Was Anything Learned from Vietnam?





Ms. Eisenberg, a professor of history at Hofstra University, is a member of Historians Against the War (HAW). She presented the following paper at a forum sponsored by HAW at the annual meting of the American Historical Association in Philadelphia this past weekend.


For many historians of a certain age, the Vietnam War was the formative intellectual experience, which shaped our understanding of the United States and its history.

There were searing realizations from that time that never left us: how political leaders could lie -- boldly, blatantly and repetitively -- and win a mandate for unnecessary war; how the cynical invocation of democracy and freedom could conceal American domination and support for dictatorship; how easy it was for the White House to co-opt Congress and intimidate the press; how the vast American “war machine” could rain unimaginable suffering on foreign civilians whom it was claiming to save; and (perhaps most shocking of all) how willing our political leaders were to sacrifice tens of thousands of young Americans in a project that could not succeed.

Now forty years later, all these elements are back as the US fights an unnecessary war in Iraq, in which victory is a receding possibility, where every fresh American initiative grows the opposition and each new step makes it harder to leave. So the question arises: “Was anything learned from Vietnam?”

I believe that at the level of mass opinion, the answer is “not much.” The once momentous events of the Vietnam era have been assimilated to the celebratory narrative of the Cold War. In that simple tale, Communist aggression threatened the peace and freedom of the world, but over the course of decades American power forced a halt, a retreat and then finally the collapse of a ruthless enemy.

A certain dark cloud still hangs over the Vietnam War. It was a war in which America was defeated, in which soldiers were somehow betrayed, and in which U.S. society was somehow rent asunder. But the central truth of that experience -- the death of literally millions of people for no defensible reason, caused by policy failures in Washington -- has been virtually eradicated.

In reflecting on this, I think that we as historians need to take some responsibility. While recognizing all the larger forces in our culture that bury uncomfortable realities, we might have done a better job. It is one of the ironies of my generation that the insights gleaned from the Vietnam experience sent so many of us into intellectual flight from the study of “powerful white men.” It is a positive development for our profession that history has become more inclusive and focused on diverse groups. But what is not positive is how attention drifted away from those whose decisions continued to shape developments here in the United States and abroad. And who are shaping them still.

This abdication has many aspects – a shortage of talented people specializing in the Vietnam War, a shortage of talented people specializing in the history of US foreign policy, the marginalizing of these subjects in the curriculum (not merely in the public schools but the colleges and universities), a neglect of these subjects in modern textbooks, the lack of well-written books accessible to a general audience, the paucity of historical “experts” participating in the contemporary debate.

I am offering these critical remarks because I think the present situation is so grave. Despite many parallel elements, Iraq is no Vietnam. It is far more dangerous and poses a more profound challenge to our domestic institutions. We urgently need historians to be on their feet, functioning as public intellectuals willing to address the actions of “powerful white men” and using our knowledge in every possible venue to debate the critical issues of our time.

In the minutes that remain, I want to turn to a central feature of the Vietnam experience - the forfeiting of American and foreign lives in a doomed endeavor. How can we understand this? And what is the relevance to the present?

Among historians studying the Vietnam conflict, there is a certain silent competition about which president or period was the most “irrational.” With archives now open, what is striking about each phase is the accumulated intelligence pointing to an eventual defeat. And yet each Administration persists.

As someone writing about Nixon and Kissinger, I am supremely confident that these two gentlemen win the “irrationality sweepstakes.” To understand this, we need to go back to 1968. In the aftermath of Tet, the antiwar movement had scored a significant achievement by making it politically impossible for any American president to increase the number of troops going to Vietnam. And it created enormous public pressure (partly mediated through Congress) for a significant decrease in the American troops that were over there.

When Richard Nixon began his presidency, he pondered the fate of Lyndon Johnson and heeded the advice of political advisors, who urged him to begin a policy of troop withdrawals. By the end of 1969, significant increments were coming out of Vietnam.

Yet Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger were determined to win the war, to retain South Vietnam as an anti-communist bastion. This left the question: if 550,000 American troops were unable to prevail, why would fewer succeed? The answer as we all know was “Vietnamization”—turning back increased responsibility to the South Vietnamese Army. But that policy too had been tried and failed. Kennedy and Johnson had escalated US involvement because no matter how much money and weaponry was sent, the Army of South Vietnam would not stand and fight.

For most top officials, the implication was clear: if the US continued drawing down troops, it would lose the war. Yet Nixon and Kissinger steadfastly resisted this logic and the associated stream of bad news. Something would work: cutting access routes from Laos and Cambodia, using air power in new and more devastating ways, seducing the Communist superpowers into pressuring Hanoi. None of this panned out. And the war continued.

Yet so many knew better, recognized the mutual delusions of Nixon and Kissinger, understood that more American lives were being lost in pursuit of an unachievable goal. As late as December 1972, when the peace agreement was virtually signed, Nixon ordered the infamous Christmas bombings. Anguished military officials wondered why he was jeopardizing more US pilots and wasting the planes when everything was settled? These questions were ignored and the bombings proceeded.

In Richard Nixon’s first term of office, close to 20,000 Americans died, approximately 1-2 million Southeast Asians.

Ironically, it was John Kerry who most eloquently addressed this profligacy when he testified in Congress in April 1971: “Each day…someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say we have made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be and these are his words, the “ first American president to lose a war’.”

John Kerry had it right. By 1971, there were no important American stakes in Vietnam, other than a national reluctance to appear weak and Nixon’s political need be undefeated. Flimsy reasons, which controlled events. But what made this possible was the very existence of the “national security state,” which had developed over decades and eroded democratic controls. The business of that state was war and its untrammeled leader was the president. Any chief executive bent on making or continuing a war, would be almost impossible to stop, unless Congress -- still accountable to the people-- did the job.

Let us ask ourselves, why did so many former secretaries of state and defense line up this week for a photo opportunity with President Bush? Who only listened for ten minutes? Who clearly had no interest in their views? Because these were the national security managers of the past, people who by temperament, training and life experience could never resist the temptations of power and who could never definitively reject military force as an instrument of national policy.

Even though the delusions of Nixon and Kissinger were well recognized by members of the bureaucracy, who whispered in corridors and leaked juicy items to the press, nobody important quit, nobody important went public, nobody important directly challenged the president or Kissinger, nobody important said out loud, “You are killing people for nothing.”

If this sounds familiar and applicable to the present, there is one important difference, which we cannot afford to overlook. Unlike Vietnam, there are real risks to the United States in leaving Iraq and important stakes there. We can reiterate the many ways in which the American presence in Iraq is fanning the insurgency. But this does not mean that if the US leaves that the situation would stabilize. There might well be an expanding civil war, which could engulf neighboring states. And this would take place in a region, rich in oil and vital to the prosperity of the United States and the industrial world.

If it was so difficult to disengage from Vietnam -- a symbolic piece of real estate with no intrinsic importance-- how much more difficult will it be to leave Iraq?

When Bush went to war in Iraq, I think most of us recognized that he was driving the car over the cliff, that there would be no good choices on the way down. And so it has developed. All the options are dangerous. From a humanitarian and even practical point of view, we might think that the wiser choice is to withdraw now. But can the custodians of the “national security”/ warfare state make that decision? To leave the battlefield voluntarily while danger lurks? I don’t think so. Which is why I would suppose that all those secretaries of state and defense gathered around Bush, will grumble and complain and tell each other how out of reality he is and how many mistakes have been made, and then turn around and say, “America must win.”

Therefore, the only hope resides in us -- the people who are not part of the “national security/warfare state” or trapped in its doctrines, who must keep organizing from the bottom up a massive resistance to this Iraq policy. We are finally seeing some movement in Congress, which is the only arena in which we can prevail. But that movement will be paralyzed by the Bush counter-attack and the warnings of the foreign-policy elite unless there is popular fire, an aroused and informed citizenry that will say, “Not one more soldier! Not one more dollar!” In that effort, we as historians have a vital role to play, if we find our voice.

Related Links

  • R. J. Del Vecchio: Lessons of Viet Nam ... By Whose Judgment?

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    More Comments:


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    I will refrain from repeating my prior criticism of the reflexive cop-out use of "left" and "leftism", except to point out that an administration (e.g. the current one) which runs record deficits, shreds civil liberties wholesale, and vastly expands the powers of government is not "conservative" in any meaningful sense of that word in American history.

    But what is this garbage from Heisler, rotely repeated by his buddy Heuisler, about "prevailing" in Vietnam ? What does "prevailing" there mean ? Defoiliating ALL the jungle instead of just vast tracts of it ? Invading Thailand and Burma as well as Laos and Cambodia ? Nuking Hanoi ? Keeping 500,000 troops there for centuries ?

