When history is written several centuries down the road, there will be little room to discuss nuance or particular battles or missteps.
Indeed, the entire synopsis of the amazing and complex 20th Century will be boiled down to a few bullet points. Remarkable advancements in technology and medicine, and the worldwide epic struggle of democratic self-determination versus totalitarianism — first in the form of fascism, and then with the spread of communism.
While historians like to consider themselves morally agnostic, there is no escaping the fact that this was a battle between good and evil.
Nazi atrocities led to the death of 50 million people. That number was exceeded by Stalin, Mao, and their successors.
History will show that, but for the American soldier and the resolve of the American people to vanquish these threats, the world today would be a much bleaker place.
In fact, without American persistence, the experiment of modern democracy born in this nation would have been a footnote in world history.
We forget today how aggressive the communist ideology and goals were in the 20th century — it was nothing short of world domination and the extermination of the type of individual freedoms and rights we enjoy in Western democracies.
And they were willing to spend endlessly and sacrifice huge swaths of their population to spread their repressive regimes by force anywhere they perceived vulnerability.
Callahan, whose writings I generally admire, derided the “Domino Theory” as malarkey. As did many who criticized our efforts to stop the Communist North from overrunning South Vietnam. But how can anyone come to that conclusion when the communists themselves declared that their goal was a united global proletariat?
Did the communists stop when they took Saigon? No, they consumed Laos and Cambodia as well, leaving 3 million murdered along the way.
So, was this a lost war because we didn’t stop the communists from advancing? To answer that, you first have to address what our goals were in Vietnam in the first place. Many leftists chalk it up to American imperialism. We craved their resources, whatever they were, or just a boost in defense stocks. But our goals were much less about South Vietnam than they were about China and the Soviets, the engines behind communist hegemony.
What if we did not show resolve in Korea when communists were on the march?
Today, we celebrate the fact that we preserved freedom for South Korea. A starker contrast between good and evil, or prosperity and desolation, could not be found than by examining the two nations on the 38th parallel.
So if Korea was a noble cause, is it fair to say that Vietnam was not, just because it ended differently?
What was most important was the message it communicated to the communists: Your agenda for snuffing out democracy will not succeed — it will be met with American might.
And while we may not win every battle along the way, our ultimate goal is to relegate communism to the ashbin of history.
Ultimately, we won that war. Vietnam, with all its carnage and missteps, was part of that.
I was a preteen when the war was winding down and I can’t say I would have wanted my older brother or a cousin to fight there.
And indeed the draft was discriminatory to those who were uneducated, poor, and unconnected.
But for those who fought, I say thank you. You played a major role in America’s victory in the Cold War.
Your efforts were not in vain. Hundreds of millions around the planet are more free and prosperous today because of your sacrifice.
Steve Levy is president of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County Executive, as a New York State Assemblyman, and host of “The Steve Levy Radio Show.”