Whatever one thinks about the Vietnam War, this matters: “Beyond the constantly mutating argument between the Vietnamese and the French was the more bitter struggle between the Vietnamese Communists and nationalists”
To me this is one of the most important lessons from America’s war in Vietnam: that there are always those who want to rule, and who will sub/consciously assimilate any cause or tool to attain that rule (Nationality. Politics. Ethnicity. Whatever).
In Vietnam there was a fight between those who wanted to rule in the name of Communism (whether Soviet or Chinese) nationalism, the monarchy, or even democracy. The citizens in-between are the ones who got squeezed, who suffered, who died, who had to pick between two wrongs to survive.
Perhaps you can call it an “Anthropology of Conflict”, and that same lesson carries to the major conflicts and would-be totalitarians of today. Europe, Ukraine and Russia. ISIS, Al Shabab, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram. The Chinese Communist Party. North Korea’s Kim Jongs. Cuba’s Castros, Boliva’s Morales.
In the USA too we have our power elites who had no small part in how America engaged with conflicts during the Cold War and who play the game today. They use whatever symbols they can to take power — the cross, the dollar, the flag, etc.
We should keep this in mind whenever we cheer for an action in the name of a cause. Fairness. Democracy. Freedom. Justice. These are *our* terms to define. *Our* words.
If we lose sight of this, we are lost.