By: Wayne Brown
Today in this year of 2012, we hear a lot about “Colonialism” and “Communism” from our various informational sources in this world of high-tech media. Ironically, much of it relates back to one person, the current President of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. This is not the first time these subjects have been broached around one focus but considering the basis for the first, the times have certainly changed.
One might recall that one of President Obama’s first actions in office was to return a bust of Sir Winston Churchill back to the United Kingdom. The UK had sent the bust as a gift. Apparently, Obama considered the bust simply a physical representation of the “colonialism” of the British Empire in the history of the world. For those of you who might not know, Obama was trained from an early age by his father and by his boyhood mentor to despise the concept of colonialism in the world. The United Kingdom was certainly viewed as an entity that employed such powers. The same could be said of the USA, especially in the region of the Hawaiian Islands which had been annexed by the United States prior to the islands achieving statehood. Some believed this was an outright act of colonialism on the part of the USA. Thus Obama’s repugnance of colonialism included his own birthplace….America.
We also see the other facet of the coin with Obama when we turn to communism. Obama’s father was a confessed communist. Obama’s mother along with her parents was rabid sympathizers of the movement. Obama’s boyhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, a writer and poet, was a card-carrying member of the American Communist Party. Obama’s close advisors, Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod, also had family-ties through their parents with Davis. Obama agreed to run for President in the home of Bill Ayers and his wife. Ayers, a founder of the 60’s era organization, “The SDS or Students Against Democratic Society” engaged in multiple attempts to carry out domestic terrorism in the USA all driven by his hatred for his own country driven heavily by the politics of the 1960’s. Obama has admitted his admiration for the writing of Saul Alinsky in terms of his philosophy for guiding local unrest and manipulating it for change. The evidence is more than ample that communism ebbs and flows on the shores of Obama’s life.
If we turn the clock back to the 1950’s era and follow it into the 1960’s, we see a direct confrontation between the concepts of “colonialism” and “communism” in the that sector of the world in which the USA became so deeply bogged-down in war for more than a decade….Southeast Asia…specifically Vietnam. Both concepts were on the table as key issues depending on which faction one approached concerning the war which raged in that region for two decades with the eventual dominance of one concept, “communism” over that of “colonialism”.
France had planted its roots of colonial intervention into the region of Southeast Asia in the mid-1800 and had established its control over the region of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos by the turn of the century referring to the combined region as French-Indochina. This colonization held for the French until the Germans overran France in World War II giving Germany a foothold to jointly control the region through the control of the French. France, in turn, appealed to the Japanese to help them hold their ground bringing Japan into the fight for control of the region.
With the defeat of both Germany and Japan in WWII, control of the region lay undetermined mainly because the French were incapable of exercising their established control due to their interned status to the Germans over the course of WWII. In their slowness to regain control, rebel groups gained a significant foothold in the region. The Viet Minh helped greatly by the defeated Japanese, established a popular footing with most of the population. Under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, the “Democratic Republic of Vietnam” was established.
The French cried “foul” and in the settlements surround WWII, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia agreed that the region belonged to the French which re-established France’s claim to the region though France was powerless to exercise control. The British agreed to enter Vietnam and exercise the control until France could take over. By this time, Ho Chi Minh had also established some support with both Russia and the Nationalist Chinese which helped to shore up the rebel position in the argument. Japan had also thrown in some support by supplying weapons to the rebels and some troop strength in the northern regions where Ho Chi Minh has established his base of operations around Hanoi.
The alliances which Ho established gave him some strength in terms of fighting the French and some bargaining chips with which to buy time. The Nationalist Chinese sent troops into the northern sectors to help Ho route out the Japanese soldiers occupying the region. The British landed troops in the south and helped the French reestablish their control. By 1945, with the assistance of Russia and China, Ho Chi Minh was able to gain an agreement with the French which recognized all of Vietnam north of the 16th parallel as the “Democratic Republic of Vietnam”. With this agreement, the French were allowed back into the north and the Chinese Nationalist soldiers left. The communist influence remained rooted in the northern region through Ho’s ties with Russia and China. Though talks continued with the French, the ultimate goal was to extricate the French from the region and exercise full communist control through Ho Chi Minh. It was all a matter of timing.
