August 31st, 2017

Who lost Vietnam?

I’ve spent a lot of verbiage on the Vietnam War over my years of blogging. All you have to do is look at the category “Vietnam” on the right sidebar, and you’ll see that the number of posts on the subject is 84 (soon to be 85 when this one goes up). If you want to see the gist of what I have to say about that war, just start reading there.

But I’m going to add my reaction to this recent comment from “Ariel.” Here’s Ariel, who first quotes “Irv” and then reacts to that quote:

“The lesson that we should learn from the failed wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan is not that we shouldn’t engage in nation building, it’s that when we win a war we should not turn it over to the Democrats to change victory into defeat.” – Irv

Seems to me that Vietnam is not like the others in this statement, given its timeline of dem leadership – from the Start!”

I had no idea Eisenhower was a Democrat. In fact, Eisenhower the Democrat coined the phrase ‘Domino effect’ specifically about Vietnam. He also warned about the ‘Industrial-Military’ complex as a threat to democracy around 1961. Damn, friggin’ bleeding-heart liberal Democrat.

We weren’t in Vietnam until that friggin’ Democrat tried to make up for a French failure to recognize an opportunity.

There is no question that Eisenhower was indeed involved in the ongoing conflict in Vietnam during the 1950s. You can read about the reasons and the decisions he made here:

The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 convinced many Washington policymakers that the war in Indochina was an example of communist expansionism directed by the Soviet Union.

Military advisors from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) began assisting the Viet Minh in July 1950. PRC weapons, expertise, and laborers transformed the Viet Minh from a guerrilla force into a regular army. In September 1950, the United States created a Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) to screen French requests for aid, advise on strategy, and train Vietnamese soldiers. By 1954, the United States had supplied 300,000 small arms and spent US$1 billion in support of the French military effort (during the early 1950s), shouldering 80 percent of the cost of the war….

In the end, convinced that the political risks outweighed the possible benefits, Eisenhower decided against the intervention. Eisenhower was a five-star general. He was wary of getting the United States involved in a land war in Asia.

The Viet Minh received crucial support from the Soviet Union and PRC. PRC support in the Border Campaign of 1950 allowed supplies to come from the PRC into Vietnam. Throughout the conflict, U.S. intelligence estimates remained skeptical of French chances of success…

There’s much much more, of course. But the gist of it is that we were involved in Vietnam during the Eisenhower administration as part of our general interest in fighting Communism around the globe during the Cold War. In accord with this goal, we supported the government of the South in various ways, but those ways were quite limited. As a person alive during that time and at least somewhat aware of the news in a very general way, I don’t remember much conversation about Vietnam and our involvement there at all at the time. It must have been reported on, but compared to our commitment in a place such as Korea it was very minimal and relatively non-controversial. And Eisenhower was very much against sending American troops to fight there.

In 1955, Eisenhower sent the first military personnel to train the South Vietnamese military. Here are some statistics:

On October 22, 1957, MAAG Vietnam and USIS installations in Saigon were bombed, injuring US military advisers. In the summer of 1959, Communist guerrillas staged an attack on a Vietnamese military base in Bien Hoa, killing and wounding several MAAG personnel. During this time, American advisers were not put in high-ranking positions, and President Diem was reluctant to allow American advisers into Vietnamese tactical units. He was afraid that the United States would gain control or influence over his forces if Americans got into the ranks of the army. The first signs that his position was beginning to shift came in 1960, when the number of official US military advisers in the country was increased from 327 to 685 at the request of the South Vietnamese government. By 1961, communist guerrillas were becoming stronger and more active. This increased enemy contacts in size and intensity throughout South Vietnam.

So at the very very end of the Eisenhower administration, the number of American military advisors more or less doubled, but the absolute numbers were very very low. This is not what is commonly thought of as the Vietnam War, and I think any argument that the Vietnam War was an Eisenhower enterprise are basically incorrect except in the most technical sense. And yes, we were also involved in helping the South Vietnamese government, just as we were involved in helping anti-Communist governments around the world to resist the inroads of Communism, but that was a standard Cold War approach on a widespread global level and not the nation-building aftermath of a US invasion.

The escalation of the war—the true beginning of the war for Americans. as I recall it having lived through it—was the sending of American ground troops there, which was indeed accomplished by a Democratic administration, LBJ’s (see this), and it was followed by an enormous escalation of the same. In fact, “escalation” became a big word during the 60s.

