A Tale of Two Wars: Vietnam and Afghanistan Compared to Israel and Ukraine

by | Dec 12, 2023 | POLITICS

What is the ruling principle for America in regards to providing aid in war?
Photo: Norman Koroliuk

Between 1964 and 1973 some 58,000 US soldiers died in Vietnam. Henry Kissinger has been praised for ending the conflict through an agreement with  North Vietnam. But this was really just a surrender. Kissinger was a pragmatist who always looked for a short term “solution” to conflict. This made people feel better for the moment, but failed in the end.

Between 2001 and 2021,  2402 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan.

The U.S. decided to leave both countries and withdrew in a disorganized panic. The financial costs of the wars ran into the billions.

Conservatives have criticized these failures arguing that we failed to persevere sufficiently.  But this was not  the fundamental; issue at all. The causes in both cases was that the citizens of these countries were were philosophically ignorant and did not have the slightest understanding of or commitment to individual rights. 

The South Vietnamese government Vietnam was a hapless, traditional aristocracy in which few citizens had any great desire to support freedom.  They were no match for the North Vietnamese who were thoroughly indictrinated in Communism and obeyed orders to the death.

The Afgans were Islamists, a religion  that rejects reason and whose moral absolute was obedience to religious traditions. Most of those whom we tried to help fought for wages in order to escape mass poverty. Many Afgan women loved the chance to become educated but they had no power.

Now compare these wars with those in Israel and the Ukraine. As with Vietnam and Afghanistan, we gave them money, arms and training which they desperately needed. But we did not have to provide American soldiers or give up because the Israelis and Ukrainians are totally committed to rights and freedom. They were and are  willing to fight to the death to be free of tyranny. Israel has repelled repeated invasions for the last 70 years which were intended to annihilate it. The Ukraine has fought Russia, a much bigger and one of the most vicious countries in history, to a standstill while killing some 47,000 of the enemy. With our continued support both countries should win in the end.

What is the principle involved here? Do not sacrifice our soldiers, or provide aid to help countries that are not committed to the value of freedom.

But why should we help any countries? Out of self-interest, not altruism.

After failing twice when using our own troops to do all the fighting in primitive countries, the result failing allies who hold enlightenment values and who are willing to fight would mean we have no credibility as supporters of freedom. NATO would not survive without U.S. membership and very strong military.  This would open the door to the Islamists crushing Israel and then to China taking over the far east with no opposition.  As many have said, you need eternal vigilance to keep the world free.

Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation Emeritus at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Behavior, and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Society for I/O Psychology), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (OB Division), the J. M. Cattell Award (APS) and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Academy of Management. He, with Gary Latham, has spent over 50 years developing Goal Setting Theory, ranked No. 1 in importance among 73 management theories. He has published over 320 chapters, articles, reviews and notes, and has authored or edited 13 books including (w. Kenner) The Selfish Path to Romance, (w. Latham) New Directions in Goal Setting and Task Performance, and The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators. He is internationally known for his research on motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and other topics. His website is: EdwinLocke.com

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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