A HISTORICAL OBSERVATION OF SOME MERIT, THE SOURCE NOTWITHSTANDING
I have to begin by remarking I'm not in the habit of paying much attention to anything Gabriel Kolko
has to say. Having once been forced to wade through one too many of his excessively shrill Marxist diatribes in grad school by one of his more uncritical admirers, I've done my best ever since to ignore Kolko's work.
Nevertheless, HNN ran a piece by Kolko this week
that had a section that struck me as insightful and worth generalizing:"The Saigon army commanded by Nguyen van Thieu also was far stronger than their adversaries. At the beginning of 1975 they had over three times as much artillery, twice as many tanks and armored cars, 1400 aircraft and a virtual monopoly of the air. They had a two-to-one superiority of combat troops – roughly 700,000 to 320,000. The Communist leadership in early 1975 expected the war to last as much as a decade longer. I was in South Vietnam at the end of 1973 and in Hanoi all of April 1975 until the last four days of the war, when I was in Hue and Danang in the south. I am certain the Communists were almost as surprised as the Americans that victory was to be theirs so quickly and easily; I told them from late 1973 onward to expect an end to the war by the Saigon regime capsizing without a serious fight – much as the Kuomintang had in China after 1947. As a future Politburo member later confessed, they regarded my prediction as "crazy." They were completely unprepared to run the entire nation, and their chaotic, inconsistent economic policies since 1975 have shown.The Americans and Communists alike shared a common myopia regarding wars. What happens in the political, social, and economic spheres are far more decisive than military equations. That was true in China in the late 1940s, in Vietnam in 1975, and it is also the case in Iraq today. ...South Vietnam had always been corrupt since the U.S. arbitrarily created it in 1955 despite the Geneva Accords provision that there should be an election to reunify what was historically and ethnically one nation. Thieu, who was a Catholic in a dominantly Buddhist country, retained the loyalty of his generals and bureaucracy by allowing them to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. The average Vietnamese, whether they were for or against the Communists, had no loyalty whatsoever to the Thieu regime that was robbing them. After 1973, soldiers' salaries declined with inflation and they began living off the land. The urban middle class was increasingly alienated, the Thieu regime's popularity fell with it. It admitted there were 32,000 political prisoners in its jails, but other estimates were far higher."
Corruption eats away at the legitimacy of any state. If you recall your Machiavelli, a man will sooner forgive the Prince the murder of his father than the robbery of his patrimony. Formerly, the totalitarian nature of our adversaries kept their corruption within bounds. As long as Stalinist state terror was operating or the memory of such experiences remained fresh the level of corruption remained petty, small things done, as the Russians used to say, " na levo" - " on the left".
No longer. Corruption destroyed many of the post-colonial African states and is eating away at Russia, Mexico and China
to name just a few potential members of the Core who could retreat into Gap status if corruption is not checked. Pundita
, has been at pains to explain how Mexico's corrupt system is harming American interests
but Mexico is merely the worst case that happens to be nearby. The Oil-for-Bribes scandal demonstrated that solid members of the Core as well as the UN and EU are are starting to succumb.
A cancer left untreated, grows. We are not immune.