Archives For US Military
In watching The Vietnam War, a viewer, hearing American officials pondering options, is tempted to burst out “stop, no, make the other choice.” But those making decisions did not know how the story would turn out. They had to act with the experiences they had lived through, not those we have accumulated since, based on imperfect knowledge and the typical set of “all bad” options.
But this comes only after 100 minutes of almost unceasing negatives on the war: from a Vietnam Veterans Against the War-heavy focus on the minority of veterans who bitterly opposed to it to Jane Fonda in Hanoi, John Kerry’s Senate testimony, drug-addicted U.S. soldiers, the Pentagon Papers, My Lai, and extensive footage of South Vietnamese army (ARVN) troops retreating in Laos and initially in the Easter Offensive (although ARVN soldiers won that battle). The plurality of Americans still supporting the war, which in that period included most veterans, got little airtime. A viewer could easily ask whether Burns and Novick were describing the same country that gave Nixon an overwhelming victory in 49 states in the 1972 election.
But beyond Vietnam-specific lessons, The Vietnam War lays out in a non-didactic, illustrative manner strategic truths of great import, including for us today. The four that matter most are about containment, incremental versus major war tactics, definitions of victory, and the criticality of determination in conflict.
For a Harvard educated man Obama showed in his USMA speech to be quite naive and defensive. I don’t hear anyone saying that they wish for war so putting foreign policy in the context of pro-war vs pro-alliance/diplomacy is redundant. The astute political observer should receive this news of a new Obama “foreign policy” in much the same manner he or she receives a weather forecast; if they don’t like it they should just wait a few minutes.
What I admire most from pre-Vietnam conflicts was the sense of pride in the troops who fought. Everyone felt they ought to do a part no matter if you were a drifter or a furniture salesman. Much different mentality from the career soldier of modern times. This isn’t to say its better merely different.