Thursday, August 03, 2006

Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine And The Inscrutable Logic Of History And Economics

... "What do you do [about strong resistance to occupation in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Future State of Palestine]? The answer from Bush and from Olmert is: Carry on. Do not waver. And do not question the logic of prolonging the agony.

History suggests that is not always the right answer. The United States has failed to achieve victory in two of its recent wars -- with very different results.

In Korea, we settled for a stalemate, a line dividing North and South Korea, after Gen. Douglas MacArthur's rush northward brought the Chinese into the fight and led to a terrifying retreat by American forces. No one would claim that has been an ideal solution. North Korea remains a communist dictatorship, and its nuclear ambitions and missile development are a continuing problem for the United States and North Korea's Asian neighbors.

On the other hand, North Korea has not moved against South Korea for more than 50 years; the peace has held.

The other war was in Vietnam. (I know there are still people who believe it was lost in Washington, on Capitol Hill, when it could have been won in the jungles. But the fact is that we withdrew, and Saigon fell.) It is hard to remember now, but at the time, we were told that if Ho Chi Minh prevailed, communism would roll south through Malaysia and spread to the Philippines and threaten Australia -- to say nothing of American influence in the Pacific. We took those warnings seriously, and so it was a bitter moment when the Viet Cong occupied the old American Embassy in Saigon [in April of 1975].

And today the American embassy is again open -- in Hanoi -- and the United States is trading freely with a united Vietnam.

The point is that history and economics have their own logic. A military mission that fails to yield a victory does not always presage disaster. Today, virtually no one argues that we should have continued fighting the North Koreans or the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese.

Can we think about the costs of carrying on, without an end in sight, against Hezbollah and the insurgents in Iraq?"

David Broder, Op-Ed, "Doubling Two Bad Bets?" Washington Post August 3, 2006

The 105-floor Ryugyong Hotel, in Pyongyang, North Korea's show-case capital, is now finally nearing completion, and may even welcome tourists when the nation ends its isolation.

Photo credit: Immagini News. (Italy). With thanks.


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