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Friday, September 14, 2007

The Domino Theory

I watched President Bush on TV the other day. I was wondering where his buddy was hiding. Ahh, here he is ...

According to the Washington Post Vice President Dick Cheney has some words of advice on Iraq [Cheney: chaos if U.S. pulls out too soon from Iraq].
If U.S. and coalition forces left Iraq before Iraqis could defend themselves, moderates would be "crushed," extremists would push the country into "chaos," and competing factions including groups backed by Iran "would unloose an all-out war, with the violence unlikely to be contained within Iraq," Cheney said.

"The ensuing carnage would further destabilize the Middle East and magnify the threat to our friends throughout the region," he said.
Now, where have I heard that before. Google is my friend ....

Here it is. It's called the Domino Theory.
The domino theory was a mid-20th century foreign policy theory, promoted by the government of the United States, that speculated that if one land in a region came under the influence of communism, then the surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect. The domino effect suggests that some change, small in itself, will cause a similar change nearby, which then will cause another similar change, and so on in linear sequence, by analogy to a falling row of dominoes standing on end. The domino theory was used by successive United States administrations during the Cold War to justify American intervention around the world.

Referring to communism in America and Mexico, Eisenhower vocalized the theory:
"Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the "falling domino" principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences."
It worked before. Americans stayed in Viet Nam for years because of the Domino Theory. Eventually 58,000 soldiers died and another 350,000 were wounded. Between one and two million Vietnamese citizens died. And the dominos didn't fall when America pulled out.

But who cares about history?


  1. And the dominos didn't fall when America pulled out.

    True enough. And it's nice to see someone recognize that the USA didn't lose the war in Vietnam so much as simply abandon it.

    Parallels between Vietnam circa 1970 and Iraq circa 2007 are difficult to draw, however, since Iraq is not a) divided in two and b) one half is not threatened by imminent invasion from the other half.

    While Cheney's comments are certainly reminiscent of cold-war era Domino Theory, I don't think the analogy can be pushed very far - IF the USA pulls completely out of Iraq, AND IF Iraq then collapses into lawlessness and warlordism, AND IF the current government of Iran gains considerable regional and global influence as a result, that would be tragic (in my opinion), but not evidence either for or against a resurrected Domino Theory involving Islamic Fundamentalism (or something) in place of Communism.

    If Iraq falls into chaos (worse than it is already), is there any serious risk that, say, Syria will also collapse? I agree that in this case the Domino Theory (version 2.0) seems not to hold.

  2. And the dominos didn't fall when America pulled out.

    They didn't? Let's see, the "domino theory" as applied to Southeast Asia usually named Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam as the primary dominoes.

    Vietnam -- went fully communist after Hanoi conquered South Vietnam, has stayed that way ever since, suffering all the ills of a Third World communist regime

    Laos - went communist when the Pathet Lao seized power with Communist-Vietnamese backing, has been a communist country ever since, suffering all the ills of a Third World communist regime

    Cambodia - the communist Khmer Rouge seized power in 1973; 'nuff said about that.

    But who cares about history?

    I really don't think you want me to answer that...

  3. Wolfwalker,

    I think you know very well that the Domino Effect was not just referring to Laos and Cambodia. Those countries were in play almost from the beginning.

    The major threat was that Thailand, Malaysia, Burma, and the Philippines would be lost to the evil communists.

    Furthermore, the fear-mongering was based on the assumption that the countries would be far worse off if America pulled out than it it stayed and fought the evil communists. That assumption also proved to be dubious at best.

    Cambodia - the communist Khmer Rouge seized power in 1973; 'nuff said about that.

    Not quite. Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 in order to put down the Khmer Rouge and stop the genocide. After over a decade of fighting a democratic government was installed and it continues today. It's a corrupt government but it's not communist.

    One could argue that the new communist government of Vietnam was actually a stabilizing force in the region and not a destabilizing force. One could argue that it prevented the region from falling under the influence of China.

    The real world is much more complicated than a simplistic Domino Theory would suggest. I submit that Dick Cheney is living in that past where the world was though to be split between cowboys wearing white hats and those wearing black hates.

    He still thinks that everything will get better if you can just kill all the bad guys in Dodge City.

  4. "Extremists would push the country into chaos ..." sayeth The snarling VEEP, the most mad dog extremist in the history of extremism.

    EXTREMISM is in the eye and brain of the beholder.

    Pre-emptive war based on outright lies...

    Outright murder of the civilian population ...

    Total destruction of a entire culture and country ...

    Not one Israeli soldier has died in Iraq ...

    Israel has used the U. S. military to turn Iraq into in rubble heap.

    The Israelis are laughing their arses off.

  5. Too add injury to insult, the latest Iraqi war death estimate is now 10^6 individuals.

    These findings come from a poll released today by O.R.B., the British polling agency that have been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005.

    [Tim Lambert] My back of the envelope calculation puts the 95% confidence interval at 1.1-1.3 million. This seems consistent with the second Lancet study giving 600,000 violent deaths when you take into account the amount of time that has passed since then. ... The number of households in Iraq has dropped by maybe 5-10% since 2005 because of all the people that have fled the country, so 1.2 million may be a little high, but it's likely that the number is now one million dead and another million injured as a result of the war. [My bold.]

    How do you spell "major humanitarian catastrophe"? "US"?

  6. Whatever the deficiencies of US geopolitical strategy and conceptualization, the situation in Southeast Asia was more complicated than that, Dr. Moran.

    The Khmer Rouge were and trained and aided by North Vietnam. Armed conflict between the former allies arose in 1975 due to several reasons (including the Sino-Soviet split). The Communist Vietnamese regime's laogai was itself quiet lethal - though not nearly as much as the Khmer Rouge regime, which killed mainly through artificial famine.

    If not for the Sino-Soviet split communists may well have taken over Thailand.

    In fact Burma did suffer under an socialist dictator; later, a popular uprising in 1988 was repelled by a military coup and rule by an exterminationist junta allied with China.


  7. Whatever the deficiencies of US geopolitical strategy and conceptualization, the situation in Southeast Asia was more complicated than that, Dr. Moran.

    I know. I'm sorry if I implied otherwise.

    But that's exactly my point. Basing your foreign policy on simplistic expectations (The Domino Theory) is really, really stupid in his day and age. I'm sure you agree.