May 31st, 2007

Breaking the big stick: removing the threat of war to achieve peace?

Sometimes it’s hard to believe Henry Kissinger is still alive. He seemed so old already back when he was Secretary of State in the 70s to both Nixon and his successor Ford.

Odd to recall Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the ill-fated Paris Peace Accords. He is nothing if not controversial, accused of war crimes by Christopher Hitchens and others, and in general resembling (or so I always thought) the blue meanies of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” movie.

That’s to let you know that I’m aware Kissinger isn’t an authority most people cotton to. And yet this op-ed piece of his in today’s LA Times makes some interesting Vietnam/Iraq analogies.

Those who are interested in international law should read this paragraph:

Whether the [Paris Peace] agreement, officially signed in January 1973, could have preserved an independent South Vietnam and avoided the carnage following the fall of Indochina will never be known. We do know that American disunity prevented such an outcome when Congress prohibited the use of military force to maintain the agreement and cut off aid after all U.S. military forces (except a few hundred advisors) had left South Vietnam. American dissociation triggered a massive North Vietnamese invasion, in blatant violation of existing agreements, to which the nations that had endorsed these agreements turned their backs.

So much for Nobel Prizes and peace agreements. The history of Congressional action in that war is—just as Kissinger writes—that after we no longer had fighting forces in Vietnam Congress initiated a step-by-step process that made it impossible to enforce the agreements that had been negotiated, as North Vietnam was well aware.

I detailed that process here, and recently I also wrote about the final reduction of funding to the near-vanishing point for the South Vietnamese. But it’s important to remember that the latter was just the final, pound-foolish act of Congress in the undermining of the South Vietnamese effort; an earlier legislative effort was the Case-Church amendment of 1973 prohibiting any further US military action in Vietnam without the approval of an utterly antiwar Congress, passed about five months after those Paris Peace Accords were signed, and effectively rendering them meaningless and unenforceable.

It was all done for the cause of peace, peace, peace. A worthy goal to be sure—but ironically enough, the means by which it was done made a travesty of the Peace Accords. Whatever the outcome would otherwise have been, such treaties aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if there is nothing backing them up. What had gotten the North Vietnamese to the table to sign those Accords in the first place was military pressure on them, as Kissinger relates, pressure that was effectively removed by the Case-Church Amendment.

One wonders what Congress actually thought it was doing at the time. I suppose the goal was reining in what it thought of as an out-of-control and warmongering President and Secretary of State (despite that Peace Prize). Preventing unending war and setting up the bitter end, otherwise known as peace.

Peace treaties—unless they are negotiated at the end of a war in which one side is so utterly defeated it cannot soldier on—must have some sort of credible threat of force backing them up. But if that proverbial “big stick” is removed, the enemy knows it has nothing to fear.

Congress is once again intent, I’m afraid, on breaking that stick in half and casting it on the waters of an illusory peace.

19 Responses to “Breaking the big stick: removing the threat of war to achieve peace?”

  1. Richard Aubrey Says:

    As I have said elsewhere, you can’t possibly believe the congresscritters believe what they are telling us.
    The more logical presumption is that they will the most likely end and are lying about why they do it.

  2. gcotharn Says:

    Ariel Sharon told a story: at one point (maybe 1971), IDF were about to cripple opposition in Lebanon, damaging them in a way which would take years, or over a decade, to come back from.

    Israel’s Liberal Party had a meeting and discussed that the Liberal Party would be totally discredited, maybe forever, if military force achieved what the Liberals had vehemently said it could not. The Liberals immediately organized large anti-war protests. The IDF was halted before it could cripple the enemy in Lebanon. Israel lived on, in unneccesary peril, all so the Liberal Party could maintain its power and credibility.

    I may have gotten some of my vague details confused, yet you get the point. I see, in Ariel Sharon’s story, parallels to what the Dem Congress did regarding withdrawing funding from Vietnam. I see parallels to what our current Congress, with the help of frail-hearted Republicans, might do in the fall.

  3. alphie Says:

    Henry Kissinger, now there’s an unbiased source of information on the fall of Vietnam.

