During the Vietnam War, it was common to hear some Americans make statements of rage and frustration like the following:
“Just nuke ‘em!”
“Turn that #%%!@ country into a parking lot!”
“A couple H bombs would end that war in a heckuva hurry.”
That vicious war, like a nightmare that just wouldn’t end, resulted in the deaths of 55,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, many of them women and children. Sadly, we all know how it ended: futility and waste.
It’s no wonder such a divisive war caused such rage and frustration. The world’s biggest superpower could not defeat poor but determined fighters, despite constant bombing, dropping napalm, the use of Agent Orange and other acts of destruction using high-tech means. It was like the fable of the elephant being driven mad and helpless, defeated by a million biting ants.
That same rage and frustration has been resurfacing again and again from presidential candidates, most recently by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who declared his candidacy last week.
In his announcement speech, Graham vowed to put American troops back into Iraq and to Syria to eradicate ISIS, with help from regional forces.
“I’m trying to tell the American people, the Republican primary voter: The only way I know to defend this country is to send some of us back to Iraq and eventually to Syria to dig these guys out of the ground, destroy the caliphate, kill as many of them as you can, hold territory and help people over there help themselves.”
Graham’s rage and frustration are understandable. Who wouldn’t want to see ISIS destroyed utterly once and for all? “Nuke ‘em!” is a way of waving a wand, wishing ISIS would just vanish.
The trouble is, it’s easier said than done. All of these politicians, including Graham, have been second-guessing or poo-poohing anything and everything President Obama has done in regard to the ISIS threat. They are armchair warriors entertaining daydreams of tidy victories, and they sound so much like the actual generals, wannabe generals and politicians during the Vietnam War.
“We have to destroy a village to save it.”
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Just a few more thousand troops ought to turn the tide of war in our favor.”
“We’ll teach the South Vietnamese how to defend themselves, and we’ll call it Vietnamization.”
“We’ll bomb the jungle trails, we’ll strip off the enemy’s jungle cover, we’ll invade Cambodia, we’ll bomb Hanoi back into the Stone Age.”
“Just nuke ‘em! Nuke ‘em all!”
The wars are different, but the rage and frustration are the same. Like the Viet Cong (South Vietnamese communist fighters), ISIS is an elusive enemy that blends in with civilian populations, then strikes, then hides in a constant deadly game of now you see me, now you don’t. That inability to pin down enemies and destroy them is what gave rise to the rage and frustration in that country and among the war hawks on the home front.
Don’t think for a minute ISIS has not adapted guerilla-war tactics they learned from ragtag warriors who fought Americans in Vietnam and Soviets in Afghanistan, and – not to forget – Osama bin Laden was one of those guerilla warriors. What makes ISIS doubly dangerous is they learned those tactics, then added to their deadly stew use of social media, sophisticated funding sources, bloodcurdling acts of torture and murder, suicide bombings and recruitment of malcontents throughout the world to try to achieve their medieval-minded scheme of a new caliphate. Such an enemy will be difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate totally, no matter what kind of vows and promises are made by Lindsey Graham and other political candidates.
The only way ISIS will be weakened and ultimately defeated is when the countries in that region finally wake up to the fact ISIS is an imminent threat to their own survival. So far, those countries have been infuriatingly non-committal on that score, either through fear or because of sympathy – even collusion – in the dream for the caliphate.
Until those countries feel rage and frustration and then do something about it, ISIS will unfortunately continue its murderous rampage. The days of the United States policing the world and trying to solve problems with boots-on-the-ground are over, and these know-it-all presidential candidates better understand that or they’re likely to lose votes in droves.
It would be dangerous for the United States to turn isolationist. Yes, the United States can and should help facilitate the demise of Isis and other regional and world terrorists, but expecting more Americans to die in wars that foreigners should be fighting for themselves should not be tolerated. That should be the lesson we should have learned way back when in a quagmire called Vietnam.