What makes a justified/morally correct war? Now discussing the 2003 US invasion of Iraq

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by saturn5, Feb 12, 2010.

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  1. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    Visited Vietnam last year and currently rewatching Tour of Duty (and for the record the central highlands of Vietnam do strongly resemble the hills of southern California, it's not all jungle).

    So Vietnam, justified war? South Vietnam was ruled by an autocratic series of regimes that paid mere lip service to democracy, was corrupt and occasionally brutal to it's own citizens.

    HOWEVER. North Vietnam was indisputably MORE corrupt, didn't even pretend to pay lip service to democracy and was incredibly brutal and repressive towards it's own citizens (and continues to be so to this day). What's more the North was invading the south, not the other way around.
    After the fall of Saigon both Laos and Cambodia are also conquered by the communists whilst Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philipines fight communist insurgencies for decades afterwards just as the domino theory predicted (thankfully China and Vietnam fall out in the 70s, even fighting a short border war whilst the Soviet Union shifts it's focus to Angola, Nicuragua etc). Millions are killed by the communist regimes, not only in Pol Pot's killing fields but whole nations of Montgnard tribesmen who helped the US are exterminated. Millions more are thrown into concentration camps or fled overseas as boat people.
    And if the Allies had won? Today the south would probably be like South Korea and the North, well, leave it to your imagination.
    So morally justified? I say yes, winnable? Perhaps?
  2. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

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    The biggest problem with the war in Vietnam wasn't it's tactical execution or basic strategic goals-it was that the South Vietnamese government was beyond inept and blatantly corrupt, and we never attempted to change/fix that so long as they were loyal to us.
  3. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    I think that's a question of the Czechoslovakia syndrome. If you had allowed a truly democratic regime in Saigon they're have been a unified Vietnam under communist domination. Of course once they had communism they'd have probably changed their minds as the Czech's did (and many previously pro-communist South Vietnamese did after reunification) but by that time it was too late, their freedom was gone and no country that turned communist during the Cold War ever turned back to democracy (every US President took office with a slightly more red globe). The Tet offensive was supposed to start a nationwide popular revolution against the Saigon goverment but it didn't, the South Vietnamese didn't care for them but didn't care about Hanoi either and once they'd lost the element of suprise the VC were decimated by the allied forces.
  4. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    Wow, Boba, when this topic arrives at Afghanistan you can paste the exact same thing.

    Anyway, I think the fear of the domino theory turned out not to be realistic. But that's hindsight. I can very well imagine how it would have been back then, and I can understand the decision to go to war for fear of a dark communist age. I think the war was justified, from a defensive standpoint.

    But I don't think the war was morally justified, because communism in itself has not yet been shown to be morally reprehensible. Sure, Stalinism has. But that's not the same thing.
  5. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    Also, I recall that Vietnam had issues with not wanting China involved because they viewed it as if China got in, China would never get back out.
  6. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

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    I think Vietnam started out as somewhat morally justified, given that at the beginning we had only a bunch of advisers on the ground and that the North really wasn't honoring its end of the "peaceful eventual unification" deal. Escalation of the war probably was not justified however, and the using an evil dictatorship to fight evil communist mobs didn't make us look any better to the Vietnamese. The Vietnam War was just a really, really bad spot for America to be in....especially if as saturn5 said we needed to act against the will of the people in order to preserve freedom. In hindsight we know that South Vietnam was unfixable, but is there any way we could have known beforehand? Perhaps not.