With the French gaining the agreement with Minh’s forces, the British departed the region leaving the French to their own destiny. The Viet Minh quickly moved from negotiations with the French to a guerilla war mode further harassing an already weak French control over the region. This type of warfare would spread into both Cambodia and Laos evolving the outgrowth of local rebels like the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Serei forces. The momentum to drive out the French had moved from one of compromise and talking to that of warfare, physical violence, and escalation. France’s hold over the region was slowly slipping through it reach from its long reach.
In the post-World War II era, Russia had emerged as a relative power in the equation though the Germans had waged a heavy toll on the nation in their attempt to invade the land. Russia had held its ground and established itself as a benefactor of the spoils holding on to a portion of Germany in the process. The philosophies were Stalin, Lenin, and Marx remained alive and looking for an opportunity to grow through the world. The Axis Allies, including the USA and Great Britain, could only tolerate the Soviets while fearing their enslavement of people under communism. With the confrontation between the powers over control of Germany, the advent of the “Cold War” or “War of Philosophies” was launched upon the world. Eventually, the wall built that separated East and West Berlin would become the visual representation of the great divide and the strategies which each party would follow in the enduring cold war of the future.
Communism was attempting to break down the walls and reach coastal geography. Control of coastal regions of the world would allow the Soviets or the Chinese to expand their naval powers and exercise greater control over shipping lanes and product movements globally. In that light, communism was on the move in the regions of Southeast Asia (indo China) with the apparent uprising against the French. Those efforts were capturing the attention of the U.S. and British leaders who greatly feared the spread and dominance of communism over the world. By 1950, that effort had spread into Korea causing the USA to enter into yet another war in the name of containing the spread. The Korean War, which ended in a standoff which split the Korean nation, would occupy U.S. attention long enough to deter its entry into the regions of Indo-China.
The United States was entering the “jet-age” in the early 1950’s. The Air Force had been established as a separate military branch in 1947. America saw the value of the aircraft as a device of war and a tool for both winning and deterrence. America had also entered the atomic age only to see the Soviets also achieve such capability raising the stakes of the “Cold War” beyond the level of philosophies to one of potential extermination raising the issues of “first-strike” capability and casting the U.S. Military into a role of advanced, continuous alert for any infringement from the Soviets or Chinese.
Out of this posture on the part of the United States arose a strategy of response to potential nuclear strike. General Curtis LeMay, lead the way in the USAF establish the Strategic Air Command as part of a three prong response known as the “Triad”. Nuclear equipped bombers would sit on alert every day, 24-hours per day in a vigilance to respond and defend the nation at the first sign of a nuclear launch on the country. The U.S. Navy also launched efforts to employ a fleet of nuclear submarines capable of delivering nuclear weapons from any point in the world. The final arm was filled out by the land-based ABM (anti-ballistic missiles) housed in missile silos across the northern tier of the nation. These missiles were designed to shoot-down any approach missiles launched by the Soviets or China. The USA would shroud itself in a message of “deterrence” to those who considered a nuclear attack upon it.
America lived in fear of the communists and communism. The goal was containment thus it could not be allowed to grow outward from its resident sources. Two theories of containment evolved which shaped the strategy of USA leaders and the military. The first was the “Domino Theory” which simply assumed that if one nation fell to the umbrella of communist control, then adjacent nations to it were doomed to a similar fate. This was an empirical theory which had evolved out of the smaller European nations controlled by the Soviets after World War II. The other theory was called “The Rimland Theory” which assumed that the communist could not be allowed to gain and control any warm water ocean fronts in the world. For the time being, the Soviets were virtually landlocked with their naval ports relegated to the frozen Artic waters to the north. Depriving the Soviet Navy of control over international waters hinged on the successful implementation of this theory.
The United States turned its eyes toward Indo-China with both of these strategic theories in place and active. Movement of communist influence into the region spelled an opportunity of expansion of communism in terms of control of these small nations and also offered the Soviets warm water port options. The effort to contained communism by the free nations of the world could not allow such a gain on the part of either the Soviets or China in the Indo-China region. When the French were surround at Diem Bien Phu and expelled from Vietnam by the Viet Minh in 1954, it became apparent that communism was about to exercise it reach violating both American theories of containment…a situation which could not be allowed in the world.