    Here’s the data I could find:

    Military funds allocated for South Vietnam:

    FY 74 – $813 million
    FY 75 – $700 million

    Hardly “cut to the vanishing point.”

    The real cuplrit seems to have been inflation.

    It hit around 12% in 1974, and in response, the ammunition and spare parts manufacturers supplying these items to South Vietnam via the Pentagon…raised their prices 25%.

    The beast must be fed, eh?

  4. Sister Toldjah » Kissinger on the lessons of Vietnam and how they should be applied to Iraq Says:

    […] Read related thoughts via neo-neocon. Posted By: Sister Toldjah in: Iraq, Middle East | EMail This Post | Print This Post | […]

  5. tom Says:

    We should be proud to be a military nation and a militarist nation. There is nothing wrong with being either a warmongering leader or being in a nation that fights wars continuously. People need to stop being sentimental about so called peace. We need a draft and an army that can fight many wars simultaneously. We need young people who demonstrate for war and young men who are not simply willing to die but eager to die. Then we will have peace when our last enemy is crushed. Until then keep fighting the Liberals and their lies, Neo, but as a nation let’s get real. It isn’t just the liberal liars; too few conservative young men are real men willing to fight. I worry that whoever our next president is, he won’t have President Bush’ willingness to fight. Perhaps another Fighter Pilot like W will fit the bill.

  6. Patrick Tyson Says:

    The unity of Vietnam is implicitly recognized in an article providing that “The reunification of Vietnam shall be carried out” by peaceful discussion among the parties, thereby relegating “external aggression” across an “international boundary”—America’s casus belli for so many years—to the dustbin of history.

    Thieu gripped refusal with the rigor of death until the last hour of Nixon’s ultimatum, then gave way. Signed in Paris on 27 January 1973, the treaty left the situation on paper no different from the insecure settlement of Geneva nineteen years before. To the physical reality had since been added more than half a million deaths in North and South, hundreds of thousands of wounded and destitute, burned and crippled children, landless peasants, a raveged land deforested and pitted with bomb craters and a people torn by mutual hatred. The procedures for eventual agreement by the two zones were generally recognized as unworkable and an early resort to force widely assumed. The viability of a non-Communist South Vietnam, for which America had wrecked Indochina and betrayed herself, inspired confidence in no one—unless in Nixon and Kissinger, who convinced themselves that the United States could still retrieve the situation if necessary. What was left standing by the treaty was a temporary screen behind which America, clutching a tattered “peace with honor,” could escape.

    —Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly (1984)

  7. tom Says:

    I beg to differ with Patrick Tyson. Tuchman was a pre 9-11 America hater, which is proven even in your quote where she obsesses about lost lives and damaged civilians rather than our troops and their bravery. Neo has written endlessly on Viet Nam and correctly sees it as a glorious war sold out by the left. Wars hurt people, true, which is why we should ignore that hurt. It is ‘collateral damage’ to our pursuit of meaning and manhood. If we never found out about Agent Orange and other unfortunate extraneous issues, we would have a country of men willing to fight, rather than a Volunteer army of Jessicas who cannot even read a map.

    9-11 changed everything, even history. Even history and its teaching is either with us or against us. Let’s have no more talk of victims until every last enemy of the USA is dead or in Guantanimo Bay.

  8. alphie Says:

    Pol Pot had his own “year zero” Tom

    He said it changed everything, too.

    History can’t be erased, no matter how hard you try.

  9. Alyssa Says:

    9-11 changed everything . . .

    That’s exactly right. 9-11 changed everything out of a clear blue sky–and the “hate America left” will never forgive fate for 9-11. They try to imagine conspiracy theories where 9-11 never happened, or where the US government is responsible. Cretins. They fool only themselves.

    The funny thing is, fate has several other tricks up her sleeve. Tricks the purple-faced leftists full of hate will like no better than they liked 9-11.

  10. tom Says:

    I think America should consider splitting into two nations, a left and a right. Then we wouldn’t have to put up with the cowardice of the left. As President Bush said it is the reporters children he is defending from direct attack.

