A Line in the Sand

At the beginning of the Vietnam war, November 1965, the American army would have its first major confrontation with the Vietcong. Three battalions were dropped into a landing zone in an area where enemy activity had been reported. They were here for a battle – and get a battle they did.
Upon landing, one of the companies almost immediately ran into an enemy force, and became separated from the unit in the ensuing firefight.
For two days and nights, one of the biggest battles ever fought in the Vietnam war would rage. 79 U.S. casualties were revealed as the enemy retreated.
It was far from the end however, and one day later, the Vietcong launched one of the most successful ambushes ever, with 155 U.S. soldiers killed. After 16 hours of hell, the battle of Ia drang was finally over. The kill ratio was close to 1 U.S. soldier to 10 Vietcong. In the aftermath, both sides would claim the victory but as we all know – only one would win the war.

Our story focuses n the aftermath, or rather, the battle after the aftermath. In the following military operations, a South Vietnamese Unit came in contact with a fleeing Vietcong unit of sizeable proportions. As they closed quarters, the South Vietnamese called down artillery on the fleeing enemy. The artillary wrecked havoc amongst the enemy troops until – they crossed the border.
An invisible line in the sand stopped the route of the enemy. The American forces were held back by the neutrality of the surrounding countries, in the instance, Cambodia. So the Vietcong now had a safe place to supply and re-group. All they had to do was cross an invisible line in the sand. It was this weakness among others that would prove fatal to the American war machine.
Quoting General Kinnard, “Not to follow them (the Vietcong) violated every principle of warfare.”
I think this sums it up when he was talking about the Vietcong’s general’s declaration that he had learnt how to defeat the Americans, “What he learned was that we were not going to be allowed to chase him across a mythical line in the dirt.”
Now that we look in retrospect at the Vietnam war and the Americanfailure there, it’s easy to point the finger, but how about we learn some lessons from it? Notice I said failure. America had every opportunity to win the Vietnam war. They were the superior force in every way except for numerical. So what was the contributing factor to their demise? We could write books on why they didn’t win, but I wish to outline what I firmly believe is the sole major influencing factor in why they lost: they weren’t prepared to pay the cost.
This attitude of committing but holding back is evidenced by their strategies, their policies, and their retreat. If they were fully committed to victory, they would have crossed the border into Cambodia (they did eventually cross the border in secrecy but it was too late by then.) If they were fully committed, the 50,000+ dead would not have stopped them.
Instead, they spent millions of dollars, lost thousands of lives, and scarred countless more in a futile attempt at winning a war without going all in.
It makes me wonder at times, why did a superpower, unparalleled in power, stop at an invisible line? Was Cambodia such a huge threatening menace? What was there that they could actually do? The only logical answer I can think of, is that they wanted to fight the war on their terms. They didn’t want to commit that much yet. They wanted to keep the war local in Vietnam.
In Hebrews 11, Paul addresses both them and us when he declares, ‘If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him – but we are not of them that fall back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

When you said to Jesus, ‘I need you in my life.’ And you made him the Lord of your life, you signed up for a battle – and there is no prize if you draw back.
Christian, if you want to be victorious, you MUST NO DRAW BACK. Once you enter battle, if you wish to be the victor, to gain the prize, you cannot draw back.
It doesn’t matter what lines must be crossed, how costly it will be. To get to heaven, you have to go all in or you’ll never win. If you want to save your soul, there can be no turning back.
The allegory with the story we just read to our everyday life is very applicable. See, we too go in search of the enemy. We go looking for a fight we too want to clean our lives up. We go in search of a fight and we find it. We are victorious, but as we pursue the fleeing enemy, we come to an invisible line in our lives that we refuse to cross – and we let the enemy shelter and regroup in this safe alcove.
At some stage, as we start losing and get desperate, we finally launch into this safe alcove, but even then, we do it in secrecy rather than storm in and end it once and for all.
By now, we are getting worn out. Our lack of determination and ruthlessness now comes back to haunt us and we lose the war all because of an invisible line in the sand.
Christian, there’s no honour in losing your soul because of a line in the sand. There’s no victory unless you are prepared to cross into every kingdom of your heart. There will be no crown until you have hunted down the enemy in every corner of your heart. There will be no end to the war until you cross the invisible line in the sand, until you are ready to pay whatever price it takes: the high casualties, war with yet another country. In whatever country, with each step that you take in the escalation of war, there can be no drawing back, only stepping forward to the next level.
Are you going to win the battle for your soul, or will you be one of the many who falter at a line in the sand?


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