Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

The Next Grenada

By David G. Young

Washington, DC, August 24, 2021 --  

America's adversaries need a quick lesson in American power and its will to use it.

When North Vietnamese forces flooded into on Saigon as Americans fled, it was more than a humiliating spectacle.  The next half-decade sawAmerica’s adversaries seize the opportunity to take gains at America’s expense.  46 years on, an even more disastrous exit from Afghanistan risks more of the same.

In April of 1975, Vietnam wasn't the only country in crisis.  Just a year earlier, Portugal’s nationalist dictatorship was overthrown by left wing military officers, granting independence Portuguese Africa.  While America was focussed on evacuating and resettling its Southeast Asian allies, the Soviet Union and Cuba were consolidating their control, culminating in a November airlift of Cuban troops to bolster the new communist government in Angola.  Moscow would dominate Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau until the end of the Cold War.  

One year later, protests erupted in Iran, which slowly grew into an Islamist revolution that deposed the US-backed government.  Revolutionaries stormed the US Embassy, taking Americans hostage for over a year, stoking Washington’s image as an impotent power.  When a war weary America finally sent its military on a rescue mission, it ended in dramatic failure.  Images of burned aircraft in the Iranian desert further emboldened America’s enemies and enfeebled its military planners.

Within five years of fall of Saigon, the world would also witness the Cambodian genocide, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a Marxist revolution in Nicaragua, and Marxist rebels ascend to seriously threaten US-backed regimes in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Peru.

It was not until 1983 — over eight years after the fall of Saigon — that the US finally changed the narrative with the invasion of tiny Grenada.  The eight years prior marked one of the most disastrous periods in the history of American foreign policy.

Will this happen again?

Fortunately, the American public is not nearly as war weary as it was in 1975.  Pro-military sentiment remains high, and today's White House and Congress are in no way dominated by pacifists.

But that doesn’t mean that America’s adversaries will not be emboldened.  The fall of Kabul heightens the risk of power plays meant to test the West or take advantage of American distraction. Russia might seize territory in Ukraine or Belarus, China could seize small islands from Taiwan, or Iran could start a breakout effort to produce an atomic bomb.

Once there is a flashpoint, things could go quickly from bad to worse. China or Russia might decide it is a good time as any to start a war.

What America needs a new Grenada to change world perceptions before things have a chance to get ugly -- not eight years from now but sometime closer to eight weeks from now. A small but dramatic military intervention with minimal casualties and minimal risk of escalation would be ideal.

Such an operation would serve as a reminder for America's adversaries that it wields great power, and more importantly, that it has the will to use it. A small number of casualties suffered in a noble cause could prevent countless more from suffering in ignoble causes in the years to come.

Of course, bigger countries like Iran, Cuba, North Korea or Venezuela are off the table. But what about that tiny island or isolated enclave you've never heard of? The one with the anti-American leader cozying up to China or Russia? That's the one whose ruler should now be losing sleep at night.

America's wasted efforts in Afghanistan and their very ugly end will soon be water under the bridge. We must not let this vision serve as inspiration for those who seek to make the world a worse place to live.

Related Web Columns:

Time for a Clean Slate, March 25, 2013

Shifting the Front, June 28, 2011

Pashtun Poison, August 17, 2010