Just yesterday, Colonel S.P. Scheller tendered his resignation in a public letter to the Secretary of the Navy, citing “a lack of trust and confidence in your ability to lead”.
The parallels between the chaos in Afghanistan and the fall of Saigon are eerily similar, but Vietnam also becomes a five-decades-ago point of reference on how things are much different today. The circumstance that even made this horrific carnage and chaos happen was facilitated by a constant drumbeat from a culture that shifted over the decades, from promoting education, honor and brotherhood to one that downplays history and focuses on feelings and self-absorption, leading many to ignore matters around national security and at times, even be quick to vilify those who protect us.
Important lessons from history, from wars past, have been quickly forgotten in 2021. Honor was once a priority, and in the face of adversity, cowardice was the last option. These days, it is tolerated, excused and sometimes even exalted, when civilians are left behind to fend for themselves. There was shame when this happened in Vietnam.
Today, only those directly affected seem to care. When our military, our last bastion of traditionalism, is close to falling, we know our fundamental values have shifted dramatically. It is ok for the military to leave first and the honor of protecting women and children was a mere afterthought.
I spoke to a Marine a few years ago stationed at Camp Pendleton about how other countries’ philosophies are compared to the United States. The biggest difference was how different societies valued life. In countries like China, in contrast, the military teaches its soldiers how to die. In the United States, we teach our men and women how to survive, live and thrive.
During the Vietnam War, while natives saw the horrendous loss of life in the fight for democracy, they simultaneously also saw the importance of unity, honor and brotherhood. The term “no man left behind” was coined much earlier than the Vietnam War, but it became commonly used during that era.
Post-Vietnam, families flew POW/MIA/KIA flags in front of their homes in remembrance of all of the men we could not bring back home and we vowed to never do that again. The POW/MIA flag was created for the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia and officially recognized by the United States Congress in conjunction with the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, “as the symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation.”
Fast forward to Afghanistan 2021 and those lessons have been forgotten. That same Marine I spoke to that night was routed to Kabul to evacuate Americans and our Allies including thousands of those holding SIV’s (Special Immigrant Visas). SIV’s are the heroes who risked their lives to help us in war, while a refugee is a generic term for your average person that did not go this extra step. This distinction is important because the Biden administration has prioritized random people, refugees, from the southern border, while neglecting the SIVs in Afghanistan who risked their lives for our values. But his assignment was too little, too late, as we assess the results.
Our brave Marines, soldiers, and sailors live by the motto that no man (or woman) would be left behind. But it wasn’t them that left our friends and allies behind. These directions came from higher up, our Commander-in-Chief and Secretary of State, who couldn’t be bothered with their responsibility to keep our troops, civilians and those who fought on our side, safe. Or to even make it a priority. Instead, the need to virtue signal that we were ending a war and pulling troops out, ironically, led to more deaths and chaos. Maybe it’s time we reassess our values and priorities.
Military lives matter too. SIV hero lives matter too. This costly blunder would have been avoided if our priorities were kept straight.
Marc Ang (email@example.com) is the President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Orange County, co-chair of “Recall Gascon Now”, was the Director of Outreach for the “No on 16” campaign, a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of AsianIndustryB2B who specializes in race relations and the minority conservative experience. His book “Minority Retort” will be released in late 2021.