Consider the Following: The Case for Not Withdrawing Forces in Foreign Intervention

Richard Pham
Aug 11, 2014 at 11:41 AM

Note: this blog post argues under the lens of a Devil’s Advocate and does not reflect the views of the writer, Richard Pham, or YAL as an organization. Counter-arguments, critiques, questions, or comments are highly encouraged.

A Personal Story

Puck Magazine Cover

Hundreds of protesters shouted at the video-store owner as he walked toward his store in embarrassment, hiding his face away from the crowd. Hand-made banners and picket signs, saying things like, “Down with Communism!” or “Communism kills!” were gathered around a crowded strip-mall plaza along Bolsa Ave. in Westminster, CA.

This, my friends, was the community’s response to a video store owner’s decision to display a portrait of Ho Chi Minh and the North Vietnamese communist flag — clad with the stereotypical communist colors of crimson red with a yellow star — rather than the socially acceptable South Vietnamese flag, 3 red stripes clad on a golden flag. And furthermore, this is a consequence of free speech, just like how all actions have consequences as if one were display a portrait of Hitler at a synagogue or Fidel Castro in Little Havana. 

Disregarding the topic of free speech, I remember this day clearly. My late father and mother had the whole family participate in this — to help remind us of their struggle to reach freedom from Communist Vietnam. It’s a harsh reminder of the 1.9 million lives lost, along with over 58,000 American lives gone after the war. I remember hearing the stories of the time when my dad was in the reeducation camps since he was an officer in the Air Cavalry. Or the other stories when my aunt had to run across a field of hundreds of dead bodies just to reach safety — bodies rotting out in the hot and humid climate of Vietnam. This was what came to be by the end of the Vietnam War. 


And all of this, from my experience to this day, I wonder what would happen if America kept her promise to back the South Vietnamese government — to establish a stable government able to defend itself or offer military support if the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong rolled into Saigon, as President Nixon promised

The Thought

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and actions in Vietnam were not the best and at many times wrong — as initially with the US’s decision to intervene and halt elections to occur after the Geneva Accords of ’54, or let alone the Gulf of Tonkin Incident detailing that the US provoked the war and misled the public. But nonetheless, arguments to immediately pull-out, to leave a country to destruction from threats through is fundamentally and morally wrong to not fix the mess our government created in the first place. After all, don't all responsible beings take ownership of their mistakes?

War Protesters

Nonetheless, the "pull out" suggestions are fundamentally built upon idealism with disregard to the current world, as if the world and policy were to be built upon a blank slate and to pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan and turn tail on the investment made would be make the world whole again. But with that notion, it goes to show that without establishing a government competent enough to administer justice only lends to its own downfall — just look at South Vietnam and current day Iraq compared to South Korea, Japan, or Germany.

Even of yesteryear, the same argument was made, even dividing a party over the Vietnam War of splitting energetic movements within (see pp. 215-237 at this link). However, the problem does seem to stay — the “pull-out-immediately” types only consider foreign policy, or perhaps history, upon a snapshot perspective — and that’s the problem. They’re eager to fix the problem, but do not consider the whole picture and rather focus on a few pixels of the image with regard to little consequences.  

So in this case for successful intervention, what if South Vietnam did not collapse? What if Indochina was lead stable, rather than leading credence to a communist takeover of both Vietnam and in neighboring Cambodia  leading Pol Pot to orchestrate one of the worst tragedies in human history, genocide of up to 1/4 of a country’s population?

What would happen if there was a free-South Vietnam much like today’s free-South Korea, than a total Communist Vietnam with human rights abuses still occurring to this day? How about a free West Germany compared to its counterpart with East Germany? Or the People’s Republic of China compared to a more-free Republic of China (Taiwan)? Ron Paul would say otherwise

Blowback, You Say? 

Non-interventionism is perhaps a noble thing to pursue and a policy that ought to be sought, but on principle, it’s subordinate to the primary goal of living under the regime of guaranteeing life, liberty, and property — where all are safeguarded from threats as immediate like the tyrannical regimes mentioned above, terrorists, foreign invaders, or abuse in the administration of the law.

Now I don’t necessarily say non-interventionism is inherently a bad thing, but if practiced currently, that would open possibility for barbarism — where the weak are preyed on by the strong and justice is merely served by whose chest is pumped up the highest or whose guns can out-fire another.

In this case, non-interventionism, to say the least, could be best practiced if old adage were true, “If all men were angels…” or at the very least, upon a blank slate to build and ensure an infrastructure and institution dedicated to the cause of peace, diplomacy, and free-trade. But that's not reality. Action must be taken against tyranny — as the saying goes from Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." 