Military involvement under Kennedy was still very small; about 1600 advisors by the time of his death. His political involvement in the coup against Diem is the sort of thing you can read vastly differing accounts of, but the documentation from the time shows this:

The documentary record is replete with evidence that President Kennedy and his advisers, both individually and collectively, had a considerable role in the coup overall, by giving initial support to Saigon military officers uncertain what the U.S. response might be, by withdrawing U.S. aid from Diem himself, and by publicly pressuring the Saigon government in a way that made clear to South Vietnamese that Diem was isolated from his American ally. In addition, at several of his meetings (Documents 7, 19, 22) Kennedy had CIA briefings and led discussions based on the estimated balance between pro- and anti-coup forces in Saigon that leave no doubt the United States had a detailed interest in the outcome of a coup against Ngo Dinh Diem.

The removal of Diem was the result of a coup by members of the South Vietnamese military who had their own reasons for doing it, but the United States gave them support or at least made it clear they would not oppose them. The evidence also is that Kennedy never even considered what would physically happen to Diem and was shocked at his assassination. This seems naive at the very least.

So in summary we have very minimal involvement and caution from the Republican president (Eisenhower), a modest increase in military involvement from the Democrat (Kennedy) as well as political machinations in the internal affairs of the South, and then a very major increase in all respects (especially the military) from another Democrat (LBJ). After that, we enter what I usually refer to as the Second Act of the war, the Nixon years, featuring a gradual drawdown of our involvement. The postscript to that Second Act was the Ford years and the final abandonment. Both Nixon and Ford were Republicans, but it is important to realize that the withdrawal from South Vietnam was orchestrated by Democrats in Congress. In particular, the unelected Ford was virtually powerless to stop them even had he wanted to.

The main takeaway is that the Democrats both started the war and escalated it in terms of US military involvement, Republicans ended our military involvement but continued our support (fairly successfully, I might add), and then later under Republican president Ford the Democrats spearheaded the final withdrawal of US support for the South Vietnamese and enabled the fall of Saigon. The Democrats’ attitude towards the war represented a huge pendulum swing.

I’ve written extensively about the Second Act of the war here, here, and here.

And here is President Ford’s plea to Congress to increase aid to South Vietnam before it fell. It makes for very sad reading, and is correct about the precedent being set. An excerpt:

Two years ago…we had succeeded in negotiating an Agreement that provided the framework for lasting peace in Southeast Asia…Unfortunately, the other side has chosen to violate most of the major provisions of this Accord.

The South Vietnamese and Cambodians are fighting hard in their own defense…

At a time when the North Vietnamese have been building up their forces and pressing their attacks, U.S. military aid to the South Vietnamese Government has not been sufficient to permit one-to-one replacement of equipment and supplies used up or destroyed, as permitted by the Paris Agreement. In fact, with the $700 million appropriation available in the current fiscal year, we have been able to provide no new tanks, airplanes, trucks, artillery pieces, or other major equipment, but only essential consumable items such as ammunition, gasoline, spare parts, and medical supplies. And in the face of the increased North Vietnamese pressure of recent months, these supplies have not kept pace with minimally essential expenditure. Stockpiles have been drawn down and will soon reach dangerously low levels.

Last year, some believed that Cutting back our military assistance to the South Vietnamese Government would induce negotiations for a political settlement. Instead, the opposite has happened. North Vietnam is refusing negotiations and is increasing its military pressure.

I am gravely concerned about this situation. I am concerned because it poses a serious threat to the chances for political stability in Southeast Asia and to the progress that has been made in removing Vietnam as a major issue of contention between the great powers.

I am also concerned because what happens in Vietnam can affect the rest of the world. It cannot be in the interests of the United States to let other nations believe that we are prepared to look the other way when agreements that have been painstakingly negotiated are contemptuously violated. It cannot be in our interest to cause our friends all over the world to wonder whether we will support them if they comply with agreements that others violate.

Ford requested a modest increase in financial aid. Congress refused. Here’s a bit more background:

In the fall of 1974, Nixon resigned under the pressure of the Watergate scandal and was succeeded by Gerald Ford. Congress cut funding to South Vietnam for the upcoming fiscal year from a proposed 1.26 billion to 700 million dollars. These two events prompted Hanoi to make an all-out effort to conquer the South. As the North Vietnamese Communist Party Secretary Le Duan observed in December 1974: “The Americans have withdrawn…this is what marks the opportune moment.”