    I am certainly not in disagreement about the pitfalls of misplaced historical parallels (e.g. see this website a couple of years ago for many idiotic Bushspeak pieces about how the Iraq cakewalk cock-up was somehow a carbon copy of World War II), and Eisenberg's piece has numerous flaws, but an unwillingness to buy into the Rambo Backstab Legend Lie is not among them.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    My problem is not with the motive of America trying to protect Southeast Asia from tyranny in the 1950s-70s, but with the untenable and ahistorical fantasies (a) that the deployment of conventional U.S. forces designed to defend West Germany from Russia had any noticeable long term positive effect on the spread of tyranny, death, and destruction in Indochina, (b) that such deployment COULD have ever realistically had such effect, even with better Generaling, and (c) that any major effort on this scale, even a much better managed one, would have been remotely justified in terms of America's overall geopolitical interests. Vietnam hurt America far more than it hurt Russia.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    I know it is difficult for Vietnam vets to accept that -in sober retrospect- their efforts were part of a long terrible waste, especially since their dedication and sacrifice were so unfairly unappreciated by so many fellow citizens at the time. But large-scale American involvement in Vietnam from the mid '60s to early '70s WAS, by any objective reckoning, a colossal error. Small scale involvement of the kind anticipated after Dien Bien Phu, or the rather larger deployments built up in the early years of JFK's administration, (when Vietnam seemed to be something like another Korea) were understandable. The massive build-up under LBJ, by contrast, was asinine, and the records now show LBJ and McNamara KNEW at the time that conventional forces designed for the a conventional war on the steppes of Europe with massive, highly skilled local support (logistical and moral) were not likely to succeed in subduing a guerilla war in jungles half way around the world. History can be painful, but it cannot be denied, at least not by all the people all the time. We have the Vietnam memorial, we appreciate the loyalty and sacrifice and we had d--- well better not keep making foreign policy mistakes of the scale of the real war in Vietnam and the current bogus cakewalk "war" in Iraq, which is far more stupid, vastly more incompetently misconceived and mismanaged by the chickenhawks in Washington, and much more potentially damaging to America's long term security. Iran getting the nuke without us being able to stop them is just the first fruit of W's selfish, myopic, deceptive and badly bungled folly.

    Their are tyrannies all over the world. The now too-often forgotten lesson of Vietnam is that we cannot afford to be reckless and ignorant when deciding which few of those tyrannies to intervene against. The yet to be learned lesson from the current Iraq fiasco is that terrorism, fanaticism, tyranny, and war are all distinctly different things requiring distinctly different stratagies for coping with.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Gene, I am too busy to do your homework for you. If think your books prove that Vietnam was "winnable", cite exact quotes and page numbers, like any real historian would do, and I'll take a look. Hint: You won't find proof that the guerilla element and village "hearts and minds" were unimportant in Vietnam by reading Clauswitz.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Gene,

    Why do you suppose that, after hundreds of billions of pre Energy Crisis U.S. dollars and tens of thousands of American soldiers lives, over a decade of involvement and four years of "Vietnamization", there were not 19 SOUTH Vietnamese "regular army divisions" available for an imperial "all-out" defense of Saigon? You will have a difficult time, no matter how many Rambo books you have read, persuading me that Jane Fonda made Tricky Dick Nixon's "Peace with Honor" collapse like a house of cards the first time it had to stand on its own without being propped up by massive U.S. taxdollar handouts. In reality, we lost the battle for hearts and minds, as we also doing are in the (otherwise mostly vastly different) Iraq mess today.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    The hype on the inside cover, or in the introduction, which is designed to entice purchases of the book, and which you uncritically quote, does not address the more relevant question of why South Vietnam could not stand on its own two feet after 1973. Russia gave far less aid to the North, and had nothing remotely comparable to the half-million strength, multi-year deployment of the U.S. yet the North Vietnamese had practically a cakewalk to Saigon within months after the main American force was withdrawn. If there was relatively less "guerilla war" after 1968 that does not meant that this is because the guerillas gave up in defeat. I have not read Summer, (and it is not the subject of this thread or the article we are supposed to be commenting on) but I start to question whether he really argues in favor of Ramboesque winnability. Face it, some wars, like the Russian attempt to take Afghanistan, are flat out blunders. Vietnam was our biggest so far (but the current administration is certainly well on its way to upstaging that dubious distinction).


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Okay, despite what I said previously, Gene, I have started doing your homework for you. Now it is your turn to do some yourself. I looked up your pet book on Amazon. The second or third review there nails the key issue of our discussion here:

    "In "On Strategy" Summers analyzes the Viet Nam war using Clausewitz's principles of war. While his analysis is rigorous, Summers never shows how the war could have been won. As he points out, the US was unable to pursue the war into North Viet Nam for fear of China entering the war on the ground. The American planners also feared that if China attacked through North Vietnam, they would also attack in Korea. And the US could not support a two front war in Asia without serious hardship at home.

    The only strategy he mentions for "winning" the war was to put enough troops on the border to prevent North Viet Nam's army from coming into South Viet Nam - sort of turning the American army into the Border Patrol. But that approach would never have been successful. The US could not maintain that troop level indefinitely and North Viet Nam would just have waited us out.

    Once the decision was made not to invade North Viet Nam, the war was un-winnable. And if you can't win, don't go to war. That is the real lesson of Viet Nam.

    Colin Powell learned that lesson and applied it in the first gulf war. Too bad it was forgotten for the second Gulf War."

    If you think this reviewer has it wrong, prove your point by actual citations from Summers and other sources. Put up or shut up. I appreciate your relative politeness, but a polite attempt to substitute a theory related to a Stallon movie for real history, is still absurd, even if sincerly felt and respectfully conveyed. I am old enough to remember Vietnam and am certainly not going to take your word for it that despite what practically every intelligent objective observer was saying in the early '70s, that that mess was somehow "winnable" if we had only...done..er..some vague something...different.




    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Melvin LIAR is one of the least credible and most biased commentators imaginable on Vietnam. Even you can do better than that. Even Gene does, though I fear his memory may have interchanged what he read in a book applying Clausewitze with a movie where helicopters are shot down with bows and arrows.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    Heuisler, You accusing ANYONE else here of being too full of scorn, is one of the most laughable attempts of a pot to call a kettle black seen around these parts in some time.

    Does anyone familiar with your many past posts think that my healthy skepticism in the last post above would come within light years of the righteous indignation you would volcanoe out were someone else, as PURELY hypothetical examples, to attempt to justify Stalinism or Nazism by quoting a deputy of Adolf or Uncle Joe ?

    Find me an actual historian, or even a non political-based observer of any kind, who can believably argue that Laird "cautiously engineered the withdrawal of the majority of our forces while building up South Vietnam's ability to defend itself" or that Henry K "negotiated a viable agreement between North and South Vietnam," and I might take you seriously.

    I you want to trade your Tucson flat for some Florida swampland, in the meantime, be my guest.



    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    The Weekly Standard is a notorious chickenhawk propaganda mouthpiece, but even they have the integrity not to claim what they cannot back up.

    The fact that Saddam was a dastardly mass murderer was well-known when Don Rumsfeld went to cozy up to him 20 years ago. The new "revelations" in the cited piece, that he also had "terrorist training" camps, is hardly at odds with the behavior of a guy who would machine-gun messengers of bad news and flood a whole ocean with a deliberately created oil slick.

    Except for the dubious claim of one supposed "official", there is nothing here supporting the lie that Saddam was in league with Al Qaeda before 9-11.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


    Gene,

    If I am "pugnacious" what does that make you ?

    1. You brought up the Summers book, not I.

    2. You have read, and presumably have a copy of, the Summers book. I have not and do not.

    3. You think the Summers book proves that American could have "won" the Vietnam war by using a different set of military tactics. I don't.

    4. Yet, somehow it is my job, and I am "pugnacious" for not buying a book I don't want to buy and not digging into it to fail to find non-existent evidence your defective memory thinks proves your point in #3 above.

    You are being ridiculous, Sir.

    I may have been wrong about the trajectory of U.S. troops levels, i.e. they were apparently out of Indochina faster than I remembered from 35 years ago. But so what ? So America decided to pull out 100,000 troops in 1973, not 300,000 and to save tens of billions of bucks in costs, not twenties of billions, or whatever.
    What vital interest of America was lost by saving these lives and taxdollars ?

    This is why Iraq is worse. Now we are not only shooting ourselves in the foot as in Vietnam, but there is also -this time- an actual threat to us that we should be dealing with but are failing to, while the incompetents in Washington parade from one flopped deception to the next.

    We have had a lot of the Rambo Myth here on HNN in past months and years from Heuisler and others. I now see that there has been a more active campaign of mass delusion, than I previously realized, about the Vietnam War being a lost opportunity for a great American victory. Thanks.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    To which sentence in the article do you refer ?

    "words, sentences, ideas,and hatred for the United States, moldy and stale, are still being ressurected!"

    Very moldy and stale indeed, the notion that we should hate only Democratic incompetents and deceivers.


    Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

    You are right, Tony, about Mr. H not directly expressing hatred for Democrats here, but it was he who brought up "hatred", a term which does not apply to the original article. I think if you were to look at prior comments in prior weeks by H., you would see plenty of examples of the kind of bias I refer to (democrats=bad, republicans=good). Incidentally it is possible to be against all forms of bias. History is not a football game with only two sides.

    Speaking of "mention or insinuation", however, where have I here or on other commments ever endorsed "the Left"? In fact, I much prefer to use both hands, and both sides of my brain. I recommend this approach to all here.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Ryan,

    Never listen or trust a fellow who is too old to learn how to properly cut & paste or post up on a website...

    You know... old guys who spout nonsensical rhetoric such as...

    "No doubt a stirring speech so long as you accept the fallacious predicate that the U.S. is fighting an "unnecessary" war... Yada, Yada Yada...

    While a young man like you goes off to war to get your ass shot off...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Ryan,

    Don't trust me either or anyone else for that matter. Well, except true loved ones...

    You make your own decisions in life, based on the best information you can gather, using your own good judgment and you'll be just fine...

    Take care and good luck...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Jones,

    If you have the chance read Stanley Karnow's Pulitzer Prize Winning 'Vietnam, A History'.

    This is the definitive bible on Vietnam... pre-history through the fall of Saigon... from someone who was boots on the ground.

