Iraq and the Fall of Communism


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“The war in Iraq is comparable in many ways to the war in Vietnam, the one we thought we had learned our lesson from. Both were or are unwinnable fights against men and women who were not our enemy until we willed it so, and which caused endless suffering both to America and to the country that we invaded. There’s a wider comparison, however….”

Author: Steve Lane, PeaceAction Montgomery, in Montgomery County, Maryland
Published in: Independent-Observer in Conrad, Montana
Date: November 1, 2007

Read the full article:
Iraq and the Fall of Communism
(905 words)
by Steve Lane
The war in Iraq is comparable in many ways to the war in Vietnam, the one we thought we had learned our lesson from. Both were or are unwinnable fights against men and women who were not our enemy until we willed it so, and which caused endless suffering both to America and to the country that we invaded. There’s a wider comparison, however.

The Vietnam war was part of the Cold War, where Communism was the enemy. The Iraq war is part of the war on terrorism, where this month radical Islam is the enemy. In both cases the US was or is fighting real soldiers in the service of an ideology. It’s too early to see how the Iraq war will play out, but there is a lot to learn about Iraq from the Vietnam War. We won the war against Communism, no question about that. Our success ought to make us look at how we won, to see if we can do it again, this time against radical Islam.
There were about 25 Communist nations at the end of the Cold War. All but four of them imploded – their rulers decided for one reason or another to give it up, to abandon Communism. Most of my friends are unable to name the four current Communist nations when asked, so I’ll do so now. They are Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba and China. What do they have in common, other than paying lip service to Max and Lenin?

The US invaded Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba to end Communism there. It’s not clear how China fits into the picture, as we have not yet invaded that country. In any case, the score is clear – Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba are still Communist, decades after we tried to change them by force. Russia, Beylorussa, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovokia, Slovonia, Ukraine, East Germany, Bulgaria, Kirgizkaya, Kazakhkaya, Orensburskaya, Mordavskaya, Karelskaya, Archangleskaya, Turkmenskaya, Albania, Gruzinskaya, Uzbekskaya, Carjackistan, Romania and probably a few I have missed are no longer Communist, nor did we attempt to overthrow them by force.

What did happen in those countries that gave up on Communism? They decided that our way of life was more attractive than Communism.They didn’t bow to our superior military force, because we never used force against them. Instead, they and their leaders bowed to our superior way of life. They realized that they would be better off being like us than being Communist, so they very sensibly came over to our side.

The current four Communist states didn’t join them, because some other effect or force was in play. I suggest that force was nationalism, in at least three out of the four. That is, the experience of fighting a foreign invader unified the citizens of Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea so tightly that years later, in 1989, and still today, they resisted anything that invader offered. By “invader” I mean, of course, the United States, and by “anything that invader offered” I mean our way of life, our democracy. Countries without the unifying experience of being invaded by the US were rotten at the core in 1989 and collapsed of their own weight. The unifying experience of being invaded by the US strengthened Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea and they stuck with Communism.

To put it yet another way, the example of the United States of America was strong enough to demolish Communism, except in those states where we attempted to demolish it by force. Our ideals and example were enough to win the Cold War, except in those three cases where we abandoned them in favor of violence. Some of us conclude from this example that the United States is so inherently – what, good? strong? exemplary? pick a word – that it need not overcome its enemies by force, because its example is enough to inspire them to follow our lead. Those who don’t really believe in the United States and its ideals find it necessary to attack its enemies with guns and bombs. In my view, the first group are patriots, and the second are not.

Today we are faced by an enemy as were during the Cold War. In two cases, those of Afghanistan and Iraq, we have chosen to use force against our enemy. The result has been very far from what we desired, just as in Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea. Then and now, countries we attack turn against us, rather than embrace us. Muslim countries that we have not yet attacked are in many cases, such as that of Iran, arrayed against us, just as the Communist countries were in the Cold War.

Now what? Do we follow the example of those who invaded Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea, causing thousands and thousands of American deaths and an unknown number of deaths in the countries that we hoped to save from themselves, or do we trust in our ideals and heritage and let our terrorist enemies dash themselves to pieces against us? It is clear which course a believer in America would choose, and which a doubter and disbeliever would chose. The patriot, the believer in America, would say “Our vision and ideals speak for themselves. We will defend ourselves by living up to them.” The unpatriotic doubter, the man who deep down does not really trust in the American ideal, would invade Afghanistan and Iraq and maybe even Iran.

Steve Lane is active with PeaceAction Montgomery, in Montgomery County, Maryland