    And since Afghanistan was brought up, there's a major difference in that the Taliban today are the unpopular ones whom Afghans are trying to get away from, while Karzai's government is probably still disliked but something that people are willing to live with for the time being.
  7. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    Actually I thought Afghanistan wouldn't be controversial at all, I expect the blood to fly when we get to the liberation of Iraq.
    I think communism has time and again shown to be inherently evil and not just under Stalin (often used as a scapegoat for Communist apoplogists). How can anyone defend a political system that needs barbed wire and troops with machine guns to keep it's own population imprisoned? That imprisons and tortures anyone who speaks against it and even jams western TV and radio because it gives an different view to it's own propaganda?
    As for supporting the regime in south Vietnam they were without question preferrable to the north, no one can deny at very least they had press freedom and allowed their population to come and go as they pleased. Had the allies won it's almost inevitable that the South Vietnamese regime would eventually become democratic just as US backed dictatorships did in South Korea, Chile etc
  8. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

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    Communism, much as I disagree with it, is not inherently evil in the sense you are arguing. It's an economic structure, not simply political. I would say that its implication has always been used in a totalitarian fashion, but that's not about communism itself, but the people that have pushed it.
  9. Game3525 Force Ghost

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    This.

    The US backing Ngo Dinh Diem was the biggest mistake they made when it came to Vietnam IMO.
  10. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    Maybe I should qualify that, the Soviet and Maoist interpretations of Communism were tolitarian dictatorships. But this inevitably appears to be the case, unlike capitalism which rewards the individual communism can only coerce them. Even Lenin said "The part must rule through terror".

    As for Diem he was probably the only game in town. Compared to people such as Samoza, Marcos, Noriega and Saddam Hussein whom we also backed he was bloody saint
  11. Mr44 VIP

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    I'd say the first issue comes about when one attempts to combine the concept of mortality with the concept of what war is.

    War is simply the continuation of policy. Where you want to apply the concept of morality is at the policy level. This is an area where I'm a firm McNamara/Weinbergerite, as I'd say that the policy borne from the Domino Theory can be morally justified, of which war is just a single part of.

    Ironically, the man who came up with the cold war idea of the "Domino theory" was Dwight D. Eisenhower. He firmly believed that the "dominos" themselves were worth defending, even as he in the same breath, warned against the military-industrial complex. Even before that, Winston Churchill warned the West about the "iron curtain." His Westminster College speech laid the groundwork for the Domino Theory to come.
  12. Game3525 Force Ghost

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    Heh, like LBJ said "Diem was the only boy we had out there." Still doesn't change the fact it was a bad idea.:p
  13. Mr44 VIP

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    In order to bring about that change though, the US would have had to look at Vietnam at the time as a single unit, remove both governments from power, and rebuild the country from the foundation up. Not to say that situation doesn't sound familiar, and perhaps it would have represented the purist of moral goals at the time....
  14. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    If we frame the Domino Theory as 'neighbor states emulating each other's success', I can dig it, I can see how it was a threat to democracy - but then I'm still not sure it would be a bad thing. If it's about success...

    But if the Domino Theory just stands for the idea that communism is like a pest, I can't see that. Too simplistic.
  15. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    According to Ike;

    "Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the "falling domino" principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences."

    Essentially communism takes over one country and that allows it to take over another etc etc. When South Vietnam fell it then allowed communiss to take over Laos and Cambodia whilst the US aided the goverments of Thailand etc to combat their own communist insurgencies. You can also see it in Africa (Angola, Mozambique etc. That's why the US put so much effort into backing the Contra's against the Sandanistas in Nicuragua, to stop them supporting communist rebels in Honduras and El Slavador and export the revolution throughout central America
  16. Mr44 VIP

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    If we frame the Domino Theory as 'neighbor states emulating each other's success', I can dig it, I can see how it was a threat to democracy - but then I'm still not sure it would be a bad thing. If it's about success... But if the Domino Theory just stands for the idea that communism is like a pest, I can't see that. Too simplistic.

    But neither represents how the theory was framed.

    Churchill was more direct, in that he was referring to countries who didn't have a say in being thrust behind the iron curtain. Some of Ike's quote was repeated above. Both leaders equated the Domino Theory with stability. (or lack thereof.) And I don't just mean political stability, but in the moral sense as well.

    Churchill's speech would have been totally different had former Nazi Germany/Eastern European states been given the choice and some picked one way, while others picked another. Ike's concerns would have also been completely different had communist-based guerrillas not poured into various nations outside of their respective systems.