    This book will put to rest any of that right/left blather and give you the nuts & bolts of what really occurred why & how...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Charles,

    You know my stand on this Iraq misadventure well enough and I am equal to you in age, if not older.

    If you want to glorify this war and coax/snow job some young man into fighting then send your own kid but, leave someone else's kid alone.

    If you want to "quibble" as you put it about this war I am always around and you know I'll hand you your ass.

    And, I am sure if Ryan were to "quibble" he'd slap you down too...

    Spelling... Our boys are dying without proper body armor and you worry about spelling... Get a clue Miss Manners...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Charles,

    Yes, it is quite understandable that to sift through information that, in all likelihood was sketchy at best, to evaluate and then react takes more than a mere seven minutes. But, do it off camera and don't sit there like a dolt in search of a dunce cap.

    There is an old adage in sport... Never let 'em see you sweat... Mr. Bush needed to immediately excuse himself and move out of camera view. It just showed how unprepared he was, at this particular time in history, to be Commander In Chief.

    But, since you, like others on the right, always flex your muscles on the easy questions it is interesting that your post does not account for the stand down of air defenses... Of all the 911 issues this is the one that totally tongue ties the smooth talking right...

    My apologies if it may have made you choke...

    Oh, 2225 dead volunteer families probably don't believe this "phony war stuff" line that you try to slime those who take you to task.

    Better luck next time with your "Saddam clearly orchestrated 911 attacks" argument. Maybe you and Mr. Heuisler can form a "Saddam Did It" club. Not only would you be charter members, you'd be the only members.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Jones,

    Very good point. It does appear that the history of Vietnam ended in 1975 as if many of us, maybe myself included, acted as if the country did not even existed.

    Now that you reminded us of the tragedies that had befallen that nation after the US departure I feel quite embarrassed to have forgotten.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Charles,

    The real issue here is that I believe we are dealing with a poster who is a young man of/or near service age. I know you will give him the best advice possible from your wealth of experience regardless, of my mundane, ignorant mutterings.

    My only hope is that we send these men & women on this vital mission (even as some like myself believe we would have been better served on a different tract) with the best chance for success. This hasn't been an easy time for our country but, with guys like you leading guys like Ryan we're going to be OK.

    Now back to reality...

    Please read my past posts... Armor whether on Humvees or in PPE has been a persistent problem from the wars outset... I realize you fight with the Army you have but, these type problems needed corrected months ago...



    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    No bull... Thanks so much for your excellent post. It is one of the best ever here at HNN. As this topic fades down the thread ladder and new ones move to the forefront many at HNN probably missed this posting. What a shame. For those who did catch it here's hoping they enjoyed it as much as I.

    Like Lt. Columbo... only one more question...

    You stated that "JFK overthrew Diem, a true bona-fide nationalist."

    Is this really true? The overthrow part, not the nationalist point...

    Could "Big Minh" Duong Van Minh have plotted the overthrow without US knowledge and maybe the US was forced to look the other way when it became apparent and too late to prevent?

    What really was Cabot Lodge role in the overthrow of Diem?

    What was CIA role especially, liaison Lucien Conein?

    Why was Big Minh overthrown only (2) months later if US initially backed him?

    Here's hoping you see this post. If not we'll see you elsewhere on HNN.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Trout,

    In all seriousness. What is your point? What were you really expecting or looking for?

    That people from differing backgrounds with varying life experiences are going to play nice while discussing anything related to Vietnam. A subject at HNN that has traditionally sparked intolerance, divisiveness and spilled more dogmatic rhetoric, across numerous posts over the past few years, than I've spilled gin.

    More so now during the last (34) months as events in Iraq and Afghanistan have unfolded.

    And, why does this being an HAW presentation given at some stuffy conference for AHA hold any magical sway as to how the group posts or where the discussion meanders? You act as though the posts presented on this essay were to be part of a study or a required dissertation for grade.

    What you're reading here is history. What is posted in front of you collectively is an essay all it's own. Appreciate the dialogue. Try to learn something from each person.

    If you are looking for history here is my gift to you for today...

    In 1918 Montana passed a Sedition Act. One of the US's harshest. Ben Kahn a 38-year-old traveling liquor salesman made what was construed as ill remarks regarding wartime food regulations when talking to a hotel owner in March 1918. Kahn was arrested for violating Montana's Sedition Act and sentenced to 7 1/2 to 20 years.

    The ability to speak more freely about Vietnam during Vietnam allowed for the discussion above, to which you were/are able to participate and comment. The one common thread of (35) very divergent posts is that we are free to discuss regardless, of how unfortunately, you may believe it to "represent a mindset that engenders tactless rejections of a democratic-value-based exchange of historical reactions".

    Peace Out...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Charles,

    Why is everything left/right or black/white for you. You're so rigid I'll bet you struggle to stoop down to take a crap.

    There is no love lost here for Ted "Fat, Drunk, and Stupid is no way to go through Life" Kennedy and Lerch Kerry. The Batman and Robin of Massachusetts politics.

    However, if you're blaming the Left, as you call them, for the US quitting Vietnam you'll need to provide some hard proof. For each "Moralist" you name I'll name a former righttarded wingnut who deserted the cause at some point during the war to press for the US to walk away.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Heuisler,

    I have asked you before and will continue to ask you until you provide and answer.

    You write, "defending another people forty years ago and a war defending this country against Islamofascists now."

    1.) Who is the US defending in Iraq? Provide names, groups, regions, causes... any being...

    2.) Who is the US enemy in Iraq? Again provide names, groups, regions... some being...

    3.) Identify an/or any Islamofascists in Iraq? Again provide names, groups, regions... gang of beings

    Hint: If you say Al Zaqwari I'm going to kick you in the shin.

    4.) How can you be "convinced the comparison is made as a self-fulfilling prophecy of US defeat by giving aid and comfort to the terrorist enemy." When in numerous documented posts you have failed to identify who this enemy is when questioned point blank. Explain your rationale for this lapse in reason?

    5.) How can anyone be unpatriotic about their country and so suicidal about their own personal fate if one cannot identify an enemy. Explain your rationale in belief to this obvious disconnect?

    Hint: Today reports from Iraq stated that on October 23 the so called Insurgents openly fought al Qaeda.

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/01/12/africa/web.0112iraq.php

    I'd say you got your work cut out for you explaining/ defending your position.




    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    Sorry for the interruption but, I've been reading your posts with great interest. They are very good and extremely informative. However, I became confused on this statement... "it was a conventional war fought against a highly trained foreign invading army."

    Me not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, to what foreign army are you referring?

    Thanks. Carry on.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Charles,

    Again, you make it difficult to debate because you make so many strong, substantial points.

    I believe you fully answered my question and confirmed my fears when you stated "there was/is a great middle that is silent and uninfluential".

    The traitorous Left and rabid Right are so loud/vocal, extreme, obnoxious, in you face, flat out wrong on nearly every subject and unfortunately, neither hold the best interest/well being of the United States to heart yet, totally dominate the discourse.

    Those of us in the middle, including us realists, are shutout and we are in the numerical majority. This conundrum was quite evident as I was growing up during the Vietnam era (silent majority) and again is visibly evident in the US today. On Iraq, when any reasonable suggestion or solution is presented it is shouted down from both sides of the aisle in the most extreme terms.

    I firmly believe that the events and wars in Vietnam and Iraq are very dissimilar however, I am afraid we are on the same road to Iraq that we crashed and burned on driving to Vietnam. The continued partisan fighting between left/right on Iraq will surely lead us to a similar outcome as delivered by Southeast Asia.

    Only though reason, patience and combined partisan team effort will we be able to prevail in Iraq. Mr. Bush assured us that he is a uniter. If true, now is his time to shine.

    As an aside, I was taken aback yesterday reading of Paul Bremer's cop out and push back to clear his name from the debacle in Iraq. When an individual of his stature seeks cover then something really must stink in Denmark.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    Glad to see you're still out there. I don't fully agree with your assessment on JFK and his level of experience or lack thereof...

    JFK was well educated, a distinguished war veteran, traveled extensively and was exposed to the cream of society...

    JFK was also ably staffed by seasoned advisors George Ball, McGeorge & William Bundy. Ellsworth Bunker, Paul Harkins (who opposed the overthrow of Diem), Averell Harriman, Lodge, Bob McNamara, Fred Nolting, Dean Rusk and Walt Rostow.

    It is clear that Kennedy did not want to appear soft on communism as he made quite evident in his inauguration address yet, like Iraq... sorry for the comparison as I agree Vietnam and Iraq are totally unrelated... the events can and do outpace the men trying to mold/control/dictate the outcomes.

    Lastly, no one should never accuse America of being awful or imperialist... history of Hawaii aside... Placing both Vietnam and Iraq in a military strategic and geopolitcal framework allows for a higher level, more enlightened conversation... yet emotion, bias and deep love of America can still muddy the dialogue.

    Thanks again. take care...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    Glad to see you're still out there. I don't fully agree with your assessment on JFK and his level of experience or lack thereof...

    JFK was well educated, a distinguished war veteran, traveled extensively and was exposed to the cream of society...

    JFK was also ably staffed by seasoned advisors George Ball, McGeorge & William Bundy. Ellsworth Bunker, Paul Harkins (who opposed the overthrow of Diem), Averell Harriman, Lodge, Bob McNamara, Fred Nolting, Dean Rusk and Walt Rostow.

    It is clear that Kennedy did not want to appear soft on communism as he made quite evident in his inauguration address yet, like Iraq... sorry for the comparison as I agree Vietnam and Iraq are totally unrelated... the events can and do outpace the men trying to mold/control/dictate the outcomes.