    Pol Pot was not American. Most liberals are like Neo, ashamed of every last shred of their past, but too old to actually enlist. We need a new militarism in the Good America in which war is rehabilitated. There is no reason why real Americans cannot learn to focus on the good side of war and no reason why the press or historians should focus on the bad side, if there is even a bad side. Some people die in war, true, some get injured. But as Alyssa notes Fate will deal with liberals and in the post 9-11 world, let us praise the pure good of hunting down our enemies and killing them.

    Look at all the boo-hoo ing over torture. Any real American would torture when and where necessary and in doing so actually increase his goodness.

  11. harry Says:

    Tom’s cute. And notice alfie isnt getting it again. Lets not wake him up yet. Go Tom, go!

    BTW: What is a “Volunteer army of Jessicas who cannot even read a map.” about?

  12. alphie Says:

    I think the “tough guys” already tried to break off from America and form their own country once, Tom.

    Didn’t turn out too well for them.

    Another good reason for not forgetting pre-9/11 history.

  13. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:

    Ok – open question:

    Who’s your pick?

    Curtis Lemay or Thomas Powers?

  14. Good Ole Charlie Says:


    Oh, LeMay of course…

    Get the job done…the janitors can sweep up the debris late.

    1) Good Ole Niccolo sez: “Better feared than loved…”

    2) “The winners write the history…”

    3) Good Ole Hank Ford sez: ‘History is BUNK!”

    Words To Live By…

  15. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

    Tuchman’s BS is exactly that of the Left: “The viability of a non-Communist South Vietnam, for which America had wrecked Indochina and betrayed herself, inspired confidence in no one”

    And, it’s is true — if one assumes little or insufficient military support of S. Vietnam, or any US ally.
    S. Korea? not viable — without US support AND troops (as a tripwire / fighters who won’t run)
    Democratic Nicaragua? not viable — without the US
    Berlin after the Wall is built? not viable.
    Democratic W. Germany after WW II? not viable.
    Democratic Israel? not viable
    Democratic France in WW II? not viable — without US force.

    Non-genocidal Darfur? not viable — until the US uses a bigger stick.
    Democratic Iraq? not viable — unless the US stays until it is.

    A 25 week old human fetus prematurely born? not viable — unless modern tech is used to save its life (recently 21 week old was saved). (If unwanted, viability isn’t considered because the unwanted fetus has NO human rights.)
    Is this the wrong thread? No.

    The issue of viability depends on the actions that the US, or other authority, is able AND willing to exercise.

    Please consider that “rule of law” depends, first and formost, on the “lawmen” winning any fights. It is the group that is willing to win the fights that makes “the law”, which is enforced, and therefore obeyed.

  16. kungfu Says:


    You’re being a parodist, aren’t you?

    I get the distinct feeling Tom is a liberal playing at parody here.

    It’s funny. Real Saturday Night Live- Will Ferrel stuff.

    Seriously, though, why do liberals AND conservative cling so strongly to their own myths. I see it here and on liberal blogs. In this case, it’s Vietnam was good, we got screwed by the pansy liberals, we are still fighting the Nazis, landing on Omaha, glorious, glorious. Let it go.


  17. OmegaPaladin Says:


    Interesting satire. It’s actually well-written and intelligent. I don’t exactly agree with your true point though.


    Vietnam was winnable. It’s just that our strategy was horrible for most of the war. Rather like unescorted daylight bombing in WWII or our initial forays in North Africa or the initial use of the Sherman tank. Most wars catch us by surprise in terms of strategy, and sadly the initial stages are full of tragedy. After regrouping, a better strategy can be developed.
    In Vietnam, we had the groundwork for keeping South Vietnam stable. It was a very precarious peace, and you would have to hope that the south would become like South Korea, but it was there. The downfall wasn’t just a liberal/hippy product – the isolationists played their part, as did Nixon’s criminal political machine.

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    Only a fake liberal can laugh at humanitarian concerns, Neo, and the suffering of millions as he does everything he can to make people suffer more.

  19. SB Says:

    Just dropped by to remind myself why I don’t visit this blog anymore. Same turd-tossing primates, different day…

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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