Skip to comments.Conrad Black: McNamara’s Folly - The road to failure in Vietnam.
Posted on 07/28/2009 11:17:13 AM PDT by neverdem
One among a few new factoids that I never heard or read before.
Then, in 1965, on the thin pretext of the Senates Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, Lyndon Johnson started deploying 550,000 draftees to Vietnam.
I'm not sure if that's true or not. It could be a coincidence. 550,000 is very close to the highest end strength in personnel in theater in rounded numbers from 548,500, IIRC, but most were volunteers.
Close enough for gov't work, but maybe the Red Cross rounded up.
It was JOHN F. KENNEDY’S war, actually. Johnson was the heir of situation, including the no-doubt cocaine and amphetamine addicted McNamara. Often in error but NEVER IN DOUBT... that’s typical of users.
“The Democrats now not only repudiated the Kennedy-Johnson Vietnam policy but actively sought the defeat and humiliation of the U.S. in the war into which they had plunged it.”
The U.S. commander, Gen. William Westmoreland, committed the greatest military
blunder in U.S. history (surpassing even Donald Rumsfelds demobilization of the 400,000-man Iraqi army and police, while leaving them with their arms and munitions as they set out looking for new employment). He ignored the advice of Eisenhower and MacArthur by only closing the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos. It would also have been necessary to build up ARVN, clean out the enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia, shut down any military inflows through the harbors at Haiphong and Sihanoukville, and inflict 1,200 air strikes every day on North Vietnam, as Nixon did during his visit to the USSR in May 1972 (to leave his Kremlin hosts in no doubt of his seriousness).
The war was not explained or authorized properly, so draftees were supposed to risk and give their lives in a non-renewed one-year combat term (against six months for officers, not a great morale booster for the GI), for no apparent reason and in pursuit of something, no one quite knew what, less than victory.
It is a silly exercise, however, because it looks exclusively at the government. One cannot speak of Vietnam without addressing changes in American culture that resulted from the march of the Left through our institutions.
The Left is perforce an "international"-minded viewpoint. It was only a matter of time, whatever the events in Vietnam or anywhere else, for them to become unpatriotic. Kennedy was the last patriotic president. By mid-70s, the One-world crowd finally took over, and the Dem Party became the Socialist Party of America. This fundamental change had very little to do with Vietnam.
Somewhere there is a quote of William Jennings Byran around 1900 when asked why he voted as a Senator to get America involved in the Philippines that he now opposed. He pretty much stated that he knew that we was going to get involved in a nasty guerilla war that would hurt the Republicans politically.
If you read what Byran and the Democrats was saying about the war and the troops it was pretty much the same hope for the defeat of America, spit on the troops stuff we have seen from them in recent wars.
The Democrats hasn’t been taken over by radicals, they have always behaved like this.
The U.S. military had been urging the invasion of Cuba, blissfully unaware that there were two full Soviet divisions on the island, and that the atomic-missile warheads were already in-country and could be attached and fired in a few hours. Only Kennedys sage intuition, which led him to promise no invasion of Cuba and to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey and Greece in exchange for withdrawal of the Cuba missiles, prevented armed conflict with the USSR.
1. Head to head, we would have destroyed two soviet divisions quickly. The battle would have been fought a few hundred miles from the US, while the soviets would not have had any chance to reinforce their forces some 3000 miles away.
2. Only Kennedys sage intuition... Please spare me the noxious liberal sanctimony. The soviets would have backed down...period. They could not have won. The truth of the matter is that Kennedy made strategic miscalculations and turned a sure victory, both political and moral into a groveling concession. Only the pathetic rewritters of history, such as the late and not lamented Cronkite spun this into the victory that it was not.
Vietnam was a disaster because between the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, the U.S. leadership lacked reliable faculties of judgment about whether to enter such a war, had no idea how to conduct it, and sabotaged the efforts of those who did.
Mr. Black is again wrong. From Eisenhower to Kennedy, the end strength of the army was relegated to a very small force. Strategic military thought at the time was that atomic weapons obviated the need for a large standing army. The civilian leadership then called upon the army to fix a problem, but then severly constrained the army's ability to fix the problem. The two reasons above are the cause of the U.S.'s failure in the Vietnam war.
The situation was so desperate the American plan finally came down to the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the Viet Minh positions and deploying the 3rd Marine Division, part of which was afloat in the Tonkin Gulf. This may have happened but it was contingent on the UK joining the battle. The Brits declined.
Bump for later reading
As a veteran of the Vietnam War from August of 1969 to January of 1971, serving as an infantry squad leader in a mechanized infantry company, and with another unit as a tank commander on an M48A3 tank; I am keenly interested in the distortions, lies, and half truths perpetuated about the Vietnam war by many of those who helped to undermine the US effort there. Much of the conventional understanding of the US involvement in the South East Asian conflict indicates a general disapproval of the United States war effort, and an acceptance of the oft regurgitated leftist conventional wisdom as to its historical course and outcome. That is painting the American war effort in Vietnam as misguided at best and an imperialistic effort to establish SE Asian capitalistic hegemony at worst. The antiwar left is portrayed as being noble and idealistic rather than populated by a hard core that actively hoped and worked for a US defeat, the US government as destructive of basic civil liberties in its attempt to monitor their activities, and the North Vietnamese and Vietcong as nationalists who wished to preserve their unique culture against an imperialistic onslaught. The South Vietnamese governments struggle to survive a ruthless Communist assault while engaging in an unwarranted assault on human rights .while ignoring the numerous genocidal atrocities of the Vietcong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) is also part of this narrative. The deceptive reporting of the Tet Offensive, exemplified by the distortive omissions of Walter Cronkite and which was the Communists worse defeat among numberless hundreds of others was probably the most grievous deceit perpetuated by the Press.
