To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child , a garden patch, or a redeemed condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Viet Nam redux

A Facebook post by a respected ex-Army man sharing a memoir of a US veteran who had served in Viet Nam started a chain of thought...

There are of course legends still floating around of US veterans recounting their tales of valour (and, in many cases, of hardships) which had led to perhaps a whole generation of US servicemen suffering from psychological difficulties, in some cases leading to cases like the one depicted in Stallone's 'Rambo'/'First Blood' movies, of people almsot 'looking for' troubled places to put their hands in.

Which takes one back to the country itself putting ones hands in places it may've been better advised not to.  Many of those talking of the US servicemen in Viet Nam fighting for 'freedom' seem to be disconnected with reality.  The fact is: the US was fighting a war not remotely affecting its core interests, much less its own freedom.  It was virtually fighting to support one faction of Viet Nam polity against another, unfairly putting US servicemen at risk of life and limb in a war not of their own.  Which of course later on resulted in a public backlash when the body bags started coming home, eventually resulting in the US withdrawing from the theatre.  More importantly, what did it achieve, beyond the abiding hatred of a large section of Viet Nam people, with memories of napalm bombs and worse!  Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) eventually became a part of unified Viet Nam under communist rule (and, in the first place, there may've been nothing patently wrong with communist rule - at least not of the same measure as with the Pol Pot regime in neighbouring Cambodia - except on spurious ideological grounds).  So it was all in vain, it'd seem, even from the blinkered standpoint of US politicians of that time.

And coming to Pol Pot, if ideology was supposedly the trigger for US's Viet Nam war, why didn't it spur the country to intervene in Cambodia, where millions of people were being massacred - amply demonstrated by the famous 'skull tower' and former prisons where photos of those shot were kept meticulously!  Also, North Korea was perhaps nearer to US shores than Viet Nam, but it was 'allowed' to go the communist way (still acting as a thorn in its side).

Which brings one to the fulcrum of the whole argument: interventions of US (and indeed most of the Western countries) post World War II have been mostly clumsy, reeking of bullying and selfish interests, and have led to unintended results in most cases, affecting the interests and stability surrounding countries (and interests of US in certain cases).  In Africa, a host of dictatorial regimes were allowed to continue for very long, suppressing indigenous peoples and their aspirations, with liberal supply of arms and much more by US and Western countries like France (which holds itself up as the epitome of liberty and equality but revels in bombing host countries like Chad, besides indulging in rampant economic imperialism in Western Africa, esp. in so called 'Francophone countries'!).

But the ill effects of US intervention have been most palpable in Asia.  Take the propping up of Gulf dictatorships (and concomitant obscurantism) just to ensure a steady supply of crude oil.  Take the over the top invasion of an already weakened Iraq on the basis of spurious, manufactured 'evidence' of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) presented to UN, which led to perhaps the only secular regime in the region being toppled.  Which it probably deserved to, in the light of its misadventures, but with no substitute political alternative in place, the country has seemingly just fragmented into multiple power centres and led to the rise of the IS monster to fill the gap.  And less said about Afghanistan the better, what with the US establishment tending to look at the hyphenated 'Af-Pak' relationship as a whole rather than analyzing each on its own merits.

Which, inevitably for India, throws up the Pakistan question.  What is it, one wonders, which mesmerizes US polity and blinds it to the dangers of a renegade regime armed to the teeth, including with nuclear weapons.  All hopes of keeping the Pakis humoured with financial aid (historically started as a measure to fight Russians in Afghanistan) and away from trouble have well nigh evaporated, with Pak meddling repeatedly in Afghanistan, directly and indirectly, and continuing its shadow war with India, in Kashmir and elsewhere (like Bombay 26/11).  But US still persists in 'engaging with' (read: appeasing) Pak instead of sending it a strong message to cease and desist from its nefarious activities.

Just like in case of 9/11, where at least one of the bombers came from Pak, the more recent San Bernadino shooting also involved a woman indoctrinated in a Madarsa (religious school) in Pakistan. It seems the chicken are coming home to roost, and innocent American residents are beginning to pay a heavy price for the misadventures concocted by self-serving politicians.