    Lastly, no one should never accuse America of being awful or imperialist... history of Hawaii aside... Placing both Vietnam and Iraq in a military strategic and geopolitcal framework allows for a higher level, more enlightened conversation... yet emotion, bias and deep love of America can still muddy the dialogue.

    Thanks again. take care...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Hey Charles,

    Welcome back. Hope you had fun, had great weather and shot a few good rounds.

    I'll not be sold. 911 was a precision military operation organized, financed and conducted by Saudi Arabia.

    Saddam had nothing to do with the 911 attacks.

    If the Bush government was "protecting" me on 911 why the stand down? Where was our air defense? Why did President Bush waste (7) minutes lost in space? Some protection he'd provide. Here is site just as crazy as the Weekly Standard... get back to me on which one you think is real since I believe neither are.

    http://www.geocities.com/killtown/oddities.html

    Talk to you soon. Take care.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    Thanks for the quick response and many thanks to you and all veterans especially, our Vietnam Veterans for the selfless service you have given our great nation.

    You all are not forgotten and never will be. We need your leadership now more than ever.

    As I take all things literally, my confusion centered on the use of the word 'foreigner'. If Vietnamese are a homogeneous people, indigenous to Vietnam they can never be foreigners while in their own native land regardless, of geographic borders or political divides.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Bill,

    One very admirable attribute of yours is that you are tenacious... easily conned but, determined nonetheless, like a rabid pit bull, to convince anyone out there that Saddam orchestrated the attacks on 911.

    It is interesting that you addressed your post to Charles. If anyone doesn't need convincing it's CH yet, I haven't seen him rush to back your past assertions on this recurring opium dream of yours.

    Always two steps ahead of you, I've read both articles when they hit the net. If these articles originated anywhere else... or were written by say Fisk or Hitchens or Juan Cole... they may hold some credence but, the PNAC mouthpiece Standard especially, Steve "He Tried To Kill W's Dad" Hayes and the trash can liner at Newsweek are fountains of disinformation. If recollection serves me didn't you take Newsweek to task on that ridiculous Quran in the toilet story and drool on and on of how evil/unpatriotic Newsweek is?

    Some evidence. Show us something substantial. Tell us something new. It is no wonder "why was the administration loathe to exploit the information earlier" or at any other time for that matter because, it's flat earth wrong. If it had any validity this administration would have had the headlines tattooed across the chest of Judith Miller as she rode naked upon a white charger in a full page drop down directly below the masthead of the Gray Lady. Bush has enough problems battling his bad press and you look for more. Some White House Press Secretary you'd make.

    I am glad you didn't post up at me... I don't do bad evidence and idiotic questions...

    "What will war opponents do when the Iraq-9/11 connection becomes obvious?"

    You tell me Sherlock Holmes what will they do? Quit protesting, go home, find real jobs. My guess is that when the insurgents hear this news they'll whip down their AK's & IED's and hug a US soldier.

    The first rule of holes... when your in one, stop digging...


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. "That's my last time, Peter" Clarke,

    Congratulations. You've been placed on Hueisler's "Enemies List". Join the club. As a charter member I welcome you. It's like being on Bill O'Reilly's 'those who pick on me list' or getting kicked off the Freeper website. The latter to which I am truly proud.

    I find it amazing that a dye-in-the-wool righttarded wingnut like Hueisler would even cite Mel Laird (R-WI)/ Nixon Secretary of Defense (69-72) who was one of the first/strongest advocates of American troop withdrawal and invented the term "Vietnamization." It was the right who sold out this country in Vietnam and don't let any of these right leaning re-writers of history convince HNN readers any differently.

    Why is it every time the right fails... which is quite often... they blame liberals and people of reason. The right is the defeatist wing and enemy of a free/strong/democratic America.


    Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/25/2006

    Dear Mr. Williams,

    You're quite welcome and well deserving of the accolades.

    Very interesting/strong counterpoint and difficult to refute. Regionalization is present in any society but, one must look at the whole of the culture. Similar, yet subtle differences in language, dress, religion, food are to be expected and as you clearly suggest Vietnam is three distinct geographic regions.

    Yet, anthropologists, sociologists and life scientists have classified the Vietnamese as a singular, distinct physiological homogenous ethnicity. However, politically the nation itself was first documented as established in 208 BC by a true foreigner, Chinese General, Trieu Da who conquered Au Lac (northern mountain region) and proclaimed himself emperor of Nam Viet.

    In 40 AD the Trung sisters led an insurrection of native Viet to expel the Chinese to establish an independent state that remained in flux until 967 AD when, under the auspices of Emperor Dinh Bo Linh, who called his state Dai Co Viet, unified the archipelago. In 1428 China finally recognized Vietnam, through accord, following a revolt led by Emperor Le Loi. In 1460-98 ruler Le Thanh Tong introduced a comprehensive legal code and fully pushed political domain to it's current southern most boundary. But, in 1545 a civil war split the nation in two for the next 200 years until the Tayson rebellion of 1772 and beginning of French dominance.

    The issue is that true outsiders... Chinese, French and Americans... more aptly fit the definition of foreigner. The reason that this is relevant to the comparison of Vietnam and Iraq is that the Bush administration continually inserts the word foreigner whenever they need a reason/excuse/scapegoat to blame for shortcomings in the current conflict. Regionalization/localization/tribalism versus arbitrary geographic/political boundary foisted upon the native populace by western powers.

    This issue is further compounded when warhawks are asked the seemingly simple question to identify, by name, who is the friend and who is the foe. The conundrum was present in Vietnam and is now visible in Iraq.





    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/21/2006

    Of course seven minutes would have saved America from the 9/11 attack--isn't everyone able to take in, evaluate, and react to major foreign offensives in at least half that time?
    Oh well, the Nordic Yaks are coming back and Transgenders every where are able to feel good about themselves so we haven't really lost ground in our pursuit of the really important things with all this phony war stuff.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/20/2006

    Patrick, "Charles" did not come to Bill's rescue because "Charles" was out of town playing good Republican golf in Arizona!
    Mr. Heuisler does not dig holes but he does occassionally caste intellectual pearls to swine--a useless exercise in my opinion as there is no evidence that will dissuade the "GET BUSH" crowd from believing that Saddam was a danger to U.S. security.
    You do not want to believe that your government was correct in their efforts to protect you, basking in your secure home with your secure lifestyle, you prefer to push, as many of your ilk do, a cozy social agenda from saving Nordic Yaks to protecting Transgenders from being embarrassed. I fry much larger fish Patrick and appreciate the deep fat frier that my President has provided for Islamofacists--unlike you, I believe we are in a shooting war.


    Tim Matthewson - 1/18/2006

    I stand by my claim that "wedge" issues have been important to Republican electoral victories in virtually all movern elections, but especially since the days of Richard Nixon, who as Republican candidate for president, ushered in the modern period of wedge issues by appealing to law and order and fomenting fear of student "radicals" and "blacks" militants as a means of achieving victory at the polls.
    President Nixon was also adept at exploiting the fear of communism as a wedge political issue, as he was an acolyte of Joseph McCarthy and Nixon laid the groundwork for the later exploitation of other wedge issues by the likes of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, who have implemented the triumph of the Republican party in the southern states, and who were more than willing to use southern racism as a "wedge" issue.
    Mr. Heisler and others are right. Unbidled libealism is no better than unbridled conservatism, for it was unbridled liberalism which brought us the expansion of slavery under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson, and it was unbridled liberals who brought us the Robber Barons in the late 19th century under the leadership of the Republican party; and neither should one forget the Republican's role in bringing the U.S. the Great Depression and the Democratic Party of Franklin Roosevelt.
    Like it or not, all we are left with is the welfare state, which is now led by George Bush, whose prescription drug benefit would have favored by New Deal liberals and was indeed favored by Clinton liberals.
    So the main difference between the parties today, seems to be the jingo foreign policy of the Republicans and their crony capitalism, who want to secure a permanent majority in Congress, the executive, and the courts, by co-opting liberal spending programs for the poor and massive tax cuts for the affluent.
    But the problem with this program is the problem identified by Christians and most all religions, which is that we are all frail and imperfect and capable of sin and tempted by pride. And it is our own imperfections that lead us to hope to realize a perfect socity but which prevents us from ever achieving one. Striving for perfection is a dangerous human tendency, for as we see with our current Republican party of George Bush, it only leads to a "culture of corruption" which may land significant
    parts of the Republican leadership in jail.




    Gene Williams - 1/17/2006

    Ahhhh.. What did JFK know and when. That is really a historical mystery isn't it... And I know people who have the answer and hopefully will write what is now a footnote to history before they die. (I also know people who want answers to certain intel assessments on Vietnam put out in the late '60's)

    I will say that my French friends are berating me sur ce point maintenaut parce que we didn't assassinate Saddam rather than go to war against him. So many lives to have been saved. C'est vraiment dommage...

    But assassination in any form is against American law and since RFK did a botched job against Castro (amazing .. Fidel is now 48 years in office without having to put his accomplishments up for review by an electorate!), the US has never tried to use this "statecrate option" - and probably a good thing since we're bloody awful at keeping any secrets).

    My feeling is JFK knew about the anti-Diem coup in advance. JFK was quite inexperienced and willing to push the envelope. Witness the Bay of Pigs. Take a look again at his inaugural speech. The rhetoric is unmistakeable. (And makes you wonder what happened to his party after 1968).

