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.
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.