Ron Paul's Unlearned Lessons from Vietnam, Part 1: Trading with the Enemy
I was an Air Force Flight surgeon on active duty from about 1963. One personal experience I had that really made me start to think about the war was that I was doing many physicals on Army warrant officers who were seeking to become helicopter pilots. I don't know if you remember, but in the early years of the Vietnam war many of our helicopters were shot down. That made me think seriously about my role in the Vietnam fiasco. In one way I was not directly participating, but indirectly I was. As the years have gone by, I have become much more fascinated with foreign policy as a result of that experience and it has played a role in leading me to totally reject our insane foreign policy which causes us to get involved in places like Vietnam.
- Ron Paul on his service in the Air Force. If this experience is the foundation of his foreign policy views, it would be useful to step back and analyze his policies in the context of the Vietnam war.
One such area is the policy of trading with the enemy.
Here is what he has to say on the subject regarding Iran (Note: I'm excluding his usual religious-like recital of the enemy's talking points about how the enemy is right and anything bad they do is "understandable" because the American Great Satan left them no choice: "U.S. foreign policy has boxed Iran into a corner where they may view development of a nuclear weapon as the only way to maintain sovereignty." This time he even went out of his way to claim the International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report says one thing, when it clearly says the exact opposite - but that shouldn't surprise anyone):
Nothing promotes peace better than free trade. Countries that trade with each other generally do not make war on each other, as both countries gain economic benefits they do not want to jeopardize. ... Trade is much more profitable. Also, trade and friendship apply much more effective persuasion to encourage better behavior, as does leading by example.
Dr. Paul may be unaware of this, but he has seen the evidence against this policy in action during the war in Vietnam.
Here is how it went down. In May 1984 "Hanoi publicly confirmed the decision that really started the Vietnam War. A cover story in the English-language monthly Vietnam Courier detailed the 'absolute secret' decision made by the Lao Dong Party on May 19, 1959 — more than five years before the Gulf of Tonkin incident — to open the Ho Chi Minh Trail and start sending tens of thousands of troops and countless tons of military equipment into South Vietnam to overthrow its government." It was to stop the communist takeover of Indochina by force that got America involved.*
Through surveillance of the Ho Chi Minh trail - the very cause and lifeblood of the Communists' terrorist war in South Vietnam, and the reason why so many American helicopters were being shot down - pilots saw that the communist equipment was being moved south by trucks. Upon farther analysis, as detailed in Ronald Reagan's favorite newspaper Human Events (September 9, 1972), Antony Sutton of the Hoover Institution determined that those trucks were Soviet. He explained:
"Up to 1960 the largest motor vehicle plant in the USSR was at Gorki. Gorki produces many of the trucks American pilots see on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Gorki produces the chassis for the GAZ-69 rocket launcher used against Israel. Gorki produces the Soviet jeep and half-a-dozen other military vehicles. And Gorki was built by the Ford Motor Co. - as 'peaceful' trade." [emphasis mine]
Reconnaissance photos show Soviet trucks on the Ho Chi Minh trail
In his autobiography, Victor Reuther, who, along with his brothers, founded the United Auto Workers and had worked in the Gorki plant in the 1930s, relates the story behind it:
Almost simultaneously with the start of the first Five Year Plan in October 1928, a [Soviet] delegation was sent to the United States to explore the possibilities of contracting for the construction and operation of an auto plant in Russia. The mission aborted when the chairman defected to Berlin and was never heard of again, but later in the year Valery I. Meschlauk appeared with a new technical group. He seems to have been an extremely purposeful man, and he made a deep impression on Charles E. Sorenson, the production manager at Ford. In 1929 the latter was sent Russia to survey the situation before the agreement was negotiated.
Henry Ford was deeply committed supplying practical assistance to the Soviet people, and not just for commercial ends. This was the period when he was actively promoting international peace. He accepted the reality that the less-industrialized countries would soon not be content merely to supply raw materials to the industrialized nations and then buy them back in finished products. He believed it was wise to help Russia industrialize. His architect friend and collaborator on the Gorky project, Albert Kahn, made this quite clear: "Our own attitude has been this - that we are not interested in their politics. We feel, as Mr. Ford has so well expressed it, that that which makes for the upbuilding of Russia is bound to prove a benefit to all nations, America included."
Victor and Walter Reuther in the Soviet Union, where they worked at the Gorki plant
Did trade with the enemy promote peace? Even when it was ongoing? Here is a hint - at the same time this was going on, starting in 1928, the Soviets were formulating a plot to orchestrate a separatist uprising among blacks in the South in order to create a Moscow-controled "Soviet Negro Republic". Therefore, I think it's fair to say that the building of the Gorki plant didn't make the enemy any less inclined to try and destroy us; on the contrary, as previously mentioned, the product of that plant was used to kill Americans in Vietnam.
Which begs the question - what would Iran do in that situation? What help would you like to sell to our enemies, Dr. Paul?
* "Those Americans who went to Vietnam fought for freedom, a truly noble cause. It is a cause that continues. You and your comrades-in-arms who faced danger and death in Vietnam fought as well as any Americans have fought in our Nation's history. Vietnam was not so much a war as it was one long battle in an ongoing war--the war in defense of freedom which is still under assault. This battle was lost not by those brave American and South Vietnamese troops who were waging it but by political misjudgments and strategic failure at the highest levels of government." - Ronald Reagan, writing to a Vietnam Vet and school teacher, 1988
(Imagine what Ron Paul would have written: "The Vietcong were the good guys. And this whole Cold War thing is America's fault. What Stalin did was understandable").