Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Vietnam: Another Iraq?

Claudia Rosett thinks it is possible:

There's been a lot of talk since Sept. 11 about how President Bush's war-lovin' ways have galvanized terrorists, recruiting jihadis to the ranks. What's increasingly evident, however, is that the character suffering the real blowback is Osama bin Laden, who, as it turns out, jolted the U.S. into a global recruiting drive for democrats. Faced with an unprecedented attack on American shores, Mr. Bush smashed the mold for Middle-East policy, and with the invasion of Iraq lit a beacon for freedom-lovers in a part of the world that until quite recently was widely seen as having none. [When she says "recently" she means "up to and including January 29" -- Jack]

As it turns out, there are many. Already, Mr. Bush has been answered by the breathtaking election turnout in Iraq, the uprising in Lebanon, the tremors in Syria and Iran, the stirrings in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But the effects hardly stop with the Middle East. In many places, people trapped under tyrannies are now watching. Ballots cast in Baghdad echo way east of Suez.

So it happens that a message reached me last weekend from within one of the world's most repressive states: Vietnam. Word came that the Sharansky of Saigon, democratic dissident Nguyen Dan Que, had been released from his latest stretch in Vietnam's prisons.


Dr. Que does not have access to the daily diet of news that feeds the free world. But given the feats of modern technology to spread information, he knows enough about what is now happening in the Middle East so that he wished to share his views on how America's intervention in Iraq is like the war in Vietnam, and how it isn't. The similarity, he says, "is the same fighting spirit for freedom." The difference, he adds, is that in the fight for freedom, the side America is on "will triumph this time."

"The world is changing," says Dr. Que. "There are more opportunities than ever."

He is right, and if the world is changing, it is because the U.S. is hardly alone in prizing freedom. In every country are people who care about liberty--and in most places there are a few willing to pay dearly and take extraordinary risks to lead the way. Dr. Que is one, and as we watch the Middle East, it bears remembering, as he says, that these are "universal values," that in many places there are people who given any chance at all will answer freedom's call.

The parts I snipped out give some cautionary details that are good to remember, so read the whole article. We shouldn't get too cocky about this whole "wave of the future" business. But, I think the general point is valid. What stopped us from winning the war in Vietnam the first time was the threat of a nuclear Soviet Union and a fifth column of "war protestors" who were essentially on the USSR's payroll. (Figuratively in most cases but literally in many others: check out The Sword and the Shield.) The former threat has been eliminated and the latter is becoming increasingly irrelevant. This could all change, of course, so vigilance is still necessary, but for the present the wisest course seems to be to pursue our advantage as far as we can.

Via Instapundit, who remarks "VIETNAM: THE NEXT IRAQ? Heh. I want bumper stickers that say that."

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