The reason that the United States opposed nationwide elections that were to be held in accordance with the 1954 Geneva accords was due to the murder and intimidation campaigns carried out by Ho Chi Minh. This fact is in Professor R. J. Runnels book Death by Government, in which he cites a low estimate of 15,000 and a high figure of 500,000 people in the murder by quota campaign directed by the North Vietnamese Communist Party Politburo that would have made the election a corrupt mockery. This campaign stipulated that 5% of the people living in each village and hamlet had to be liquidated, preferably those identified as members of the ruling class. All told says Runnel, between 1953 and 1956 it is likely that the Communists killed 195,000 to 865,000 North Vietnamese. These were non combatant men, women, and children, and hardly represent evidence of the moral high ground claimed by many in the antiwar movement. In 1956, high Communist official Nguyen Manh Tuong admitted that while destroying the landowning class, we condemned numberless old people and children to a horrible death. The same genocidal pattern became the Communists standard operating procedure in the South too. This was unequivocally demonstrated by the Hue Massacre, which the press did a great deal to downplay in its reporting of the Tet Offensive of 1968.
The National Liberation Front was the creation of the North Vietnamese Third Party Congress of September 1960, completely directed from North Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968 was a disastrous military defeat for the North Vietnamese and that the VC were almost wiped out by the fighting, and that it took the NVA until 1971 to reestablish a presence using North Vietnamese troops as local guerrillas. The North Vietnam military senior commanders repeatedly said that they counted on the U.S. antiwar movement to give them the confidence to persevere in the face of their staggering battlefield personnel losses and defeats. The antiwar movement prevented the feckless President Lyndon Johnson from granting General Westmorelands request to enter Laos and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail or end his policies of publicly announced gradualist escalation. The North Vietnamese knew cutting this trail would severely damage their ability to prosecute the war. Since the North Vietnamese could continue to use the Ho Chi Minh Trail lifeline, the war was needlessly prolonged for the U.S. and contributed significantly to the collapse of South Vietnam. The casualties sustained by the NVA and VC were horrendous, (1.5 million dead) and accorded well with Gen. Ngyuen Giaps publicly professed disdain for the lives of individuals sacrificed for the greater cause of Communist victory. They were as thoroughly beaten as a military force can be given the absence of an invasion and occupation of their nation. The Soviets and Chinese recognized this, and they put pressure on their North Vietnamese allies to accept this reality and settle up at the Paris peace talks. Hanois party newspaper Nhan Dan angrily denounced the Chinese and Soviets for throwing a life bouy to a drowning pirate and for being mired on the dark and muddy road of unprincipled compromise. The North Viets intransigent attitude toward negotiation was reversed after their air defenses were badly shattered in the wake of the devastating B-52 Linebacker II assault on North Vietnam, after which they were totally defenseless against American air attack.
To this day the anti-war movement as a whole refuses to acknowledge its part in the deaths of millions in Laos and Cambodia and in the subsequent exodus from South East Asia as people fled Communism, nor the imprisonment of thousands in Communist re-education camps and gulags.
South Vietnam was NOT defeated by a local popular insurgency. The final victorious North Vietnamese offensive was a multidivisional, combined arms effort lavishly equipped with Soviet and Chinese supplied tanks, self-propelled artillery, and aircraft. It was the type of blitzkrieg that Panzer General Heinz Guederian would have easily recognized. I didnt recall seeing any barefoot, pajama-clad guerrillas jumping out of those tanks in the newsreel footage that showed them crashing through the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon. This spectacle was prompted by the pusillanimous withdrawal of Congressional support for the South Vietnamese government in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which particularly undermined this aspect of President Nixons foreign policy. It should be noted that a similar Communist offensive in the spring of 1972 was smashed, largely by US air power; with relatively few US ground troops in place. At the Paris Accords in 1973, the Soviet Union had agreed to reduce aid in offensive arms to North Vietnam in exchange for trade concessions from the US, effectively ending North Vietnams hopes for a military victory in the south. With the return of cold war hostilities in the wake of the Yom Kippur war after Congress revoked the Soviets MFN trading status, the Reds poured money and offensive military equipment into North Vietnam. South Vietnam would still be a viable nation today were it not for this nations refusal to live up to its treaty obligations to the South Vietnamese, most important to reintervene should they invade South Vietnam.
There is one primary similarity to Vietnam. A seditious near traitorous core of anti-war protesters is trying to undermine U.S. efforts there with half-truths, lies, and distortions. In that respect, the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam are very similar. A significant difference is that thus far the current anti-war movement has not succeeded in manifesting contempt for the American military on the part of the general U.S. public as it did in the Vietnam era.
When I was in Vietnam, I recall many discussions with my fellow soldiers about the course of the war in Vietnam and their feelings about it. Many, if not most felt that We Gotta Get Outta this Place, to cite a popular song of the time by Eric Burden and the Animals, but for the most part they felt we should do it by fighting the war in a manner calculated to win it. I do not recall anyone ever saying that they felt the North Vietnamese could possibly defeat us on the battlefield, but to a man they were mystified by the U.S. Governments refusal to fight in a manner that would assure military victory. Even though there was much resentment for the antiwar movement, and some (resentment) toward career professional soldiers, I never saw anyone who did not do his basic duty and many did FAR MORE THAN THAT as a soldier. Nineteen of my friends have their names on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington DC. They deserve to have the full truth told about the effort for which they gave their young lives. The U.S. public is not well served by half-truths and lies by omission about such a significant period in our history, particularly with their relevance toward our present fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Yup. I was Regular Army in 1968.
Bookmarked, saved, and duly recorded. Thank you for this post, on so many levels.
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