    One other thing...please try to disconnect "Vietnam" from Iraq. The two have almost nothing in common except to denigrate the United States. Or if you want to make parallels, take these out of the "isn't imperialist America awful" and put it into a strategic military/geo-political conversation. This will make anti-Iraq war arguments much more powerful.


    Gene Williams - 1/16/2006

    Mr. Ebbit:

    Thanks for refreshing my memory on Vietnamese history...this is truely enjoyable. I worked more with the Montagnards, racially different from the Vietnamese, than with the Vietnames but always enjoyed talking history with my Vietnamese counterparts.

    I'll agree with your thesis above of Vietnam as one nation for centuries which spoke Vietnamese (except for the mountain minorities) and especially now. I'm not sure when the Viets expanded from the Red Rover basom down the coast but my impression was that the kingdon of Champa wasn't destroyed by the Viets until relatively late. And I don't know how tightly administered was the kingdom...was it a loose confederation of states like pre Ch'ing dynasty China or was it centralized and effective?

    I will offer one more thing though on what makes up national unity (language, race, religion being the first three). The fourth is a general agreement on how a "nation state' should be organized and run...call it political ideology. The South spoke Vietnamese but had a larger Catholic population than the North (many Catholics fled to the South - Diem was Catholic). But like the North the majority of the South were Buddhists (Mahayana version). But politically there was a huge gulf in where the two ends were preceived to be going. South and North Korea had the same problem.

    As I recall, though, the problem in Vietnam as opposed to Korea was that we (the Americans or "the West" in general) were perceived to be the inheritors of French colonialists and Ho was allowed to carry the "nationalist" banner... in Korea, Kim il Sung was preceived to be a Soviet puppet while Sigmund Ree was perceived to be the nationalist resistor to the Japanese.

    Whatever, this caused some problems early on, compounded when JFK overthrew Diem, a true bona-fide nationalist. Yet by 1968 under the influence of war (which always forces a reorganization of society to some extent) we never ever had a problem identifying the enemy. Actually this was so pretty much from 1966 on...the local communists were found and eliminated quickly. The problem then became how do you protect a "pacified" village when a NVA regular battalion can roll through and flame thrower the place as happened many times.

    You are getting to the heart of the Vietnam war now...keep taking a look..its instructive and thanks for the comeback.

    By the way, earlier i was challenged (rather obstreperously) to tell (suggest to) a fellow poster how we could have won the war. I highly recommend reading Palmer for some insights to this. But let me offer one possibility .... Rommel said "Operations on enemy supply lines make him break off actions on the front." Consider this and take a look at the 1971 ARVN operation into Laos to cut the Ho Chi Minh Road (Lam Song 413?...forgotten the number) and at the reaction it provoked by the NVA. (by the way, I opearated into Laos in 1968 as part of macvsog...see macvsog.cc "the stories" rt Delaware).

    Finally, I know you're interested in comparing Vietnam to Iraq... I'll only again recommend Summers. In addition to helping educate on Miltiary thought in general, on War and on the Vietnam conflict specifically and on American Military strategic concepts from WWII through Vietnam...it may give you information and ammunition for your thesis on Iraq if you read it carefully.


    Gene Williams - 1/14/2006

    You're welcome and thanks for the civilized response. Language (like religion and race) is a great unifier and Vietnamese is no exception... And I suppose one could make a case that Yankee troops in Virginia were not a foreign army invading the South or North Korean troops in Seoul weren't either. One can also make a case for the opposite though.

    In this vein I did run across arguments (Mostly from the French but also from some South Vietnamese) that Vietnam was always 3 distinct regions (Cochin, Annam,...) that happened to speak the same language sort of like pre-Bismark Germany...i.e.. Prussians weren't necessarily the same as Barvarians, etc. This is admittedly pretty esoteric and is OBE now. But at the time in 1966 during my first tour in Vietnam, it was widely talked about. It would be interesting to hear from a Vietnamese in the USA or an expert on the matter.

    (I think Bao Dai...the "emperor" of Vietnam (His summer hunting lodge was in Ban Me Thout in 1966) may have been acknowledged as emperor of all of the Vietnamese a la the Kaiser in Germany...but am not sure of this...memory has faded a bit on this subject.)


    Gene Williams - 1/14/2006

    You have taken the first step by looking a book up on Amazon and reading a review. The next is to get hold of it, open the cover and read it. Once this is done, I'd very much enjoy discussing it with you further. That will be the first step to freeing you from cant and maybe even lead to thought without slogans and life beyond the flickering screen late at night.

    Oh Peter mon cher, you don't need to be so truculent to make a point. I do listen to others' opinions and enjoy intellectual exchange. But your pugnaciousness makes it seem that you're not sure of what you're talking about, you're ashamed of something, or you really haven't done anything at all in your life and are living vicariously in some way. And it makes any exchange with you seem like talking to a teenager and reduces the intellectual pleasure of this database. Why not join the Marines and go live your fight instead of talking it?

    By the way, I can't be intimidated by crude language or physical threat. I have been too many tough places in 25 years abroad. I can be persuaded by intelligent thought though. Try it and see.

    Once you absorb Summers and Palmer, we'll talk. By the way, I would hazard that no one can tell you absolutely how we could have won Vietnam anymore than one can say how Lee could have won Gettysburg. But, once we're on a level playing field, you and I both could formulate some possibilities and make some suggestions. Ciao and happy reading.

    Oh one more thing, Most US troops were out of Vietnam by 1971, 4 years (not a few months as you suggest) before Saigon fell. For instance, 1972 saw an amazing stand at Loc Ninh by ARVN rangers...they took 14,000 rounds of artillery a day for a month and held, more than any US unit ever has before or since. There were good SVN troops there and many units went down fighting in 1975. But at least they, like us their allies, were on the field and not in an armchair.


    Bill Heuisler - 1/13/2006

    Once again, I attempted dialogue and was answered with intemperate pap.
    Adding insult to injury, you don't bother with refutation, don't even understand another poster's use of a parallel example and use capital letters on empty insults. Childish.

    Peter's world: All who disagree with his unsupported opinions are liars. Authors who don't support his views aren't worth reading. Adjectives replace nouns and scorn replaces any attempt at reasoned argument.

    Why should anyone offer insights and positions to a caricature like him? There are many intelligent people on HNN with real thoughts, cogent opinions and active intellects.

    That's my last time, Peter.
    Bill Heuisler


    Bill Heuisler - 1/13/2006

    Sorry.
    Forgot the slash after entries
    http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/17111.html


    Bill Heuisler - 1/13/2006

    ...for yourself from Melvin Laird, Sec. of Defense during the time in question. Read it on HNN:
    http://hnn.us/roundup/entries17111.html

    Here's an exerpt that refutes your statement about Soviet spending.
    "The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. In fact, we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory two years later when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own. Over the four years of Nixon's first term, I had cautiously engineered the withdrawal of the majority of our forces while building up South Vietnam's ability to defend itself. My colleague and friend Henry Kissinger, meanwhile, had negotiated a viable agreement between North and South Vietnam, which was signed in January 1973. It allowed for the United States to withdraw completely its few remaining troops and for the United States and the Soviet Union to continue funding their respective allies in the war at a specified level. Each superpower was permitted to pay for replacement arms and equipment. Documents released from North Vietnamese historical files in recent years have proved that the Soviets violated the treaty from the moment the ink was dry, continuing to send more than $1 billion a year to Hanoi. The United States barely stuck to the allowed amount of military aid for two years, and that was a mere fraction of the Soviet contribution.

    Yet during those two years, South Vietnam held its own courageously and respectably against a better-bankrolled enemy. Peace talks continued between the North and the South until the day in 1975 when Congress cut off U.S. funding. The Communists walked out of the talks and never returned. Without U.S. funding, South Vietnam was quickly overrun. We saved a mere $297 million a year and in the process doomed South Vietnam, which had been ably fighting the war without our troops since 1973."

    Read the whole thing. You may learn something from the man who was there making the decisions.
    Bill Heuisler


    Gene Williams - 1/13/2006

    Please stop being so sour.

    The title of the article in question by Ms. Eisenburg is "Have We Learned Anything from Vietnam?" Thus my comments on her article are apt.

    But to learn something you have to know what happened there. She doesn't or she pretends it was otherwise; from appearances per your notes above it doesn't appear you do either. I don't chastize you for this - you're not alone in your misperceptions...I just rather hope to educate you and have recommended a good starting place. I hope you take the time to look at what was recommended and would be very interested in your critique of the books.

    By the way, we have had 50,000 troops in South Korea since 1954 and throughout the Cold War kept 300,000 in Europe. This was deemed worthy of our treasure and committment. Do you have some racist prejudice against the Vietnamese which makes you think they weren't worth the same effort.

    Again this is my last word...sometimes trying to communicate is like talking to a wall...it reaches the point where its not worth the trouble.


    Bill Heuisler - 1/13/2006

    Charles,
    Forgot to include the article that states the matter far more clearly than I ever could.

    http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/006/550kmbzd.asp

    Kind of changes things, doesn't it?
    Bill


    Bill Heuisler - 1/13/2006

    Charles,
    A little noticed development has begun to affect basic assumptions anti-Iraq and anti-Bush debaters have taken for granted. Evidence has surfaced - now slowly appearing in the MSM as documents discovered in Iraq 2003& 2004 are released to the public by the Pentagon and DOD -there were, after all, definite links between Iraq and 9/11. And also there are well established connections between Iraq and OBL that were known before 2003.