    Sure, the idea of "communism" is used here as an easy descriptor, when each movement should probably be specifically described. But keep in mind this was the reality of the Cold War. The Eastern Bloc was supporting loosely based ideological groups. (just as the West was)

    As the old saying goes: "communism is fine in theory, but no one can practice it..." But we're also solidly a decade or more since the "Eastern Bloc" collapsed. None of us have been told to make tires in a factory like in Hungary because that's what the party needs. None of us have been killed because we wear glasses like in Cambodia.. None of us have had nuclear missiles plopped down in our backyard. The purer concepts can be examined detached from the concerns that Churchill, Eisenhower, Thatcher, Weinberger, Kohl, etc.. were faced with and reacting to.



  17. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    True, hindsight is always readily available when it comes to things like war. And of course we'll never know what would have happened if the U.S. hadn't done anything. Shame, really: would be very useful if we had some tool of measuring the fruits of war against the fruits of the lack of one.

    But saturn, it's that idea of 'communism takes over one country and then the next' that I'm highlighting here. Communism is not an actor, by itself. I guess what you call 'communism' is in fact 'power-hungry people from Asia in the middle of the 20th century'.

    And I think it would be prudent to stay away from the question if 'communism' in itself is good or bad, because none of the powers at play in the 1960s/70s were communist so it's really kind of beside the point. And didn't we already have that discussion? Twice?
  18. anakin_girl Jedi Grand Master

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    Exactly.

    My stance on Vietnam is the same as my stance on any other preemptive war, up to and including Iraq and Afghanistan: I don't believe we should go to war unless we are attacked or directly threatened. It is simply not our job to force other countries at the point of a gun to have the type of government that we believe is morally correct. Ho Chi Minh may have run the most corrupt government in history (I'm not saying he did, just making a point) but even if that were the case, it's not our job to topple him.

    And look at how many American lives were lost for...what? What did we accomplish there? Nothing.
  19. Game3525 Force Ghost

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    In retrospect perharps, but you have to keep in mind the time period and political environment in the 1950's and 60's. We had seen the "Domino Effect" in Eastern Europe to a certain degree. Vietnam IMO, is a bit more complicated then Iraq and Afghanistan.
  20. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    It's different to say the war was wrong because the good guys lost. Had the Allies won no one would say that it wasn't just. As for Afghanistan the US WAS attacked first by terrorists sheltered by the regime there who refused to relinquish their protection for them. As for Iraq, well, we'll get there when I post that thread.
    Arguably the US intervention in Vietnam did accomplish something, it bought time for Thailand, Indonesia, the Phillipines etc to prepare and successfully ward of their communist insurgencies. Difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan is that AQ don't have the masive military force behiind it. Every US president from 1945 onwards took office with a globe that was slightly more red. The nightmare was that one day they'd wake up to find the Communists dominating the world annd find no allies left
  21. LtNOWIS Force Ghost

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    We weren't trying to topple the North Vietnamese government, we were trying to prevent Communism from spreading to South Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. In that sense, it was a war in defense of an ally, albeit a corrupt and dysfunctional one. Of course, for Lyndon Johnson, the war was in large degree an effort to not look weak in the eyes of the world and his political opponents, so he could push through his domestic policies.
  22. Jediflyer Force Ghost

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    For the U.S. it may have been a war against communism, but for the Vietnamese it was primarily a war against colonialism.
  23. Game3525 Force Ghost

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    Well, after the Cuba debacle under the Kennedy Admin. Can't say I blame him.:p
  24. Ree Force Ghost

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    Well said Boba :D
  25. saturn5 Jedi Master

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    But a truly democratic regime in Saigon be like Czechoslovakia, vote communist and then never have another vote. And you're forgetting Laos and Cambodia in all this. I found for many Vietnamese it was not a war of capitalism vs communism or anti-colonialism but a war of unification which had a great idealistic appeal.

    And the goverment of South Korea was also inept, autocratic and corrupt and they prevailed. The Viet Cong were never marching into Saigon, had the Allies been able to defeat the NVA in the field South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia would be democracies today
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