Vietnam Revisited?

Question: When was the last time Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush agreed on anything other than their incessant desire to be President? Answer: Never... until recently when they all put politics aside to support the deployment of American troops in Bosnia. Still, an unprecedented lack of support has accompanied U.S. soldiers marching into this troubled land. Historically, impassioned would-be American war heroes flood recruiting stations as bands play patriotic songs loudly. That is the way it was after Fort Sumtner, Pearl Harbor, and even in the beginning of the Vietnam conflict. Only when brave soldiers return home in body bags does war fervor begin to wane and the band stop playing. There is no music as the first of 20,000 U.S. troops are dragged into Bosnia's terrible clutches. Relatives are agonizing over young Americans shoving off for the Balkans where a holiday season in the mountains promises to be less than festive. Almost no one speaks of answering duty's call with the pride and patriotism of the past. In fact, only 36% of Americans favor U.S. troop deployment according to current polls. Why are we there? It that mess any of our business, anyway? Didn't we learn a lesson from Vietnam? We are there because we have no choice. None... unless allowing another Holocaust is an alternative. The lack of American support is largely due the political apathy and general distrust of government that plagues our national consciousness. It's difficult to dispute the truth. Thousands, maybe millions of innocent civilians will be slaughtered in this Balkan region if we look the other way; 250,000 have already perished in Bosnia since 1991. Recently released Christian Science Monitor reporter David Rohde was captured by Serb rebels while photographing mass grave sites in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Rohde reported and photographed grisly scenes far from any fighting that revealed human legs sticking out from fresh diggings. Femur bones were also scattered among personal items such as shoes, piles of clothing, and photos with Muslim names on them. Can you in good conscience ignore thousands of innocent men, women, and children plowed into open pits by tractors after mass executions? At least six such sites were documented or observed by Rohde. For those who lived during the extermination of millions of Jews in Europe, this scenario should seem all too familiar. Auschwitz may come to mind, but Bosnia ain't Vietnam. Our troops are there to keep the peace, not make peace. In Vietnam we chose to side with the corrupt South Vietnam government in fighting against the not-so-angelic Viet Cong. At the end of that conflict, it was unclear why our troops were even there. In Bosnia we are there to enforce the end of a war, not choose sides. The motive for an American presence in the Balkans is simple -- save many innocent lives. Even if Americans do not all realize it, Europeans know that a U.S. presence in Bosnia is the last hope to prevent the "ethnic cleansing" of millions of people. The earlier United Nations implementation of mostly European peace-keeping troops into the Balkan war clearly was a failure. It wasn't until American bombing attacks became serious that rebel Serbs were forced to honor a cease-fire. It wasn't until President Clinton guaranteed U.S. troops to enforce it that all warring factions in Bosnia agreed to the peace settlement. Obviously, deployment of the U.S. military is not without great risk to their well-being. With that bleak possibility in mind, Congress has committed our troops to leave the Balkans if the war flares up again. Meanwhile, with American involvement, there is finally hope to end the bloodshed in the killing fields of Bosnia.


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