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America's New Vietnam in the Middle East


America's New Vietnam in the Middle East

Ira Chernus

It was half a century ago, but I still remember it vividly. “We have to help South Vietnam,” I explained. “It’s a sovereign nation being invaded by another nation, North Vietnam.”

“No, no,” my friend protested. “There’s just one Vietnam, from north to south, divided artificially. It’s a civil war. And we have no business getting involved. We’re just making things worse for everyone.”


"But cease all military action, all economic pressures, and all diplomatic maneuvering against any one side in the Muslim civil war. Become, as we have in other civil wars, a genuine neutral."

I agree with the above statement.

However, changing the political/economic/military calculus takes a lot more than a shift in narrative. And beyond that, who controls the narrative and will it reach a majority of persons.

This analysis misses a lot, and most of what it misses comes from pretending to hold the West blameless.

From the onset of carving up the Ottoman Empire after WW I and WW II, and assassinating the Shah of Iran in l953... the West, primarily the U.S. and its NATO allies, has meddled in the Middle East in ways that ruptured it into many pieces.

Therefore, to take the stance that the problem today is that of a "civil war" while leaving out which players inflamed old sectarian divides and hatreds, is like a murderer saying that he has no responsibility for what was done to the family he "deleted."

Granted, since murderers seldom excel at "Social Work," the original statement of leave the Middle East alone holds. There is also the work of remedial action, Truth and Reconciliation commissions, and allotting funds to repair at least some of what was broken.


Yawn, zzzzzzzzzz. Vietnam had neither the fully developed resources nor the critical geography of the Middle East.


Many of us never believed that it was really a civil war, not after Korea. This was containment and cold war conflict 101. We created the division in the confusion left by the French after WW2. There was no North and South but there was a buddhist, a catholic and a communist division that was exploited. When the French left despite our paying for their war materiel, we jumped in with both boots. We created the civil war which is why it was doomed from the beginning.

We pretended to a north south division based on buying support from corrupt southern forces and exploited religious divisions. What happened was that we never expected anyone to look very close but we killed and killed and they just wouldn't give up until everybody noticed. It was a reality that Kissinger spoke of nuclear options in Vietnam. Winning at any cost was the narrative but that inhumanity was too much for a baby boom post war generation. Peace people asked why so much murder and blood? There was no answer except that it was containment.

We didn't pick sides - we created one and fought everybody else.

Why are we in the middle east? Why are there no peace initiatives? Why is the very idea of peace becoming a remote and nearly impossible concept? Why do we seek to expand the conflict...to engage in the forever war mentality.

In part it is oil and in part it is the hardline Israeli viewpoint. The fact is that settlements prevent peace and they prevent trust. We become condemned to this endless conflict because of injustice and it continues to haunts us. It stalks all our efforts in the Middle East. Injustice is the root of conflict. How will there be peace if the solution that gets offered is always unjust?

That is a big part of why this insanity in the middle east worsens. The bizarre spectacle of suicide bombers and utter intolerance. There is a hopelessness and fear of defeat that prods and goads the violence and excess. The what is there left to lose savagery and bloodletting.

Injustice is the underlying cause of hatred which now becomes institutionalized. Injustice that cannot be resolved (or allowed to be resolved) keeps the recruitment of hate continuing.


Far from being assassinated in 1953, the Shah of Iran was brought back from exile that year, after the CIA/ British-orchestrated removal of the democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosadegh. The Shah instituted a brutal 25 year reign, which lasted until the 1979 Iranian revolution--and he escaped assassination that time by fleeing to the US..

Otherwise, I think you make valid points in your post.


The agreed temporary division of Vietnam along the 38th parallel was made at a Geneva Convention in 1954 after the French had been thoroughly defeated at Dien Bien Phu and elsewhere. Signatories to that agreement included China, the USA and Russia among others. The agreement was that the country would hold democratic elections in 1956 and become unified, an agreement broken by the interim Catholic Diem government of southern Vietnam with the support of the USA as it was realised that Ho Chi Minh would get around 80% of the vote. Thereupon both sides started low-level hostilities and sabotage.

Funny that the USA supoortd Ho Chi Minh in 1944-45 against the Japanese and then flipped in favour of the French returning.

As fo the Middle East.......you said it..