Listening to right-wing radio, one cannot help but notice a palpable nostalgia for the Vietnam War. Recently, people calling in to radio programs dealing with the presidential race tend to complain about John Kerry's eventual opposition to the war, implying that the U.S. war effort was somehow a righteous cause. The idea is that the U.S. effort, no matter how ideologically vague or politically misconstrued, was essentially altruistic as it represents an attempt by the "moral" U.S. to share democracy with the rest of the world (this, of course, before the evil lefty hippies stepped in and nixed the endeavor).
I hate to pop anyone's bucolic fantasy of American flags flying over Vietnamese rice fields, but the fact of the matter is that America's initial involvement in Vietnam had little to do with democracy. After all, the U.S., prior to sending large numbers of troops, provided almost all of the funding for the French effort to re-establish themselves as a colonial power.
In other words, the U.S. was supporting Western colonialism. The Vietnamese coalition (yes, it was a coalition by the way) opposed to France and later to the U.S. were clearly fighting against colonialism.
For this reason, I think we should stop talking about the great "democratic effort" of the U.S. in South-east Asia. When the war is viewed in terms of its original objectives, one cannot help but conclude that the U.S. had no moral right to murder people in a country half-way across the globe With this in mind, my personal opinion on Kerry and the Vietnam period is that Kerry's opposition to the war and his discarding of his metals afterwards is one of the few really good reasons to vote for him.