Sunday, July 30, 2006

Informed comment from 1976. Or is it from 2006?

"Despite the enthusiasm and goodwill, despite the good intentions, the American advisory program was a lamentable disaster that contributed largely to the eventual debacle in Vietnam. It was worse: it was a gigantic con trick foisted on American public opinion. Not so much by those in the field as by those who never walked the field of battle, but strode the corridors of power in Washington, those to whom the Vietnam war started as a kind of theoretical dream of how to combat the spread of Communism, but gradually twisted and writhed into a hellish nightmare." — Nguyen Cao Ky, Former Prime Minister of South Vietnam and ardent anti-Communist, from How We Lost the Vietnam War.

(more quotes in comments)

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At 7/30/2006 4:55 PM , Blogger Zachriel said...

How many of the strapping twenty-year-olds who fought in our country in the late sixties realized that the Americans of a generation before had been helping the French maintain colonial control of our country? How many Americans in Vietnam could really understand that to all of us Ho Chi Minh was, until 1946, a great patriot.

At 7/30/2006 4:57 PM , Blogger Zachriel said...

How eagerly they must have torn the tops open! Each carton contained, or all things, “Uncle Ben’s” rice.

[Vietnam is a major rice producing nation.]

At 7/30/2006 4:58 PM , Blogger Zachriel said...

As America became more deeply involved, as the American death toll mounted, as American public opinion became more outraged, United States presidents became so fearful that their policies would rebound on them that none who worked closely with them dared to tell the truth.

Instead they settled for reassurance. One after another they assured their president that the Vietnamese Army was in fine shape, not to worry about the American presence, for each month of advisory training was a month nearer the date when the Vietnamese Army could stand alone and win.

At 7/30/2006 4:58 PM , Blogger Zachriel said...

To many Americans in Vietnam we were just vaguely "Chinese". We are not. We are Vietnamese.

At 8/12/2006 6:17 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

See what you get from this book. Been about 15 years since I read it.
Intelligence on the part of political leaders has never been something I have expected.

ciao, vino

At 8/12/2006 6:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This too. Was on the radio just this morning. The very tail end of the interview he gave what I think is the single most important qualification a world leader can have.

see ya round, vino

At 8/12/2006 7:49 PM , Blogger Zachriel said...

anonymous: "Been about 15 years since I read it [The Ten Thousand Day War]."

Thanks! I added it to my wishlist.

At 10/10/2006 6:04 PM , Blogger biomimetic said...

How did we lose the Vietnam War?

We got involved, of course.

At 9/13/2007 1:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...


I know this looks awfully black and white to you. But those who think that leaving Vietnam was a no-brainer might really want to take a long hard look at the Khmer Rouge. Would continuing to fight until we won, even if it had taken another ten years, have been worth the struggle if it had prevented Pol Pot's regime from taking power?

If the contemporary response to Darfur is any indication, probably not. But it should give us pause that the sentiment of the Thai people I have talked to is that the American war in Vietnam spared them what Cambodia endured by delaying it.

Not even hindsight is always 20 20.


At 9/13/2007 5:33 PM , Blogger Zachriel said...

anonymous: "I know this looks awfully black and white to you."

I'm all for the appropriate use of force to prevent genocide. But the U.S. government repeatedly lied about the war to the American people and to themselves.

Furthermore, the U.S. was complicit in the overthrow of the Cambodian government because it refused to be drawn into the war. Along with the secret bombing campaign, this further destabilized the region. Anarchy ensued. It was the Communist Vietnamese who put an end to the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

It was a civil war and the United States repeatedly alienated whatever goodwill they had by supporting a corrupt government. Worse, for every dollar spent, half was siphoned off by America's enemies, so no matter how much blood and treasure America spent, it wouldn't have mattered in the long run.

This was all sadly predictable. Graham Greene wrote in the early 1950's about the Americans stumbling into Vietnam in The Quiet American. For a more scholarly treatment, try historian Barbara Tuchman's March of Folly.


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