When George W. Bush was pushing the Iraq war, the concern from some of the left was: is this another Vietnam? By “another Vietnam”, most Americans mean “a really long war with lots of US casualties that in the end we lose”. And there was fear in 2003 and 2004 that Iraq would end up that way.
The Bush administration pushed back with absurd assertions that we’d be done in 6 months and “Mission Accomplished” photo ops. Obama finally fixed the problem by pulling US troops out of Iraq a couple of years ago, at which point the “ghost of Vietnam” went away. But there is another aspect of the Vietnam debacle that I think does apply to the Iraq mess. Continue reading
In the Jakarta Post’s January 2014 “Outlook” section, the deputy defense minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin argued that threats to the state are no longer solely military, but rather Indonesian’s good citizens should be alert to threats to the state’s ideology, economy and culture. Indonesian military commander Gen. Moeldoko argued in a speech in February that the greatest threat to Indonesia is neoliberalism, particularly the domination of foreign corporations.
These are not unfamiliar arguments, particularly in Southeast Asia, where “ideology and culture” are sacrosanct. In Thailand, the tripartite state ideology is “Religion, King, Thainess.” In Indonesia the basis of democracy is Pancasila, the five principles—belief in one God, just and civilized humanity, unity of the State, democracy through consensus, and social justice. These are lofty goals, to be sure, but the students in my Democracy and Human Rights class at Universitas Andalas in West Sumatra, Indonesia, tell me that these are attainable goals, and could be met if only they could be left alone, without the expectations of Western powers and interference in “Indonesian” democracy.
Watching the events unfold in Ukraine, Thailand and Venezuela from the vantage point of my Indonesian students has been enlightening.