Peter Dale Scott. “Why the U.S. must withdraw from Iraq”. Salon.com. Oct. 28, 2004 – “To to understand the case for withdrawal, we need to remember that withdrawal from Vietnam was the key to the ultimate U.S. success in Southeast Asia. The hot Vietnam War that only began in 1965 was a late and unnecessary stage of a U.S. Southeast Asian deployment that began in Thailand in the early 1950s and continued incrementally but continuously thereafter, into Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It passed from being a campaign of containment to a doomed campaign of rollback, when America began a campaign to reverse the neutralism decreed for Indochina by the Geneva Agreements of 1954.
This U.S. war in Southeast Asia was largely successful in its primary strategic goals, even though it failed in the secondary goal of “saving” Indochina. It succeeded above all in restricting communist governments to Indochina, whereas in 1950 there were serious fears that communism might spread through Southeast Asia. (The “domino theory,” though irrelevant by 1965, had been a legitimate concern in the early 1950s.)
The U.S. succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia for Western capitalism, rather than Chinese communism. And it succeeded in securing and protecting large tracts of the South China Sea for offshore exploration and development by Western oil companies. Those successes, along with parallel and related successes in Japan, were important if not vital in presenting a contemporary vision of capitalism that is global rather than Eurocentric.
In retrospect we can see that it was precisely the early U.S. successes in Thailand that misled America into an unwinnable hot war. One can debate at what point the U.S. should have been willing to rest on its limited defensive achievements. I would personally put the optimum checkpoint at 1954. The U.S. could, I believe, have achieved all that it ultimately did achieve in Southeast Asia, if it had decided to accept the 1954 Geneva Agreements for a political resolution in Indochina.
That the United States did not do so must be attributed chiefly to the paranoia of the Cold War. American officials saw insurgencies in Vietnam and even Laos as part of a global game plan being masterminded in the Kremlin. Today even the imperialist hawk Niall Ferguson can admit, in “Colossus,” that it was a “tragic error” to have seen North Vietnam “as a mere instrument of world communism.” But it is just as paranoid, and just as tragic, to see the predictable nationalist resistance to our troops in Iraq as part of a global Islamist conspiracy. There is less excuse for this latest folly: America knows far more about Iraq in 2004 than it did about Indochina a half century earlier.
The important point is that whereas a limited strategy of containment succeeded in achieving America’s strategic goals, an unnecessary hot war led only to a defeat still bitterly remembered. And the U.S. displacement of a neutralist government in Cambodia led to the brief dominance there of the Khmer Rouge, one of the most infamous by-products of America’s propensity to enlarge its wars. Our excesses helped produce killers in Southeast Asia then, as they are doing in Central Asia today.”