Vietnam remembered?

Joseph C. Harsch again gives wise counsel when he writes of ``Lessons from Vietnam,'' April 17. He reminds us of the hazards of a colonial war, and if the President fails to get his military aid for the contras, there will be temptations to enter US forces into Central America to oust the Sandinistas -- a tragic mistake. Although the US should resist Marxist advances in this hemisphere, why do we so often choose means which augment the misery and oppression that have bred communism's appeal in Latin America? Rev. Thomas Niccolls Hiram, Ohio Mr. Harsch's column was fascinating, not so much for its recycling of the Dulles Doctrine as for the illumination it casts on the intellectual bankruptcy that has dogged American conservative political thought for the last 40 years.

While admitting that the Vietnam war was a mistake, he seems to argue that colonial wars of aggression, in which he places Vietnam, are legitimate instruments of foreign policy in suitable circumstances, citing the ancient Romans and modern British as role models for their mastery of the art. He ignores that it was the heavy costs of such wars that led directly to the destruction of Rome and of the modern British Empire, independent of whether such wars were considered ``justified'' or not.

Conservatives might find it a refreshing change of pace to lay aside their fervid rhetoric and mangled histories to ask just what advantage this country has gained from two generations of more or less continuous involvement in overt and covert military escapades considered legitimate exercises to serve what is claimed to be our national interests. If we are to learn from history, including the Vietnam war, it might be that in the real world, the ultimate price of continued military adventurism, no matter what its ideological underpinnings, is self-destruction. Samuel R. Thornton Fairfield, Neb.

Much is being written about Vietnam during the 10th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. This should further the important process of knowing what to do with regard to third-world countries.

I doubt if US leaders will continue to remember much about Vietnam. That would have to compete too hard with the notion Kevin Phillips has pointed out in ``The political legacy of Vietnam,'' April 2, that ``antipatriotism simply doesn't pay in US politics.'' Unfortunately, in the context of Vietnam, this seems to apply to any negative reaction regarding involvement in third-world countries, irrespective of the individuality or needs of any country. Our government has mostly forgotten about the Indians -- once our enemy, now nations within our nation. If we can't relate to them, why would we care to remember Vietnam? Walter Robertson Chinle, Ariz.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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