During the middle of the last century there were lots of opinions about a domino theory in Southeast Asia. With the defeat of the Japanese (1945) there was a new breath of fresh air - freedom. The European and American governments were slow to see this coming.
Real people’s movements in various countries began to push for independence. Just as Germany had lost its colonies after World War I, so now Britain, the French and Dutch were not wanted as overlords anymore. Japan’s occupation of Indonesia and Vietnam proved to them the colonial powers could be faced down.
When the Japanese occupation of Indonesia came to an end, the Dutch were all set to take up where they left off. They were surprised to find the locals wanted to run their own country. The thinking was, if the Japanese could defeat the Dutch, so could the Indonesians.
The same thing evolved in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh saw the time was ripe to vanquish the French from their land. Looking through a history book, I saw a photo of a parade in Hanoi, Vietnam, after World War II. They were carrying a large photo of President Harry Truman and calling for the French to leave.
America did not help either of these countries gain freedom. Our attitude was with the European colonial powers. Asia was the “white man’s burden” as Kipling satirized the situation. Asians didn’t know enough to rule themselves.
The British wanted Burma back, but the Burmese chose a democracy that was foiled by the military. Once Burma exported rice and gems around the world, now they cannot even feed their own people.
Vietnam pushed the French Foreign Legion out in 1954 and the American government took up the fight there. Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson little by little added to the mix until it became a war that shook the world.
During that time the Domino Theory came to prominence. If the dreaded Communism took over Vietnam, the rest of Southeast Asia would fall like lined-up dominoes. And the world had to be saved from the godless Marxists.
I would not minimize the sacrifice of those who fought and died in Vietnam. None of my family was there, but one of the finest 10-year old boys in our Arizona church lost his life there. Richie Hulse deserved a better fate, as did the 58,226 other American soldiers who died or were missing in action. The Vietnamese estimated they lost 1.5 million army soldiers and 4 million civilians.
With all that lost humanity not a single domino toppled over. Vietnam tried to spread their views to the neighbors but failed.
Now, 32 years later, the hawks of war are spreading the fear of the dominoes again. It is supposed (for no one really knows) that if Iraq is not governed by the American government, it will fall to Iran and the terrorists will in turn overthrow the rest of the Middle Eastern countries. (And with it the black gold under the sands.)
Just as in Vietnam, I do not minimize the sacrifice of those who have fought and died in Iraq. Nor the tens of thousands who have been damaged emotionally in the war with no end in sight. The fear of falling dominoes is a sad excuse for American foreign policy.
We tend to forget Iran helped American forces in the assault on Afghanistan in 2001. The Iranians found they could not trust us any more than we trusted them and name calling and threats have been the extent of “diplomacy.”
Let’s get back to playing real dominoes and quit the blame game of political dominoes.
P.S. Last week I promised an essay on the 524th anniversary of the birth of the 16th century Protestant revolutionary, Dr. Martin Luther. My wife always has the last say on these columns and she read what I wrote about Luther and looked the other way. Her own words were, “It says nothing to me.”
So I am slipping these last paragraphs by her in an effort to keep my word. To me the greatest reforms of Luther were in congregational singing. That was a complete departure from common practice. His doctrine of the priesthood of all believers was firmly established as the people sang their faith. All the people sang.
The congregations did not sing, “I believe in one God,” but “We believe in one God.” Luther’s first hymnbook came out in 1524. The great battle hymn of the Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress,” appeared later.
Britt Towery is a former missionary, freelance writer and published author. He welcomes reader feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.