Ukraine: Obama’s Vietnam War?

6 Feb

By Mike McGee February 6, 2015

I am a Vietnam combat veteran, and I have spent a lot of time since then studying the history of the Vietnam War. If the United States decides to provide lethal arms assistance to the Ukraine at any time in the future, it will be the beginning of another proxy war with Russia, and will likely end as badly as our involvement in Vietnam.

“The Vietnam War was a proxy war between the United States, the Soviet Union…. and communist China.” This is a deep truth stated by Michael Lind, currently a senior director at the New America Foundation in Washington.

A simple definition of “proxy war” from the Oxford Dictionaries is: A war instigated by a major power where the major power does not itself become involved. “Instigation” would include providing lethal weaponry and advisors to a country that is not a major power.

The business-oriented Bloomberg website, at took a firm stand just a few days ago against the US equipping the current Ukrainian government with lethal weapons to oppose the Russian involvement in attempts at Ukrainian division, in an article entitled “Why Arming Ukraine Will Backfire.” And yes, arming Ukraine will definitely backfire on the US.

The Bloomberg reporter said: “The bottom line remains that the U.S. and its allies aren’t willing to fight Russia over Ukraine, and Ukraine’s interests aren’t served by escalating a fight that it’s almost certain to lose…. The sooner Ukraine’s leaders understand this, the better.”

How is the proposed US escalation in the Ukraine in any way different from the beginnings of the Vietnam War, when we supplied arms and support to the puppet South Vietnamese government from 1960 to 1965? It’s not. In 1965 the assessment that South Vietnam was almost certain to lose the proxy war against the Soviet Union and China brought on the next logical if erroneous escalation. The proxy war turned in 1965 into a US-fought non-proxy war with the intent to defeat the communist super-powers and prevent the wrongly predicted spread of communism through other Asian nations like dominos falling.

We need to remember the long history of the Vietnam War. Shoring up a weak government which had little will to fight among its soldiers, for at least five years from 1960 to 1965, was a proxy war. This war eventually led to the deaths of over 50,000 dedicated and patriotic American soldiers who came to the country with a dedicated will to fight. Was it worth it? History tells us that it definitely was not worth it.

I’d like to see many Vietnam veterans and historians contact the White House and their senators and representatives and the Secretary of State with the message that a proxy war by the US in the Ukraine can only bring sorrow and destruction to the United States. Secretary of State John Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, seems to have once again forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. The parallels are just too definite and predictable. The United States does not need another proxy war.

I suspect that one reason the current conflict inside Ukraine is not going so well is that Ukrainian soldiers have divided loyalties which make it difficult for them to confront and kill other Ukrainians. Not only are these “rebels” their own countrymen, but also at least half the population, and thus half the Ukrainian Army, leans heavily in favor of Russia, and would not be unhappy if Russia takes over the entire eastern half of the country.

This situation is almost identical to the lack of will to fight the Viet Cong, among the South Vietnamese military during 1960-1965. Much of the South Vietnamese military, from commanders to foot soldiers, really didn’t care if the country was united under the governance of North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong were their own friends and neighbors.

The greater problem – unfortunate and callous as the truth may seem – is that the US really has no national interest in the fate of Ukraine. It is a small and relatively poor country that has been a part of Russia since the 17th Century. The continuing “independence” of Ukraine has existed only since 1991. The nation is not a member of NATO, and thus the US is not bound by treaty to defend the sovereignty of Ukraine. Actually it will make little or no difference to the US even if all of Ukraine became a part of Russia.

Let the Ukrainian people seek self-determination of their own fate. My prediction is that with self-determination, only the eastern half of the country will become a part of Russia, and the western part of the country will retain its independence. It is horrific to watch the Ukrainian people become pawns on a chess board where the major powers are controlling the game.

I am a loyal and patriotic American citizen and I have always been a strong supporter of President Obama, who I believe will go down in history as one of our greater presidents. He has been able to maintain our country in a steady and growing condition of stable prosperity, and he has also steadied our foreign policy, despite the major crises he inherited. He reminds me of the quiet and unflappable leadership of Dwight Eisenhower.

My concern is that he may go off the reservation with regard to Ukraine and our relations with Russia, and thereby leave a new crisis for the next administration to resolve. I hope John Kerry will be able to advise him on the folly of a proxy war with Russia. Such a war could taint the last two years of his presidency.

Vladimir Putin is a strong autocrat who is in charge of an economically weak and small nation, with a widely scattered population of less than 150 million. He is not a threat to the US, and he is not a threat to the NATO nations. Neither is Russia. Russia has its hands full trying to stabilize a precarious economy and manage the oligarchs who have stolen billions from the economy and put it into their private pockets without regard to the fate of the country as a whole. In some ways Russia is a pathetic and unstable country, requiring strong leadership at the top just to keep from collapsing.

We need to reduce or eliminate US-led sanctions against Russia. If Putin falls he will only be replaced by someone much worse: that is the lesson of Russian history. Forcing the economy into a recession can only strengthen the hand of those in Russia who have much more corrupt intentions for the nation.
The US needs Russia as an ally and a partner in international relations, rather than as an angry opponent. Russia as an ally could help in the battle to isolate and defeat ISIS, since the ISIS philosophy threatens Russia as surely as it threatens the US.

If we stop trying to destroy Russia and seek to restore its status as an ally, it is entirely likely that through diplomacy we could create a new partner in our fight against extremist terrorism.

Edward Goldberg, a professor at Baruch College and the New York University Center for Global Affairs, said “Ukraine is a mistake for Moscow. Even if [Putin] gets Eastern Ukraine, what has he won? He will have pushed western Ukraine into the arms of the EU. He will have brought NATO back to life. He will have re-invigorated Germany as a power — the major thing Russia has feared since the end of World War II. See more at:

The consequences described by Prof. Goldberg are hardly devastating to the US and NATO. Hey, Obama, leave Russia alone. We don’t need no lethal weapons; we don’t need no stupid sanctions. We really don’t need to fight over a country that the US has no national interest in preserving. Let it go, let it go, let it go.

From Copyright © 2015 by Michael H. McGee. All commercial rights reserved. Non-commercial or news and commentary site re-use or re-posting is encouraged. Please feel free to share all or part, hopefully with attribution.

2 Responses to “Ukraine: Obama’s Vietnam War?”

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  1. America Needs Russia as an Ally | mcgeehome - January 14, 2016

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