The USA entered Vietnam in an advisory role. The forces of Ho Chi Minh had achieved control over that region lying north of the 16th parallel. In the area to the south, the population was resisting communist control and had formed its own band of rebel forces to fend off the north. American and Allied leaders saw the opportunity to provide military training and advice along with arms to the resistance in the south hoping to achieve a level of containment and salvage a portion of Vietnam while saving Cambodia and Laos in the process. President Dwight Eisenhower signed orders allowing U.S. military advisors to enter South Vietnam in a non-combatant assistance and advisory role. This would be the first step of the USA out on to the slippery slope that was Vietnam.
At this point, we need to stop and remind ourselves that it was at this time that the concepts of communism and colonialism met head on…in the jungles of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh and his followers saw the French and anyone who displaced them as “colonialist” in a war that was being waged simply as a “civil war” between two factions of the same country…Vietnam. Outsiders were not invited, at least not in support of such a war. While this perspective worked well for Ho Chi Minh in terms of explaining his resistance to the USA entering in aid to those in the south, Ho had no problem accepting support from the Russians or Chinese in his effort to acquire control of the region…a region damned to a future of communism under his control and completely acceptable to the Soviets and the Chinese. On the other hand, the USA viewed the situation not in a “colonial” or “civil war” sense but one of communist aggression indirectly waged by the Soviets and Chinese through their puppet, Ho Chi Minh. It was on this line that the differences of right and wrong would form.
The advisor program continued under Eisenhower and into the Kennedy Administration after the 1960 election growing in size along the way. Kennedy was undecided as to how he wanted to proceed in Southeast Asia but that strategy would quickly be laid aside as the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion took center stage to be followed shortly by an all-confrontation with the Soviet Union over the placement of Soviet missiles on the Island of Cuba. Kennedy set up a naval blockade to stop the movement of more missiles and equipment into the region and demanded the removal of the existing missiles. For days the world stood on the potential brink of a nuclear war between the USA and the Soviet Union as each waited for the other to blink in the stand-off. Never had the potential of nuclear holocaust been so near a reality as the world watched hoping an agreement could be reached.
Nikita Khrushchev, the Supreme Leader of the Soviet Union which included Russia and its communist satellite countries had already set the stage for the Soviets public attitude toward the USA he banged his shoe on the desk while United Nations was in session and stated that “we will bury you”. He also laid claim to the fact that communism would consume the USA without ever firing a shot. This public display of hostility set the stage for the future events of the cold war and made it perfectly clear to American leaders what the intent of Soviet missiles in Cuba implicated. The arena for compromise was small from either perspective.
Out of this potential disaster a back channel unofficial communications link developed between the Soviet leader and John Kennedy. Both saw where the situation was headed and neither wanted to go there yet both were in their own wrap strapped with the “game face” of their own country and, in effect, limited by the responsibility of their respective office. Kennedy would not see a second term in office if he came off as weak to the American people when confronted by their most feared threat. Khrushchev, in turn, would be removed if he tempered his resolved and became overly submissive to American demands. In truth, both men wanted the same thing….a way out free of penalties and in the final hours a trade suitable to both sides finally arose ending the nuclear stalemate over Cuba.
The link between Kennedy and Khrushchev continued informally with letters exchanged through secret couriers over the next several months. Through those exchanges, Kennedy saw a different face of Khrushchev than that which went with his public demeanor toward the USA. Kennedy saw a real chance for peace and détente which both men realized must take place if the world was to survive. Unfortunately, those who surrounded both men did not see the world in that light and eventually both of them would lose in their efforts peace.
By the time Kennedy began his early second term re-election efforts in early 1963, he was quite aware of the fact that he wanted the USA out of Vietnam. He made that point clear to his Joint Chiefs and directed that a withdrawal plan be delivered to him and upon his approval that it be immediately implemented. Kennedy’s desires were met with staunch and stubborn opposition from both the Joint Chiefs and the CIA. The CIA already had a bad taste for Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba. The organization was not about to let Kennedy undermine their operations in Southeast Asia. Communism would be defeated at any cost.
