By Letter to the Editor on September 11, 2021.
I don’t like Communists nor Islamic fundamentalist rule in Afghanistan. But that’s not the point.
I was shocked and surprised how fast the Afghan government collapsed even after 20 years of the involvement of the world’s wealthiest countries to support it. It cost billions of dollars and sacrifices of thousands of lives. It reminds me of the collapse of the Nationalist Chinese government in 1947. It took only two years after the Japanese surrender. It shows how little we learn from history, and how expensive it is to ignore lessons of history.
Even in my life-span of less than a century, I witnessed three instances of the mighty Western Democracy failing to prevail in Asia despite heavy involvement in money and personnel. China in 1947, Vietnam in 1975, and now Afghanistan. Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of World War II in the Pacific and the Korean War said, “Anyone who contemplates another war in Asia has to have his head examined.” Twelve years later in 1965, John F. Kennedy ordered American troops into Vietnam.
I met an ex-soldier when he came back from China. It was 1947: Japan surrendered in 1945. His regiment was disarmed and disbanded but returned home a few years later than others. The delay was caused by the Communist/Nationalist conflict in China. Only a few days after his unit had been disarmed, they were armed again under the command of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of the Chinese Nationalist government.Â
They were ordered to make 180 degrees about-face to face the advancing Communist “People’s Liberation Army” under Mao Zedong. The battle didn’t last long. The Nationalist command structure disintegrated soon and in two years China was taken over by the Communists. Speed was breath-taking.
The whole organization of the Chinese Nationalist Party escaped to Taiwan where it still resides. The victorious Western powers of WWII, particularly the United States, who supported Chiang Kai-shek long before “Pearl Harbour,” were shocked at how easy and fast the collapse of Nationalist China was. It was particularly frustrating considering the large sum of money and deep commitment by American Air Force volunteer personnel who helped the Chinese Nationalists.
However, from the perspective of Japanese colonial expatriates who had to escape the advancing Chinese and Russian armies in North Eastern China, it was easy to understand what happened.
Initially Japanese entrepreneurs who had had farms and factories in Korea and Manchuria, including my father’s family, found themselves hiding their valuables and disguised women and girls like men, to protect themselves against the advancing armies.
They were commanded by the corrupt leadership whose soldiers were a bunch of thugs, according to my uncle.
But later the situation became a lot better and safer when the Chinese Communists’ People’s Liberation Army replaced Chinese Nationalists and Russians. They were better disciplined and orderly, said my uncle.
I wish someone good in historical analysis would tell me why Western Democracy failed so miserably in China in 1947, in Vietnam in 1975 and in Afghanistan in 2001.Â