To continue with the theme of the last few days, this article that appeared in The American Prospect back in February is edifying in describing exactly how an increasingly antiwar Congress pressured Nixon back in the late 60s and early-to-mid-70s to end the Vietnam War, and what effect it had on our strategy and prosecution of that war.
It’s edifying in several ways, not the least of which is the tone of the author, who clearly approves of Congress’s actions then, and hopes that by describing them in detail now he can provide guidance to those who wish to act similarly today in pressuring Bush (or any possible hawkish successor) to withdraw from Iraq. The author considers Senators Church, Case, and Mansfield, et. al. to be heroes, Davids who stood up bravely against the Goliath Nixon (and the unbridled power of the Presidency) and felled him, even before the final self-delivered blow of Watergate.
I’m offering it mostly, though, as a summary of Congressional antiwar measures of the time, for those who are interested. I do not share the author’s assumptions that all these things were for the good, and his ignoring of the negative consequences of the antiwar movement’s actions, but I find his views representative of most liberal thought now. Certainly they were representative of majority public opinion in America at the time—including mine.
Contrast to this interview with Bui Tin, a former colonel on the general staff of North Vietnam’s army. He received the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975, but later defected to France after becoming disillusioned with the course Communism took after the takeover (ah, another changed mind).
Bui Tin describes the other side of the picture. From the start, the North Vietnamese read the American public well and were aware of what their strategy needed to be:
Question: How did Hanoi intend to defeat the Americans?
Answer: By fighting a long war which would break their will to help South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh said, “We don’t need to win military victories, we only need to hit them until they give up and get out.”
And then there’s this:
Q: Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi’s victory?
A: It was essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement.
Read the rest for an interesting take on how the enemy’s strategy followed its knowledge of the American psyche. Ho proved to have been correct then. The important question is whether his words still ring true.