    Examples -
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10652305/site/newsweek/

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10663343/site/newsweek/

    Two questions arise:
    Why was the administration loathe to exploit the information earlier?
    What will war opponents do when the Iraq-9/11 connection becomes obvious?
    Bill


    Frederick Thomas - 1/13/2006


    Mr. Williams:

    How welcome that some cool, informed perspective is consistently provided for this subject, away from the heat of memories of battle, and away from the "cranium rigidum" of so many party line pot smoking residuals of the 60's, who fled to academe out of fear and elitism, not principle.

    I was a TF/FSCO for the period 69-70, briefed some very senior folks and also was (un?)lucky enough have experienced real fighting, against both VC and NVA. In my zone of operations we won, hands down, by working our strength against the enemy's weakness, ie firepower and intel against their infantry. When I left, there was not an operational enemy company in four provinces. 11 men of the 169th VC "Chieu Hoied" the month before I left. They were the last left alive, of 130 men, after months of systematic bombardment by the St Paul and Canberra. I find that heat adds nothing to the appreciation of the Vietnam experience. Cool perspective such as yours can and does help understanding. Thanks for that.






    Gene Williams - 1/13/2006

    Mr. Ebbit,

    The foreign army which invaded South Vietnam would be what we called the NVA or North Vietnamese Army. The South Vietnames Army was called ARVN or Army of the Republic of Vietnam. The North Vietnamese were no more welcome in the South than the North Koreans were in South Korea or the East Germans would have been welcome in West Germany during the 45 year world-wide titatanic struggle called "the Cold War."

    There are a lot of urban legends floating around about that war. I once again want to recommend Summer's book to all; so that if one wants to draw lessons from the conflict, at least the analysis will be based on what happened on the ground and not myth. I'll append a quote from the forward fyi:

    "One of the anomalies of the Vietnam War is that until recehntly most of the literature and almost all the thinking about the war ended with the Tet Offensive of 1968. As a result, the common knowledge was that America had lost a guerrilla war in Asia, a loss caused by failure to apreciate the nuances of counterinsurgency war.
    " But the truth was that the war continued for 7 years after the Tet Offensive, and that latter phase had almost nothing to do with counterinsurgency or guerrilla war. The threat came from the North Vietnames regular forces in the hinterlands.
    "The final North Vietnames blitzkrieg in April 1975 had more to do with the fall of France in 1940 than it did with guerrilla war. In fact, the North Vietnames commander, Senior General Tran Van Dung, does not even mention the role of the Viet Cong in his account of his Great Spring Victory."....

    The book is "On Strategy; a Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War." New York Times called it "just about the best think I have read on Vietnam." Newsweek said, "perhaps the most trenchant single postmortem to date of our defeat in Vietnam." It is so important that I have recommended it to be read by any and everyone who may have a hand in the future in sending US troops into battle.

    LTG Palmer's book "Summons of the Trumpet" is a better explanation of the history of American involvement in the conflict and why we took the actions we did at certain times but Summers book has the more far reaching - sweeping educational value for those who are not professional military.

    Finally, The Vietnam War tore apart my generation; The two sides found themselves opposed on many fronts over the 30 years which followed. Generally speaking, the Viet Vet has had the short end of the argument; the "other side" ("peace activists" or "anti-war militants" or whatever you want to call them) had the sympathies and the ear of the media. But this doesn't negate the need for all to examine critically our past. Unfortunately, most of the literature and commentary from that era remains so highly skewed one way or the other that much history of the period has to be read skeptically. These two books, I've found, are the exception. Good luck.



    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/13/2006

    We share a dismay Patrick. We live in the age of "Tell All" books I am afraid and every public servant seems to be padding his retirement with this pap. Unfortunately, to sell the books, the media must pay attention and in buying that attention, something, anything must be inserted that bashes the Bush Administration--that sells--if Bush "bleeds" it leads!
    I wonder how Lincoln and Rooseveldt would have been perceived if the public was generally aware of how they bungled the first few years of their respective wars? I wonder if they could have prosecuted their respective wars with kind of public communication we have contemporarily--I suspect they could not have.


    Bill Heuisler - 1/12/2006

    Mr. Slonaker,
    Mr Donavan referred specifically to Iraq ("don't know if the information that we had was faked or not...").
    The article used the word lie in reference to Iraq without providing specifics. Mr Donovan has not given specifics either.

    Your sole reference to the Gulf of Tonkin implies you disagree with the author's comparison of the two wars and agree with those who completely reject any comparisons between a war defending another people forty years ago and a war defending this country against Islamofascists now.

    I'm convinced the comparison is made as a self-fulfilling prophecy of US defeat by giving aid and comfort to the terrorist enemy. My question is, why would anyone be so unpatriotic about their country, and so suicidal about their own personal fate?
    Bill Heuisler


    Paul Slonaker - 1/12/2006

    "You stated our government lied as a fact. Please state the specific lie."

    The faked Gulf of Tonkin incident, anyone?


    Gene Williams - 1/12/2006

    Peter,

    Last comment on Vietnam because its very difficult evidently for facts to intrude on hard heads and preconceived notions.

    (1) Vietnam was not/not a guerrilla war. it was a conventional war fought against a highly trained foreign invading army. There was a Guerrilla element to it but this element was never overwhelmingly important and was vertually destroyed in Tet and by the Phoenix program...from 1964 on the major fighting in Vietnam was done by North Vietnamese Army regular troops.

    (2) Vietnam was not/not fought with the divisions trained to defend the Fulda Gap. It was fought as it had to be fought and revolutionary warfighting technologies came out of it.

    (3) the problem from our side came from the strategies which were adopted by the LBJ crowd.

    Finally, if you don't understand the Vietnam War, why would anybody pay any attention to your opinions abour Iraq...Without some research and background, you're just another guy in a bar with an opinion about everything. Start with the books I recommended and educate yourself about history. Then lets talk about Vietnam, what was and what might have been.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/12/2006

    Patrick, I don't think you would be successful either on a Liberal/Conservative or a Hawk/Dove (as they were known then) basis during that period. Throw into the mix the "intelligensia", the academic minions, the media (especially Kronkite, the purveyor of the Hitlerian "Big Lie") and my list would go on and on.
    I believe in either/or sets of beliefs simply because during the Vietnam years they existed, as they exist now. I acknowledge that there was/is a great middle that is silent and uninfluential. Liberalism is a curse to me, I freely admit that, having had the same experience as Judge Alieto in my first years of university life being exposed to the unreasoning fury of academics that should have served their students far better than they did during those important years in our history.
    My point, and one I hope is well taken, is that the consequences of our withdrawal from Vietnam was so very tragic and that tragedy is rarely if ever acknowledged, recognized for what it was, and apologized for by the people that caused that withdrawal. Just as those that would have us withdraw from our committments in the Middle East do now, these people seemed to be satisfied simply with embarrassing America and letting the devil take the consequent. This is the one "unlearned lesson of Vietnam" that I wish you and everyone who sees Iraq as a useless adventure would learn.
    It is so easy to see our failure in Vietnam as a victory for the peace seekers over the hawks so long as you don't have to remember the "Killing Fields" and the forty years of misery suffered by the Vietnamese people. Throw those understandings into the mix and then Vietnam becomes something and entirely different sort of victory for the Left.
    At least you might now understand why I have such a low regard for the American Left after all these long years and why it is so important to me that their strange form of patriotism never hold sway again in this Country.
    Patrick, you seem like a fine intelligent fellow and I have belabored this too long. I relish the opportunity to crap backward on folks, like the author of this piece, when they smugly drag up the analogy of Vietnam and Iraq. I find it necessary to point out the real comparisons as they exist to me--the unintended consequences of believing that defeatable evil didn't exist in Southeast Asia and in the Middle East.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/12/2006

    Patrick, I don't think you would be successful either on a Liberal/Conservative (as they were known then) or a Hawk/Dove basis during that period. Throw into the mix the "intelligensia", the academic minions, the media (especially Kronkite, the purveyor of the Hitlerian "Big Lie") and my list would go on and on.
    I believe in either/or sets of beliefs simply because during the Vietnam years they existed, as they exist now. I acknowledge that there was/is a great middle that is silent and uninfluential. Liberalism is a curse to me, I freely admit that, having had the same experience as Judge Alieto in my first years of university life being exposed to the unreasoning fury of academics that should have served their students far better than they did during those important years in our history.
    My point, and one I hope is well taken, is that the consequences of our withdrawal from Vietnam was so very tragic and that tragedy is rarely if ever acknowledged, recognized for what it was, and apologized for by the people that caused that withdrawal. Just as those that would have us withdra


    Gene Williams - 1/11/2006

    But my feeling is you are mistaken on many accounts.

    Had you been in Washington in 1955 when our assistance to SVN began, a year after the end of the Korean War, two years after the uprising in E.Berlin, with the emergency raging in Malaya, and the Huckaboos still active in the Philippines, and only 7 years after the Fall of China, and 9 years after the lights went out one by one in Eastern Europe, you no doubt would have been far-sighted enough to know that help to allies in SEAsia was futile in the long run. Butm, I remember that era and can assure you noone but a communist at that time could see the futility of resisting the red tide.

    Following your logic, in 1942 it should have been obvious that it was futile for America to oppose an all powerful Nazi Germany with its unstoppable Blitzkrieg machine. Not only futile but down right against our interests...only Germany was keeping the Reds in check, right?

    No Peter, In SVN we dared to try...after the Laos accords in 1962 (blatantly violated by NVN), JFK decided we had to do something...part of a world-wide containment strategy..read his great inauguration speech again if you still don't understand. He picked SVN because of its coastline. We adopted the wrong strategy for the war and paid the price... but still we fought and we tried and we resisted tyranny. We did not sit on the sidelines and pontificate white-flag nonsense and we, the Vietnam Vet, did not ally ourselves with totalitarians either.