On November 22, 1963, the unthinkable took place in Dallas, Texas as assassin’s bullets ripped into the skull of John F. Kennedy leaving him dead within minutes at Dallas Parkland Hospital. The killing of a president had taken place right before the public eye leaving the nation panicked and shocked. Within that span of moments that the shots were being fired at Kennedy, the entire political climate which he had established on his initial watch was about to die there in Dallas with him. Within an hour’s passage, Vice-President Lyndon Baines Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One prior to taking off for Washington DC with the body of the former president on board.
Whether Johnson did not subscribe to Kennedy’s approach to Vietnam or whether he truly believed that the march of communism had to be stopped is difficult for one to read in hindsight. Whatever that attitude, Johnson made his commitment with the Gulf Of Tonkin incident in which Vietnamese vessels off the coast of Vietnam were said to have launched an attack on an American warship. Johnson used the incident to secure the necessary war powers from Congress and immediately began to commit American fighting forces to the conflict. This step was the crack in the surface which would eventually divide a nation. This was especially true of the youth who were of high school and college age in America at the time. That divide would never heal and in the end it pitted two factions in the same generations against each other.
Once engaged in the war, Johnson essentially ran every aspect of it from the White House limiting any significant actions on the part of his commanders to his final approval. On the one hand, Johnson showed a public face that sternly resisted the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and the world yet on the other hand, Johnson was in dire fear of violating the Soviets and/or the Chinese as he conducted the U.S. involvement in the war. In the end, Johnson’s fear of escalating a war with either faction so tied the hands of the American military that an expectation of victory in the region was simply a pipedream. Johnson pressed on escalating troop levels and bombing campaigns to little avail. The war settled ground into a battle of attrition consuming human life at a level beyond the tolerance of the American public. By 1967 was taking a toll on young, American soldiers putting parents and families at arms over the war. The young generation of the times was either awaiting their draft board call to serve or out marching the streets in protests of the war. The factions of permanence which would outlive the war were forming. With the elections of 1968 approaching, North Vietnam launched the Tet Offensive in the south demonstrating a resolve in their attacks which the American military had determined was waning. Lyndon Johnson already suffering health issues, decline to seek a second term in office.
Republican, Richard Milhous Nixon, took the oval office in 1969 with a heavy focus on taking those actions necessary to win the war in Vietnam once and for all. Unrest at home was growing violent. Demonstrations at Kent State University turned violent. National Guard soldiers had been dispatched to the campus to quell potential riot conditions. Confrontations between activist students and the soldiers took a bad turn and resulted in the death of four Kent State students. Once again the factions had clashed for all the wrong reasons and the divide grew even more…young soldiers killing young students. Nixon escalated his efforts in Vietnam launching carpet bombing on areas of the north of the 16 parallel which Johnson had kept off limits. Bombing runs were also focused on the Ho Chi Minh Trail which followed the mountain ranges separating Vietnam form Laos and Cambodia. The trail became the primary conduit for the flow of men and supplies from the north to feed the efforts of war in the south. Fighting spread into Laos and Cambodia. The war was growing by the day but there seemed no end in sight as manpower attrition seemed to have no effect on the North’s ability to wage war.
Back home, young men were dropping out of college and seeking asylum in other countries to avoid service in the war. College campuses saw multiple public student demonstrations against the war some of which became violent yet not reaching the levels seen at Kent State. Youth was rebelling against authority which was represented by the government. America’s youthful generations were in a mindset ripe for exploitation and Vietnam was the centerpiece that would pull it together. Communist operatives blended into the masses and began their manipulation of the organizations which were formed by the students in the rebellion over Vietnam. An aura of love and peace was also in bloom as the “hippie movement” flourished. Those protesting the war were quickly immersed in this spirit of free love and peace throughout the world. The true American liberal was about to be birthed setting the stage for the rebirth of Progressivism in the USA.
