February 07, 2005
47th Sign of the Apocalypse

Optimistic news from Iraq in the Washington Post this morning:

With a hero who gave his life for the elections, a revived national anthem blaring from car stereos and a greater willingness to help police, the public mood appears to be moving more clearly against the insurgency in Iraq, political and security officials said.

In the week since national elections, police officers and Iraqi National Guardsmen said they have received more tips from the public, resulting in more arrests and greater effectiveness in their efforts to weaken the violent insurgency rocking the country.

One of the biggest mistakes we made in Vietnam was not allowing elections to take place in 1954 after the fall of Dien Bien Fu. Yes, it would have meant the entire country becoming communist and yes, Ho Chi Minh would have been elected president. However, hindsight being what it is, it seems extremely likely Vietnam would have become a freer, more open society (as it is today) perhaps thirty years earlier. The difference would have been 65,000 Americans and at least five times that many Vietnamese would still be around.

Of course, we didn't know then what we know now, so while it's easy to point out our forefather's mistakes, we should be careful not to blame them for being unable to predict the future. They paid a terrible price in blood, tears, and treasure for their pride and ignorance. Some of those bills are still being paid off to this day.

But, far more important, it seems there really were positive lessons that came out of Vietnam, not the least of which seems to be let the people decide, and sooner rather than later. Trust them. Give them a chance. They may take that chance and waste it, but they may also grab it with both hands and use it to run down the sun. You'll only learn if you let them.

As with any human endeavor that really matters, there's no guarantee either way. But, should they succeed (and I think they will, eventually), not only will it pay profound tribute to the lives lost in the current conflict, I think it will also honor a different set, once thought wasted for naught in distant jungles so long ago.

Or, perhaps not...

"You've done a man's job, sir. I guess you're through, huh?"
"It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?"

Posted by scott at February 07, 2005 12:58 PM

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