Archive for Middle Eastern Politics

Iraq’s Future, There is Room for Optimism

Posted in Opinions, Politics with tags , , on December 22, 2011 by Ian Pham

With America’s troops now gone from Iraq, one can’t help but wonder what the future has in store for the war-ravaged country.  Many analysts often point back to the Vietnam fiasco as an indicator of where Iraq may be headed, which, in the opinion of this blogger, as overly pessimistic.  There are some parallels between the two wars, but these similarities should not be the basis for which to predict the future of Iraq.  It is true that there is much unfinished business for the Iraqi people, but that does not mean that they are doomed to meet the same fate as the people of South Vietnam in the 1970’s.  Iraq has a chance for a new beginning, and this opportunity can bring great things.

It is fair to say that the exit of the U.S. from Iraq is reminiscent of the event in 1972, when the Americans frantically escaped Vietnam in the wake of a Communist surge.  But even here, the similarities between the two cases are somewhat thin.  When the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam in 1972, they did so knowing full well that South Vietnam would eventually fall to the Communist forces.  That event is rather different than the case in Iraq today.  Like Vietnam, the United States can no longer carry on the war in Iraq.  However, unlike Vietnam, the Obama administration is not leaving Iraq to certain death, but rather a blank slate to shape its own destiny.

Iraq’s future is uncertain, which only means that the country’s challenges are equally matched by its opportunities.  Despite the many tensions between the rival factions within the country, the chance of Iraq reemerging strong and unified is real.  Now that the U.S. troops are gone, the future of Iraq rests solely in the hands of its people.  The war may be over for the United States, but for the Iraqi people, the real challenge is only beginning.  What happens next is entirely up to them.

Why Afghanistan Won’t be Another Vietnam

Posted in Modern History, Opinions, Politics with tags , , , on March 5, 2011 by Ian Pham

When speaking of the current Afghan War, many keep on drawing comparisons between this current mission and the Vietnam War in the 1960’s.  Comparisons between President Karzai and President Diem, how the Americans have entered a war that can’t be won, and the Afghan training program in parallel to the Vietnamization programs in the past.  It is true, there are some similarities between Vietnam and Afghanistan, but despite these similarities, the evidence will soon show that the reasons for American involvement in these wars are very much different form each other.  Furthermore, I also believe that because of these reasons, the outcome of America’s mission in Afghanistan will be much different as well.

First of all, the American involvement in Afghanistan is arguably much more justified than their intervention in Vietnam 40 years ago.  Ho Chi Minh and the Communists never attacked America on their own soil as Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had done on September 11, 2001.  Therefore, it cannot be reasoned that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is that much like the war in Vietnam.  When Bin Laden devastated the World Trade Centre, killing thousands of innocent Americans, he declared war on the U.S.A.  In contrast, the North Vietnamese never declared war the the United States, so the initial catalysts of the respective wars are not the same.

What took place in Vietnam was a domestic affair, a civil war that America had no reason to involve themselves in the first place.  The Afghan War may also be a civil war, but the terrorist organizations of Al Qaeda and the Taliban are also targeting U.S. citizens.  They commit atrocious acts, not just on the Afghan people alone, but on the American people as well.  The Vietcong were a threat to the people of South Vietnam and the continent of Asia, but they never posed such a threat to the United States.  In fighting alongside the Afghan forces, the U.S. is containing the Taliban, successfully preventing them from gaining ground in the Middle East.

It’s been ten years in Afghanistan and the U.S. has lost nearly 1,500 soldiers.  In the same timespan that the U.S. spent in Vietnam, over 58,000 American lives were lost.  These numbers indicate that the Vietnam War was much more costly than the current Afghan War.  Not only that, the United States is actually fighting for a relevant cause in this Afghan mission: confronting and neutralizing the terrorist threats of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  The American presence in Afghanistan helps keep the Taliban at bay, helping to maintain stability in the cities.

If the U.S. stayed out of Vietnam in 1963, the consequences would have been much less costly to the American people.  The same can’t be said today, for if the U.S. stayed out of Afghanistan, the Taliban would cause much suffering to the Afghan people, and Al Qaeda would cause much more damage to the U.S. national security.  Furthermore, the U.S. are supported by many coalition forces in Afghanistan, including Canada, Britain, Germany, etc., because the reasons for involvement are important to the safety of the world.   The global community may not agree on all aspects of the Afghan War, but it is safe to say that they’ve reached a consensus in dealing with Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

The world never supported the American involvement in Vietnam.  It was a mistake of the U.S. in believing that they can intervene in the affairs of a distant country that has no connection to their own.  They were afraid of the “domino effect,” and the spread of the Communist wave, an idea that proved to be false.  Things are much different in this Afghan mission.  American involvement in Afghanistan is more widely supported by the world community.  The Afghan forces keep the Taliban at bay, and the only supporters of these terrorists forces are minorities from the countryside, and the sellers of narcotics.  That is why I disregard the notion that Afghanistan will be just another Vietnam.  I believe that the U.S. is doing the right thing, and that in time, the Afghan people will prevail over the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Is Karzai Really That Corrupted?

Posted in Opinions, Politics with tags , , , on December 6, 2010 by Ian Pham

Anyone who has been paying attention to Afghanistan should have a vague familiarity with the comparisons made between this war and the Vietnam War.  It is understandable that so many have drawn parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam, since a lot of the central themes have come up.  What I can’t help but notice about the current situation in the western media however, are the claims of corruption aimed at the Karzai government.  Is there anyone we can think of in the past that the Americans have wrongly accused of being corrupted?  Ngo Dinh Diem?  Nguyen Van Thieu?  Correct!

I’m not exactly dismissing every accusation that the media makes toward Hamid Karzai and his administration, but I do want to remind everyone not to believe everything the media says.  In the 60’s, the American media branded both Vietnamese presidents as corrupted, incompetent, etc., only today have these claims been proven wrong.  It is possible that some of Karzai’s actions have been less than ethical, but the way he is portrayed in the media have been much over-exaggerated.

What I am trying to suggest is that we should give Karzai the benefit of the doubt, let him govern his country as he was hired to do.  As history has shown, foreign intrusion into a domestic government only makes things worse.  There are many reasons why the media would oppose Karzai, but that doesn’t make them right.  If Karzai was truly a corrupted man, time will confirm it.  Right now, he is the leader of a sovereign nation and deserves the opportunity to govern his country.  Maybe he is corrupted, maybe he isn’t.  Only time will tell.