F.R. Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines
Week of:
July 23, 2000
'Nam Vets Held the Line Against Reds

F.R. Duplantier

by: F.R. Duplantier

Sixty thousand American soldiers gave their lives in Vietnam, and they did not die in vain.

In a recent issue of the national conservative weekly Human Events, naval veteran James Roberts reflects on the "shame and tragedy" of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and describes how "catastrophe predictably followed collapse in Indochina. In South Vietnam," Roberts recollects, "executions, torture, imprisonment, re-education and labor camps, seizure of property, and abolition of human rights all occurred on a massive scale. Millions tried to flee, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of boat people in the South China Sea. In Cambodia," he continues, "the result was genocide."

Roberts recalls how the Vietnam War divided our own country "as had no conflict except the Civil War." He feared at the time that "not only Vietnam was collapsing, but the West as well. And, indeed, the next five years were a time of decline. Liberal Democrats were in firm control of the White House and Congress. The U.S. military was gutted and countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America fell under communist control. But, in 1980, things began to turn around," Roberts remembers, "with the election of Ronald Reagan, a man who was adamant in his view that Vietnam was 'a noble cause.' Within ten years," he marvels, "the Soviet empire was gone and communism had been tossed on the ash heap of history, as Reagan had predicted."

Putting the war "into perspective," Roberts concludes that "Vietnam -- like Korea, Afghanistan, the Berlin Airlift, Angola, Grenada, and Nicaragua -- was a battle in the Cold War and that it was imperative that the U.S. take up the challenge. For over 10 years American forces did that," he asserts. "They held the line and bought time for the weak nations of Asia to grow strong enough to defend themselves." Roberts emphasizes that "our troops never lost a battle on the ground. The battle for Vietnam," he insists, "was lost in Washington DC."

Roberts laments that "the Vietnam vets had no united country behind them. Undermined by their own government, mistrusted by the media, reviled by millions of their fellow citizens and ignored by millions more, portrayed by Hollywood and the media as a collection of misfits . . . they nonetheless did their duty and answered their country's call. And," says Roberts, "they held the line."

The average American, needless to say, has no appreciation of their great achievement. How could he, when our schools and our media relentlessly obscure and deny it? But what if American soldiers hadn't held the line? What then? Where would we be today? Historians like to play this "what if?" game, because it helps them understand the significance of events they might otherwise be tempted to take for granted. Imagine if the much-maligned policy of containment had not succeeded. Suppose that Vietnam had fallen sooner, and Korea too, and all of Southeast Asia, the whole of Africa, and Latin America on up to the Rio Grande. Such a dénouement seemed all too possible once, even likely. Is there anyone so fatuous as to believe that it would have made no difference?

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