There is no better teacher than history.
As President Obama begins his own surge policy in Afghanistan, it is important that our leaders heed the lessons of history. Throughout our nation’s history, there is no more glaring failure in wartime than Vietnam.
President Obama would do well to consider President Ford’s folly in Cambodia before ordering his pre-ordained 2011 retreat.
As America was tailing it out of Vietnam, pro-American forces in Asia were consigned to their own brutal future of torture, murder and oppression. The “shining city on a hill” and “last best hope” of the world had left the building and in so doing, turned the lights out.
As South Vietnam was steamrolled by North Vietnam tanks, liberty died a slow and painful death as Communism took more lives. At the time U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger sent a letter to pro-American ally and leader of Cambodia, Sirik Matak. The letter offered to evacuate our ally from the certain death hurtling toward him by the recently appeased and seemingly unstoppable Commies.
Matak’s response is one of raw human courage, the likes of which we only see among our greatest of leaders. In a letter to Kissinger, Matak replied:
“I thank you very sincerely for your letter and your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave Cambodia in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would…[abandon] a people which have chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under the sky. [If I die here] I have committed only this mistake of believing you.”
When the newly emboldened Communists took Phnem Penh, Matak was shot in the stomach and left for dead. He took 3 days to slowly bleed to death.
By contrast, we now know that Soviet prisoner Natan Anatoly Sharansky heard the courage (or folly if you listened to liberal elites) of President Reagan’s words when he denounced the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” while in the Soviet prisons. Those words brought him hope and they were conveyed to his fellow prisoners as he tapped out Reagan’s courageous message in morse code on the bars of his cell.
America has an obligation to not abandon our allies in the face of brutal oppression.
Before the pre-ordained retreat of 2011 (and subsequent Taliban “surge”) begins, President Obama would do well to drink deep of the American courage demonstrated time and time again in the face of brutal regimes determined to crush liberty, instead of parroting one of America’s most embarrassing failures. The women and children of Afghanistan should not be abandoned to the same fate as Sirik Matak.
If there remains any doubt on the part of our president, he needs to resolve himself to the cause of liberty. He needs to understand America’s role in Afghanistan is the same as it has always been–one of liberation and not of conquest.
President Reagan’s speech celebrating the great World War II veterans of the battle of Normandy on June 6, 1984 made this point about America crystal clear:
“The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge–and pray God we have not lost it–that there is profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.”
Let there be no doubt from the White House to the villages of Afghanistan to the caves of Pakistan that America will stand for freedom–no matter the cost.