To intervene and commit to building a regime of democracy does make sense. We can and we have imposed freedom and liberty at the end of the barrel of a gun — just look at post-WWII Japan and Germany. Post-WWII European sucess? Thank the sucessful Marshall Plan. In this case, legal regimes that at least respect private property rights and provide an avenue for the adjudication against waste, fraud, and abuse must be started somewhere and that somewhere is where tyranny rules. The rule of the law must be supreme, not the rule of a tyrant — and that must firmly be established as proven in post-WWII Japan and Germany.

And to answer the question of blowback, have we yet seen a German terrorist post WWII thanks to intervention? How about in Vietnam after America was involved? How about Latin America with the covert CIA operations? Not one in sight.

But sure, there are consequences for "stabilizing" regions to US interest. Diplomatic relations may be strained and the intervened country's populace suffer from non-confidence in their government to administer justice and facilitate commerce, thus leading to a vicious cycle of relenting power to tyrants and cronies by non-action in the political process and thus expecting change to happen by either violent revolution/coup d'etats, or by further US intervention. But that’s a small cost to the multitudes of benefit to the Third World and US defense.


And strained relations? That's the job of diplomats and politicians to repair and left within our control, not when it’s taken away when left in a power vacuum for rogue powers to rule rather than a legal regime to inhibit barbarism and promote freedom and prosperity.

Essentially, blowback may exist as a sufficient condition to exist because of intervention, but it is not a necessary condition alone for blowback to happen if there were a stable government to quell against barbarism thanks to intervention. Can you imagine otherwise with ISIS? In this case, compared to ISIS and Post-Iraq war to Post-WWII Japan, there were no essential safeguards to life, liberty, or property in Iraq that was institutionalized as Gen. Douglass McArthur's constitution drafted for Post-WWII Japan had achieved.

Imagine if we haven’t intervened.  Just look at Serbia or Rwanda where ethnic cleansing was occurring — who was to stop the madness and inaction of NATO in Serbia, or the UN with Rwanda? I do admit though, it is because of our status as policeman of the world unfortunately lead reliance and expectation for US protection for countries like France, Germany, the UK, Japan, Serbia, Rwanda, etc. But regardless, someone must be the torch bearer to promote liberty and with our ideals of life, liberty, and property being held in highest regard is at best. 

We cannot have rag-tag groups like Al Qaeda believe the US is weak — consider the scaling back of projecting US supremacy, thus enabling an organization like Al Qaeda to attack with the 1st World Trade Center bombing in 1993, again in Mogadishu, Somalia with the strategic victory of the Somali National Alliance, further with the USS Cole attack, then the attack of the US Embassy in Somalia, and finally, the 9/11 attacks.  

To have an impetus for life, liberty, and property to be protected for all, not just Americans, is more level-headed, just, and a moral mode of viewing our foreign policy because that protects our own natural rights as well and extends it universally for everyone to prosper. However, this is not to be said to pursue wars irrationally or start picking up fights — because no one wants to send their son or daughter to put them at risk in harm’s way. But what is being said is that we must honor our commitments made when we happen to intervene, after-all, are we not responsible for the mess we created?

On a final note, I’d like leave you with a thought experiment

Imagine if France did not finance the American Revolution, nor provide boots on the ground, neither naval, nor financial support against the British Empire. Imagine if the Dutch and Spanish did not provide foreign aid to help secure our own home rule. Would we still be among the freest nations in world history? 
 John Trumbull/V.Zveg - French Military Support

Imagine a world where non-interventionism was held supreme in a world of power-hungry tyrants. Imagine a world where the world is left to a dangerous place, where evil prevails if the good do nothing. To blatantly call out the US is wrong, that the US is evil in whatever it does in its foreign ventures is wrong, but not far from the truth – the US isn’t perfect. The US, by far, advances liberty and prosperity the most. To think otherwise, to assume that there is no peace through projecting strength across the world would be naïve. After all, all men aren’t angels. 

Ultimately, I believe the best cop-out to this argument I've presented is to defer to the Constitution — where wars, actions, and so forth, are legally pursued with an end and goal in sight worthy to be achieved — rather than pursuing extra-legal action if one examines the administrations of President Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton, etc.. I welcome all comments, questions, criticisms, and counter-arguments regardless.
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Thanks Richard for informative share! I think that you are a Vietnamese. So, you may understand so clearly about Vietnam war. I have also moved to US and working for ProWeb365 after 1975. Your post really make sense to me.

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