Over time, Nixon began to see that public support for the U.S. involvement in the war has severely eroded. The hatred of the war had all but replaced the fears of nuclear war with the American public. Nixon launched a program to draw down American forces and “Vietnamize” the military efforts of the south hoping to turn around public opinion back home. Nixon, following Johnson line of not violating the Soviets or the Chinese realized that he could not win a normal military victory and began pursuing peace talks while keeping the pressure on the north with continual bomber attacks. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, became Nixon’s front man to promote the talks with all parties in Paris.
The Paris Peace Talks would eventually produce the circumstance which Nixon desired which was the opportunity to declare the war over and peace at hand. The USA could finally gather its belongings and head home. The American military would return from a war which had been unlike any other in its history in that any appreciation of the efforts of the American soldier had long since been lost in the public’s disgust of the war. Soldiers returned to an America where their young counterparts were immersed in marching for a cause, living carefree, and generally believing that the only evil thing that existed in the world was America and its Army. Times had changed and would remain changed for the youth that made up the population of either returning soldier or long-haired hippie.
Those who populated the “peace movement” and other such movements of the times seemed to move from one cause to the next. They seemingly could not exist without a cause near at hand. Peace, world hunger, animal rights, and environmental concerns soon had crowds of the young love generation marching the streets and demanding change. Others were more politically minded and believed the American political landscape was corrupt and capitalism was bad. These were the young mind that had discovered Tolstoy, Stalin, Lenin, and Marx in their college classrooms of the era. The communist infiltration had begun and was alive and well on the university campus of the 1970’s. The utopian promises of social and communal living fit into the lifestyle philosophy of the hippie generation and provided seemingly just what the world needed. Mix in a few of the more popular drugs of the times and things looked even rosier. Conversely, the returning American veteran was not finding a country respectful of its government or its military leaving him/her with a rather empty feeling as to the value systems of the nation.
Those parallel factions have continued in the American culture right into present day. The baby-boomer generations aged and as they did they took their place in America. The hippie faction/love generation ushered in a wave of more and more causes and led the charge on political correctness which seems to dominate our aura today. The love of “causes”, “movements” and “activism” gave them a reason to live and further fanned the flames of appreciation for anything that would change America. For anything that represented change in America must be good. The idealism of the liberal mind lent itself to a mindset of intellect. The young activist who had spent his college years desiring to blow up building was now looked upon with some intellectual awe having looked into the soul of America and seen the evil in its heart. The suggestion of a utopian society devoid of all that is American readily appealed to this crowd causing many to align their thinking with far left socialist/communist perspectives.
The returning soldier stepped to the conservative view gazing the horizon and searching for the country he/she once knew in terms of patriotism, reverence to God, moral conscience, along with faith in the Constitution and the Rule of Law. Causes, movements, and activism had grown beyond the scope of common sense often bringing processes within the country and its economy to a halt. More and more regulation by the government was executed in the name of fairness and equality but producing nothing of the sort…only control. Social issues claimed center stage as all poverty was blamed upon the evils of a capitalist society. Class warfare was at every turn and everything had racial or homophobic overtones if any group alleged it. Freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness meant little to the values placed on government programs, safety nets, and welfare assistance. Equality and fairness were no longer bi-products of one’s freedom to pursue happiness but more a function of a big government attempting to legislate it. Intellectual enlightenment had blinded people to the possibility of ideological manipulation. The dangers and threats of socialism and communism had disappeared from the American consciousness. The Vietnam Era soldier sent to fight the growth of communism in Southeast Asia now realizes that while he/she were fighting it there, it was taking root back home in its own insidious way.
In the year 2012, the divide which occurred between Americans in the Vietnam Era is wider than ever such that we no longer sharing an identity as people of one nation. In many ways, we are a nation of people looking upon the same argument put forth by Ho Chi Minh. One faction sees us as a nation who must repent for all the sins in its history driven in great part by our “colonialist spirit” while the other faction still sees the socialist and communist among us ever-driving the wedge of division deeper into our nation and possibly bringing truth to Khrushchev’s claim that communism would dominate America without firing a shot. The question becomes, given these perspectives, what will become of America?
©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.
24 September 2012