in blue, with my comments in black:

"Sadly, I believe that the apathy and disunity at home led to the betrayal of millions of Southeast Asians. The war that was won by the heavy bombing of 1972 was lost in the following months by a mood of disunity and by a weakness in the national character. [My comment: might we also betray the Iraqis, as we did the Southeast Asians who continue to suffer? We won the war against Iraq (i.e., Saddam's government), but has our disunity and weak national character led us to possibly lose the peace?]

In a democracy, the leadership can’t just do what it wants to do. Essentially, it is governed by the mood and morality of the people and what the people will permit. I believe that we should have some consideration for the leader who tries to run the country amidst tremendous complexity and ever-ready criticism. For many years now this country has operated without a bi-partisan foreign policy, and one result has been a flood of one-sided criticism of the leadership. [My comment: does this sound familiar? How would one describe the "mood" and "morality" of the American people today?]

In our failure to pass the test of Vietnam, we ignored the nature of the worldwide communist threat and also lost our credibility. Others will be swayed by the forfeiture of South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Angola. And they will note that since 1960, our national defense budget has fallen from 51.6 percent of the total budget to 27.8 percent in 1976. In contrast, Communist expenditure for arms has risen steadily. Those nations still undecided may choose to accept Communism as the easiest and safest course. [My comment: are we ignoring the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and will this possibly cause more moderate Islamic states to fall under the sway of radical Islam if we leave Iraq, and seem defeated? We ought to ask the Christians in Vietnam if our failure to stand by South Vietnam has cost them? Or, we could ask if the victims of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia were betrayed by our loss of credibility in Vietnam? Thankfully we had a President who stood up to Communism in the 1980s; will we have the same courage in our fight today?]

Arms, of course, are just part of the answer; we must be morally and spiritually strong as well, and believe in our mission. And we must remember that peace is not simply the absence of war. Those in slavery have no peace, as Solzhenitsyn tells us." [My comment: very true, yet I wonder if we understand this lesson. Gen. Petraeus, our top Commander in Iraq, has wisely commented on the need to have more than just a military solution, yet, as he has pointed out, arms remain part of the answer]

Anyway, I do recommend reading Denton's book. It has given me a new appreciation and respect for him, and men like John McCain [note: that is not an endorsement for or against McCain]. I think the lessons of Vietnam are applicable today, and I hope we are open to applying those lessons learned to our situation in Southwest Asia today.


Blogger Lomé, Polly said...

Even though the two wars are completely different, it's interesting to note the similarities. Especially in the general tactics (if that's the right word) and plans of action as far as the mind goes.
Don't know if that makes sense... but it was really interesting to note that.
God bless.

11:39 PM  

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