BECAUSE IT IS RIGHTbyCapt. Dennis W. Lid

To those peoples in the hutsand villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, wepledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required… because it is right. (1)

Pickup a newspaper any day of the week and chances are you will find at least onearticle on recent developments in Vietnam. Most of these articles are pessimisticabout the way things are going over there. It doesn’t matter what the subjectis, whether it be the present political regime, the Buddhist and studentdemonstrations, a Viet Cong ambush, you name it, the theme remains the same— we are losing ground; the situation in Vietnam is gettingworse. Along with the pessimistictone of these articles there is a simultaneous outburst from a few babblingpoliticians demanding that something be done to change the course of events inVietnam and turn them in our favor. “Let’s go all the way in orget all the way out . . . .” Other people in high places pick up thechorus by parroting the same line or by expounding some equally ridiculousalternative. “It’s timefor peace talks and neutralization of Vietnam.” All this is reminiscent of a poementitled “The Tom Toms Beat and the Shimmy Began.” The net result of these articles andstatements seems to indicate, more than anything else, obvious characterweaknesses of the American people — American impatience andmisunderstanding.

Isit possible that we Americans have lost sight of our goal in South Vietnam? Isit possible that we have aborted those good intentions which initially led usto give assistance to the people of South Vietnam? Is it even a remotepossibility that Americans have so quickly grown weary of that tedious strugglein Southeast Asia that we are ready to give up the fight and settle forsomething less than victory? When are we going to realize that there is noquick and easy solution to the dilemma which faces us in Vietnam? What’smore, how can we expect the South Vietnamese to solve their own problems aslong as we continue to force-feed them with our way of thinking, our vacillatingpolicy, our priority of tasks and other incessant demands? Surprising as it mayseem, the Vietnamese are a proud, individualistic people who have their ownlikes and dislikes and their own way of doing things. Unfortunately for usAmericans, some Vietnamese’ desires and methods are not in accord withwhat we think they should be. It is true that both our nations have a commondesire to defeat the communists and keep South Vietnam a free and independentcountry. Their desire to defeat the Communist Viet Cong stems from the factthat they want to be left alone to determine their own destiny. Quite bluntly,this means that they don’t want to be coerced by the west any more thanthey want to be pushed about by the communists. Nor are they willing to be usedas an international pawn in a gambit by the west.

The South Vietnamese have been fighting the communists for the pasttwenty-five years. They are weary, but they continue the fight. Their earth hastasted the blood of thousands of their own people who have fallen in thatstruggle. They know that thousands more may fall, and still they fight midstpolitical chaos, social turmoil, and. economic stagnation. Their purposeremains firm. They will fight the Communist Viet Cong to the death. Theircourage cannot be assailed, nor can their patience be denied. If only ourcourage and patience could but match their own.

Why is itthat we must not fail in Vietnam? We must succeed primarily for those“peoples in the huts and villages;” (2) to those whom wehave sought to help. The little people who till the soil, who harvest the crop,who tend the shops–those people are Vietnam. Those same people are most oftenthought of least. They are pushed into the background until we feel the need ofjustifying our presence in Vietnam either to others who challenge our right tobe present or to ourselves to still our own groaning conscience.

There areother reasons which dictate the need for success in Vietnam. The “DominoTheory” expresses the belief that if Vietnam is lost to the communists achain reaction will be initiated threatening the eventual loss of all of Laos,Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and possibly even India. We cannot allow thistheory to become a proven fact. To go a step further, we cannot afford defeatin any measure, not even in compromise. Laos illustrates the fa1cy ofcompromise through neutralization and a coalition government. The seeds oftotal defeat through compromise with the communists are already taking root inLaos. American prestige as the free world leader is beginning to dwindle. Canwe afford the loss of still more international prestige? Can we afford toneglect our moral responsibility to those whom we have promised to assist? Ourpolicy toward a people who struggle to remain free, and who ask our assistancein retaining their freedom, must never vacillate. Circumstances change, buttruth and good remain constant. If our policy be directed here, then it neednever change.

Inthe final analysis, then, what is it that ails the American conscience? What dowe most fear with regard to the present situation in Vietnam? Is it that we fearlearning something from the people we assume to assist and advise? Is it theloss of international prestige, of more American lives, of peace, or is it a combinationof all these and more? And what might be the ultimate price? Might it be thecost of freedom for others as well as ourselves, the expense of the truth andthe right, or the loss of dignity, honor, and self-respect? Isn‘t it timeto take a firm, unwavering stand both at home and abroad — to perseverein that stand by being patient, tolerant and understanding yet strong anddetermined? Isn’t it time to make our policy clear to the entire world inunequivocal terms? And if done, what will be our reward?

Therewards will be many, but not material in nature. Neither riches norpossessions will be our return. Good wishes and thanks from those we help mayeven be lacking. Perhaps their cooperation also will be lost. What, then, willour compensation be? Perhaps our gains will be marked only by the qualities ofright conscience, respect and silent admiration, and by the knowledge that wehave done something good because it was right to do so. Isn’t this rewardenough? We will have answered the “call to bear the burden of a longtwilight struggle, year in and year out, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribu1ation– . . . a struggle against the common enemies of man:tyranny, poverty, disease, and waritself.” (3)

Written in 1964 by CPT Dennis W. Lid

Roster #107, Adv Gp #13, Car #1

(1) John F. Kennedy – Inaugural Address,20 January 1961

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

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