As the news continues to broadcast the collapse of Iraq, it’s difficult not to reflect upon the Vietnam War and the similarities that exist between our involvement with the two countries. When it became clear that Northern Vietnam was going to overrun the South, President Johnson suggested that aid be sent to desperate South Vietnam. At the time, Congress balked at such an idea, believing that such action would only provoke yet another futile war and Americans watched as South Vietnam fell to its knees.
If they could be asked, I wonder what President Johnson and Congress would have done differently had they been given a second chance. Would they decide to provide aid to South Vietnam in perhaps a vain attempt to salvage whatever effort was put forth to save the region? Would they embark on an even bloodier war to force back North Vietnam once and for all? Or would they simply wish they had never been involved with the troubled country in the first place?
These questions are interesting to consider, as 40 years from now a new generation will likely be asking similar ones about the time we are in now.
As Iraq and its people cry for help, can an America still healing from the wounds of the first Iraq war even fathom once again sending more men and women to try to save what possibly cannot be saved?
In many ways it may be our responsibility to do so, regardless of whether we want to, largely in part to our past two presidents. It was President George W. Bush who controversially sent our military into Iraq, overthrowing Saddam Hussein, but in the process creating political turmoil. Hussein may have been a terrible dictator, but the way his removal was conducted may have laid the seeds for what could eventually be an even worse regime.
It was President Barack Obama who perhaps prematurely withdrew our troops, leaving a vulnerable country that very much lacked any sort of stability. While it was an amazing relief to see our troops return home, one cannot help but wonder if such action opened the door for the group known as International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS).
ISIS, a group largely considered to be more extreme than even Al-Qaeda, has taken over Iraq’s second largest city Mosul and now threatens Baghdad. If such a group were to gain control over the country, they would be a great risk to the entire Middle East.
For Iraq it would mean the potential of ISIS spreading their views and violence far beyond the borders of one country. This is not just an Iraqi issue. It’s a global one.
For that reason alone, the United States must be involved with this crisis to some extent. In part because of our actions in the past, but more importantly because of what such a group could do to the millions of lives in the immediate area as well as far beyond.
That is not to say the United States needs to be involved through military methods. What it does mean though is that we must provide as much aid as possible to the refugees that are fleeing for their lives. It also means that we must use every diplomatic resource we have to attempt to stop the deterioration of Iraq. Working with neighboring countries such as Turkey and Iran is key to finding a some sort of diplomatic resolution in the region. Even if such an attempt seems impossible, our country simply cannot sit back and watch as people are brutally murdered and a nation is torn apart.
It is widely considered that the Vietnam War is amongst the ugliest stains in American history. While we cannot undo all the mistakes of the Iraq War, let’s not give cause for future generations to lament the United States’ actions any more than they already will.
Nick Ulferts is a senior English education major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding his column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.