6:07: Laos, Lessons Not Learned

The headline below appeared at http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/, categorized under The Vietnam War, 1961. In addition to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, it also mentions Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy. So the plot of this mini-farce includes a communist, a republican, and a democrat. Bases covered.

Kennedy and Khrushchev Agree on Neutrality for Laos

President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union, meeting in Vienna, strike a bargain to support a neutral and independent Laos. Cold War superpowers play chess with a sovereign nation.

Laos had been the scene of an ongoing communist insurgency by the Pathet Lao guerrillas. This is all taking place around the same time as the Cuban Revolution. Nations on either side of the globe were deciding amongst themselves (yes, fighting) what form of government and what economic system they wanted to live by.

In July 1959, the North Vietnamese Politburo had formed Group 959 to furnish weapons and supplies to the Pathet Lao. Eisenhower dreaded the spread of communism anywhere, and I believe he felt Laos, like Vietnam, was part of his domino theory that if one Southeast Asian country fell into communism then surrounding states would do the same.

By 1960, the Pathet Lao was threatening the survival of the Royal Lao government. I am aware of no treaty that tied the U.S. to Laos. What was an issue for the area was whether smaller nations would embrace Chinese or Russian communism. America’s presence in the region, as I see it now, had no peaceful purpose and, rather, contributed significantly to the loss of life, including, of course, American lives.

On January 19, 1961, when President Eisenhower was about to leave office, he told Kennedy that Laos “was the key to the entire area of Southeast Asia.” He was wrong.

Kennedy considered intervening in Laos with U.S. combat troops, but decided against it. Thank goodness.

Nevertheless, the American president did not want to lose Laos to the communists. Like Vietnam, this was a civil war going on in Laos. It was their fight. Do we not have similar internal struggles going on in Muslim countries today? And yet again America sends an endless parade of troops to wars, conflicts, insurgencies into the midst of bellicose Sunni and Shia zealots and, depending on one’s point of view, apostates. All that comes from these interventions is perpetual death and destruction.

Eventually a 14-nation conference would convene in Geneva and an agreement was signed in July 1962, proclaiming Laos neutral. A meaningless gesture. And America was not yet openly sending combat troops to Vietnam. I wonder what would have happened if the convention that resulted in the declaration of Laos’ neutrality also included discussions on the mirror situation occurring in Vietnam.

This took care of the situation in Laos for the time being, but both the communists and the United States soon ignored the declared neutrality of the area. Surprise, surprise. To be “ignorant,” i.e., to not know is one thing; to “ignore” is another. To ignore, as used in present context, is to subscribe to the “might makes right” theory. This, unfortunately for us, leads to actions like those approved by Bush and probably ordered by Cheney at Guantanamo Bay.

The U.S.A. has not learned anything from its insertion of itself into the internal affairs of other sovereign nations. Our presence, because of our overwhelming military might, only leads to a higher death toll; and more and more that toll includes civilians. It is time to extract our soldiers from places we should not have deployed them. It is time to stop arming the world with made-in-America wea


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