    For that spirit and (I think I'm speaking for most Vietnam veterans) for those principles, I'm proud to have been a part of that effort; And maybe once the Politburo of NVN is relegated to the ashheap of history...perhaps as soon as they make the mistake of having an election... perhaps I'll again visit that beautiful country.


    Gene Williams - 1/11/2006

    Peter,

    At the risk of being called "Rambo," permit me to recommend a couple of books. To understand military-politico policy and its breakdown, perhaps you should start with an understanding of War...I recommend Clauswitz's "On War" as a beginning

    If this is too esoteric, try the best political-military, cold blooded analysis of the conflict ever published, LTC Harry Summer's, "On Strategy, a Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War." This book was the catalyst for the revival of the American military after Vietnam and of American strategic thought, dormant since the advent of MAAD, taking Clauswitz and applying its lesson to US Military thought from WWII through VN.

    And for a truely academic historical look at the military strategies tried in Vietnam, try LTG Sumner's book, "Summons of the Trumpet." This contains in addition to excellent analysis a comprehensive (if early) catalog of books on Vietnam.

    To make it easy for you though, yes the war was winnable. But to do so we had properly to analyse the war we were fighting. However, we were so taken early on with countering the Maoist concept of "revolutionary war," that by the time we realized VN was really a conventional struggle using conventional strategies and means, our hands were tied.

    I take some comfort in thinking that Vietnam was but one battle in the 45 year World War against the Soviet Union and that in the end, when that empire disintegrated and its lies and abominiations were revealed for all except the most fevert adherent to see, our efforts in SE Asia were justified.

    However, this doesn't help the poor Laotians, Vietnamese and Cambodians who suffered and are suffering from the aftermath; nor does it help the true-believer fellow-travelers or the acolytes of murderously utopian schemes who still support that fascist-communist police state victory, even if these are shown to be what they actually are, in facing reality, ...i.e....that in Vietnam in support our enemies they helped create a horror.


    Gene Williams - 1/11/2006

    Mme Eisenburg;

    Saigon fell to an imperial all out assault by 19 North Vietnamese regular army divisions. Laos and Cambodia fell...well..like dominoes. A million South Vietnamese fled in small boats; hundreds of thousands were imprisoned for years; millions died in Indo-china on the killing fields. The "NLF" flag disappeared a nano-second after the fall to be replaced without explanation or shame by the North Vietnamese red banner. And under the fascio-communist governments which followed, Vietnam and its satellites fell to the lowest gdp level in the world while being subject to one of the most controling, gulog, nanny-like, police states ever.

    No, our self inflicted defeat in Vietnam was an utter disaster for liberal ideas about the place of man in society and his relationship to his government. Recall that Hemingway said, "I have seen war and hate it profoundly; but there are worse things and they all begin with defeat." This conclusion, not your article, is apt.

    No, sadly it sounds like you are searching not for history professors but for ideologues who can with a straight face put out pink-tinged agitprop.


    Edward Joseph Trout - 1/11/2006

    At this point in this thread, the 35 posts on this HAW presentation at the AHA Conference have been extremely dogmatic and intolerant. "Agreeing-to-disagree" has become polarized into unproductive posits that have little to do with the themes of C. Eisenbergs thesis. If her analogy has little relevance, than why the spitefulness of many of the posts? This is more than polemics. The posts represent a mindset that engenders tactless rejections of a democratic-value-based exchange of historical reactions.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/11/2006

    Patrick, your lapse of memory is shared by many on the Left who let the history of Vietnam expire in 1975. Maybe it will be helpful to you in understanding those of us that have such baleful attitudes toward old liberals like Kennedy and Kerry have never forgotten what happened in Southeast Asia when we allowed the these great "Moralists" to walk away from that war.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/11/2006

    Sorry Ryan, I misunderstood your comments about your "push him" to be baiting. I am retired.
    No teacher or anyone that proposes to teach should display anger in a college classroom (the only classroom I am familiar with) but I can't speak for seventh grade--having gone thru this age with four children and their friends, I'm not at all sure that displays of fury and perhaps mass murder might not be appropriate.


    ryan donovan - 1/10/2006

    and you will be disappointed to learn that I did not "bait" him, we debated. Just because it was a classroom, and a teacher had exploded, I didn't bait him.
    By taught, you are retired, no?


    Grant W Jones - 1/10/2006

    Mr. Miller: I don't think that are posts are mutually exclusive. Of course, Eisenberg and her ilk are religious fanatics who worship in the Church of Lenin. Notice how they view that the history of Indo-China ended in 1975 with the defeat of the Great Satan. They don't care that the Communist triumph led to thirty years of mass-murder, boat people, re-education camps, oppression and poverty.

    My point was military one that another article of faith of the Eisenbergs is that guerrillas trying to overthrow an American supported government always have the support of the people and are invincible. This is nonsense and is not supported by the facts in these cases.

    Mr. Ebbitt: I have read many books on the Vietnam War. I think I have read parts of Karnow's book. But to be honest I can't remember.

    I disagree that any book on a historical event can be considered "the definitive Bible." Any work that does not include the events in Indo-China after 1975 can hardly be called "definitive."


    ryan donovan - 1/10/2006

    why thank you. It is, after all, those noncentral matters that really do make the difference!


    John Chapman - 1/10/2006

    Iraq is no Vietnam. But it is the Armageddon the fundamentalist Christian right has been praying for the last 30 years. It’s been reported that Pat Robertson is negotiating to install a Jesus entertainment park in Israel and make money before the whole mess blows up. Somehow, church and state, and the mental geography the American people live in, are involved in this.

    In my view both sides lost the Vietnam War in many ways. To name a couple: For America, it was the credibility as to the intelligence of its leaders, and for Vietnam, the loss of millions of lives for which most people of the West didn’t truly concern themselves over. After all, the Vietnamese were dark-skinned and foreign and far away and they weren’t really a part of the white man’s divine manifest destiny as dictated by American global economic plans and the peculiar version of the Christian god America had appropriated to validate their actions.

    Only a few similarities. Then it was Vietnamization and now it’s Iraqization. Increased responsibility to the South Vietnamese Army, increased responsibility to the Iraqi army. Nixon and Kissinger withdrew troops in Nam, not the people of America or its lower tier politicians. They have never had the real power and they never will. It was the Nixon administration that blew it. Nixon might also have tried playing king the way it’s played today and ignored Congress.

    As Eisenberg says, irrationally prevailed when they thought they could do more with less troops. Same with Iraq. Bremer, at the beginning, made a recommendation for adding more troops but it was ignored by Rumsfeld. Vietnam and Iraq: tons of money being poured in and about the same in results. We don’t want to cut and run in Iraq today for fear of appearing weak and we didn’t want to in Vietnam for the same reason. Who is losing and who is winning? We’re all losing, children, because we haven’t learned our basic lessons about living together on this planet. Learning to share, always helping your neighbors without hidden political or economic agendas, religious tolerance, etc..

    Unfortunately, the Iraq region will never stabilize until the power vacuum is filled. Either a competent administration fills it properly, or someone else will.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/10/2006

    Patrick, I am sure you are good at handling ass but I am way too much ass for your limited experience!
    I encourage no sacrifice that being a noble endeavor best made by the warrior.
    The quibble over grammar was not initiated here, as you well know, following the discussion as the good scholar you are.
    So it is "body armour" this week is it? Good to know you keep up with current events. Now what was your complaint with the war last week???


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/10/2006

    Ryan. Taught! Rhetoric/Speech sans tobbaco juice. You will be disappointed to learn that no student baited me in 30 plus years--I never exploded, pointed an angry finger, or condemned a student in any class I ever taught. I can think of no place where anger would be more inappropriate than a classroom.


    Bill Heuisler - 1/10/2006

    Mr. Donovan,
    You stated our government lied as a fact. Please state the specific lie.

    As to the consequences of our withdrawal of forces and monetary support from south Vietnamese, there were dire results for millions.

    Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 1975. Saigon fell to the NVA army near the same time. During the next four years almost two million people were murdered in the killing fields of Cambodia.

    In Vietnam after the fall, more than 25,000 soldiers and "combatants" were killed, according to refugees and international groups; at least 300,000 were placed in detention camps (WAPO 2/15/77)and more than 200,000 people fled the South in the next three years (AI report 1980).

    Had the US prevailed in SE Asia those millions would have lived.
    Few historians dispute the numbers, but apparently your teachers didn't consider death on such a scale of any importance.
    Bill Heuisler


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/10/2006

    Ah, youthful arrogance goes forth believing theirs was the only generation to face the gun! It does wonders for the egos no doubt--somewhat akin to giving grammar lessons while mispelling MAYBE. Maybe the proper spelling was before your time Ryan????
    You both make fine liberals, missing the main point but able to quibble magnificently with noncentral matters.


    ryan donovan - 1/10/2006

    you are right.
    And, never trust someone who is too old to use proper grammar. In the original text, as you have quoted, unnecessary is an adjective, not a predicate. Or mabey that was after his time...


    ryan donovan - 1/10/2006

    you sound like my seventh grade history teacher. I would sit in back, he would sit in front at his desk with his chewing tobaco in the drawer, and I would push him untill he exploded, screaming at us, the finger of divine retribution pointing down on us, condemning us all to purgatory, with his tobaco laden spittle raining down on us. It was the best class I ever had at that school.
    You mentioned your students earlier. What do you teach?


    Richard F. Miller - 1/10/2006

    Mr. Jones: It's not a question of Leftist lies; rather, it's leftist theology. Ms.Eisenberg declares its basis in her opening sentence: "For many historians of a certain age, the Vietnam War was the formative intellectual experience, which shaped our understanding of the United States and its history."

    As I pointed out in an earlier post, Ms. Eisenberg establishes the foregoing as an article of faith; hence, it is impervious to evidence or reason. Only a fool would confess to basing her entire outlook of any history, which by its nature is complex, nuanced, and ever-changing, on a "formative event."

    I argue that the way to understand Ms. Eisenberg and her ilk is realize that only theologies have "formative events"--ephiphanies, conversion experiences, and so forth. Once formed (unless faith is subsequently lost), the event lasts a lifetime.

    So it is with Ms. Eisenberg--a formative event, likely in her adolescence, has lasted a lifetime, and "shaped our [notice the collective here] understanding of the United States and its history." Imagine that! How fortunate indeed are Ms. Eisenberg and her fellow mystogogues. To have been granted the comprehension of an entire country's history through one formative event. Only her and Saul of Tarsis, I'm afraid....


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/10/2006

    Most certainly Ryan! Should we Conservatives become unbridled, then I am sure the American people will do their thing and bridle. Until then, I hope for the unrestrained reign that liberalism has had--just give me 30 solid years of conservative thought in America!


    Grant W Jones - 1/10/2006

    "that policy too had been tried and failed. Kennedy and Johnson had escalated US involvement because no matter how much money and weaponry was sent, the Army of South Vietnam would not stand and fight."

    Actually they fought much better than anyone had a right to expect, until the Democratic Congress pulled support out from under an ally.

    http://kalapanapundit.blogspot.com/2005/11/learning-real-lessons-of-vietnam.html

    http://www.americanthinker.com/comments.php?comments_id=3721

    http://historynet.com/vn/blreassessingarvn/index.html

    http://50thstar.blogspot.com/2005/07/general-william-westmoreland-dead-at.html

    I'm just putting up a bunch of links because refuting the same old, tired leftist lies about Vietnam is tiresome.


    ryan donovan - 1/10/2006

    Would unbridled conservativeness be "the best thing that ever happened" to the democrats?


    ryan donovan - 1/10/2006

    so, how would vietnam and cambodia be better? I would honestly like to know.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/10/2006

    "As I was not yet born during the Vietnam war, I have no direct experience with it. All I know has been told to me by relatives, school studies, and other related sources.

    However, what little I know does show many similarities. Our government looks us as a people in the eye and lies to us."

    My comment to this Ryan, would be two fold, I would ask, "What lies?" then and now and then I would go to my "other sources" and "relatives" and ask a very pertinent question. I would ask them to speculate on how much better the Cambodian people would be today and how much better the Vietnamese people, now at the absolute bottom rung of third world nations, would be today if we had prevailed in South East Asia in the 70's. I would ask them to use South Korea and Japan as criteria in making this speculation.
    I will tell you as I told my students who reported statements made by English professors, sociology professors, and history professors about "How wrong we were in Vietnam", to go back to these sources and ask them about Cambodia and Vietnam after we left.
    Now,


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/10/2006

    "As I was not yet born during the Vietnam war, I have no direct experience with it. All I know has been told to me by relatives, school studies, and other related sources.

    However, what little I know does show many similarities. Our government looks us as a people in the eye and lies to us."

    My comment to this Ryan, would be two fold, I would ask, "What lies?" then and now and then I would go to my "other sources" and "relatives" and ask a very pertinent question. I would ask them to speculate on how much better the Cambodian people would be today and how much better the Vietnamese people, now at the absolute bottom rung of third world nations, would be today if we had prevailed in South East Asia in the 70's. I would ask them to use South Korea and Japan as criteria in making this speculation.
    I will tell you as I told my students who reported statements made by English professors, sociology professors, and history professors about "How wrong we were in Vietnam", to go back to these sources and ask them about Cambodia and Vietnam after we left.
    Now, Ryan that is an argument that might hold as an analogy in the "Iraq is like Vietnam" discussion--ask the naysayers what might happen to the minorities in Iraq using the 1991 Gulf War and Kurds as examples.
    Like my students, I am betting that you will get blank stares and no response from "relatives" and "other sources".
    The question, Ryan, is not why we left Vietnam--that is fact. The real question is what would Southeast Asia might be like today if we had stayed?


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/10/2006

    To test Mr. Matthewson's theory that terrorism is "the best thing that happened to the Republicans" I will refer all to the elections of 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, and 2000, when Islamofacism was not an issue. No, the "best" thing that happened to the Republicans was the Clinton Administration and unbridled liberalism.
    The march is not a march to war but a march away from old, tired assumptions that simply were not working for the American people.


    Richard F. Miller - 1/9/2006

    Dear Mr. Donovan: You're quite right--drawing similarities (which must also be coupled with contrasting factors) is a legitimate function of historical study. But beware of historians peddling the "lessons" of history, thereby implying that history somehow consists of equations that are replicable in time, much like mathematics.

    To suggest such is not only not history, it is pure theology, or, to be more exact, theodicy. It is as fatuous as historians looking at current events to exploit for so-called "teachable moments"--a rank stupidity if ever there was one. The process by which credible historians draw conclusions that genuinely merit consideration requires years of research into primary sources as well as evaulations of secondary sources, among a great many other things. To trivialize this with "lessons," "teachable moments" or other instruments of partisanship may be laudable for public discourse in a democracy--but it is not history.


    ryan donovan - 1/9/2006

    As I was not yet born during the Vietnam war, I have no direct experience with it. All I know has been told to me by relatives, school studies, and other related sources.

    However, what little I know does show many similarities. Our government looks us as a people in the eye and lies to us. The death toll, unfortunately, shows us that both our soldiers and civilians are dropping like flies. Not all are innocent bystanders, and that cannot be helped, but a good portion are. If all of the Iraqis that have been killed, injured, ect. then we would be burying many, many more. Nobody is saying that 2006 is 1968. Drawing similarities is different than equating.

    Iraq might be a mistake. And now, here is why. Our information on Iraq was severly limited due to the fact that Iraq was not a very open place. Perhaps this is because of the pressure of the UN's prying, like a clamshell, but the fact remains. I don't know if the information that we had was faked or not, and I don't think that I want to know. Thousands lie dead, and when we ask why, nobody answers us. Look in from the beginning, it might have looked like a good idea. It might have looked like not only the interests of the United States were on the line, but the interests of the global comunity was at stake. Looking back, it could rationally be considered a mistake


    Richard F. Miller - 1/9/2006

    "For many historians of a certain age, the Vietnam War was the formative intellectual experience, which shaped our understanding of the United States and its history."

    While one can applaud Ms. Eisenberg's honesty, it is fundamentally at odds with her claimed discipline. In effect, she concedes her whiggishness--one premise, everlasting, through sickness and health, until death parts her from her "formative intellectual experience"--one that she likely had during her adolescence or in the years just afterwards.

    Thus, she concedes upfront the ability to differentiate historical experiences both preceding and subsequent to "the formative intellectual experience" of Vietnam. While she claims that the Bush administration "has learned nothing" her Oprah-like concession actually reveals that she has learned nothing. History to her is like the Myth of the Eternal Return seasonality of some pre-moderns.

    In my opinion, the best advice ever given historians was rendered by that well-known non-historian Abraham Lincoln in his 1862 Message to Congress: "The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

    Tell me that Iraq might be a mistake and tell me why. But don't tell me that 2006 is 1968; that Bush is Nixon; that the Iraq insurgency is led by Ho Chi Minh; tell me what you think is the truth--but save the overshare for adoring fans.


    Tim Matthewson - 1/9/2006

    The author claims that "Unlike Vietnam, there are real risks to the United States in leaving Iraq and imporant stakes there." Have I not heard this all before and was not the same said about Vietnam. Were we not told ad naseum that if we do not fight them there (Vietnam) we would have to fight them here (Santa Monica)?
    Did not Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon all believe in the international communist comspiracy? Were we not told that if the communists were allowed take Vietnam, they would then move on to Cambodia, Laos, Thiland, Indonesia, India, the Middle East, and then on to Latin America and finally the US. Were we not, in that hysterical period of history, that it was better to be dead than RED.
    I do not see any significant differences between the justification for the war in Iraq and Vietnam. Now were are fighting not the international communist conspiracy but the international terrorist conspiracy and the justification for Iraq is that we have to take the fight against terrorism to them on their turf rather than fighting here.
    Communism and terrorism are the best things that ever happened to the Republican party. I suspect that the Republicans would be powerless were it not for the foreign dangers they have been able to gin up over the years. If is is true that Republicans have always gained votes owing to their emphasis on so-called "wedge" issues, so too is it true that they have benefitted from a jingo foreign policy as a vote getter.


    Tony Luke - 1/9/2006

    Mr. Clarke, nowhere in Mr. Heisler's comment was there any mention or insinuation of "hatred" for Democrats, incompetent ones or otherwise. Your comment is the kind of intellectual vacuousness that passes for intelligent debate among the Left nowadays.


    Charles Edward Heisler - 1/9/2006

    No doubt a stirring speech so long as you accept the fallacious predicate that the U.S. is fighting an "unnecessary" war--I don't so it was just so much ho-hum rhetoric from the Left. Been there done that ever since the 60's and I am only impressed that words, sentences, ideas,and hatred for the United States, moldy and stale, are still being ressurected!

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