The NVA drew up a two-year plan for the “liberation” of South Vietnam. Owing to South Vietnam’s weakened state, this would only take fifty-five days. The drastic reduction of American aid to South Vietnam caused a sharp decline in morale, as well as an increase in governmental corruption and a crackdown on domestic political dissent. The South Vietnamese army was severely under-funded, greatly outnumbered, and lacked the support of the American allies with whom they were accustomed to fighting.

The NVA began its final assault in March of 1975 in the Central Highlands…

…Thieu angrily blamed the US for his decision, saying, “If [the U.S.] grant full aid we will hold the whole country, but if they only give half of it, we will only hold half of the country.” His decision to retreat increased internal opposition toward him and spurred a chaotic mass exodus of civilians and soldiers that clogged the dilapidated roads to the coast. So many refugees died along the way that the migration along Highway 7B was alternatively described by journalists as the “convoy of tears” and the “convoy of death.” On April 21, President Thieu resigned in a bitter televised speech in which he strongly denounced the United States. Sensing that South Vietnam was on the verge of collapse, the NVA accelerated its attack and reached Saigon on April 23.

A bit more here:

Congress places a $1 billion ceiling on military aid to South Vietnam for fiscal year 1974. This figure was trimmed further to $700 million by August 11. Military aid to South Vietnam in fiscal year 1973 was $2.8 billion; in 1975 it would be cut to $300 million. Once aid was cut, it took the North Vietnamese only 55 days to defeat the South Vietnamese forces when they launched their final offensive in 1975.

To summarize once again: our initial involvement in Vietnam was fairly small and part of our general Cold War strategy. and not especially controversial or partisan. Escalation began under the Democrats and reached enormous proportions under the Democrats. There was a strong political backlash and a Republican administration, with a hugely Democratic Congress, orchestrated the removal of our ground troops. Then the Democratic Congress pulled the financial rug out from under the South Vietnamese over the objections of the (unelected) Republican president, and enabled the final takeover by the North.

I think that a great deal of what has happened since the Vietnam years is a reaction to Vietnam. The Democrats are still reeling from their own initial role in the increase of our involvement there from minor to major. Everything else—including our financial withdrawal from South Vietnam in the 70s, and the Democrats’ current position on Iraq—is part of that Democratic backlash. Their steady movement to the left has occurred ever since Vietnam as well, caused not just by Vietnam but by multiple factors.

[ADDENDUM: In the comments section, several people have mentioned Walter Cronkite’s coverage of the war. For those of you interested in learning the more complete story of Cronkite and Tet and the war, please read this and this.]

49 Responses to “Who lost Vietnam?”

  1. Oldflyer Says:

    JFK partisans have always claimed that he would never have escalated as LBJ did. That has a false ring, since the Departments of Defense and State were still under the leadership of JFK appointees, and McGeorge Bundy was still National Security Adviser in the White House when Johnson went beserk. (Maybe that is an unfair choice of terms, but I will let it stand.) The whole team that took us into direct conflict with North Vietnam were JFK holdovers.

    So, people can argue about what JFK would have done, but I am skeptical of attempts to absolve him for the direction his successors took. I just do not believe that such as McNamara, Rusk, and McBundy would have so willingly deviated from his intent.

    I don’t know if Ike has left any personal record of his thinking about Vietnam. I know that he refused to come to the aid of the French in any substantial way because he was opposed to restoring, or preserving, European Empires.

    Many second-guessers shrugged off the “domino theory”. It seems to me that it was completely valid in the context of the increasingly aggressive probing by Russian/Chinese surrogates; and the vulnerability of such strategic areas in South Asia as Singapore, the Straits of Malacca, and even the Philippines.

  2. parker Says:

    Vietnam was a waste of the blood of my generation, and I wanted no part of it. Fortunately, the draft lottery made that possible. Google the last Chinese Vietnam conflict.

    Iraq and Afghanistan, I favored going in, destroying things, stomping the ‘bad’ guys into the dirt, and leave with the warning that try it again and your country will be turned into rubble.

    Never go to war unless we intend to make the enemy grovel and beg for a half ounce of mercy. Put a smart Scot-Irish Hillbilly in charge of the War Department.

  3. Oldflyer Says:

    I may have mentioned before that there is a significant Vietnamese enclave in Southern California. There is a community in Orange County known as “Little Saigon”, with signage along the freeway that so identifies it.

    My medical services are at U of California, Irvine. Many of the staff–mostly medical technicians, and some nurses–are of Vietnamese descent. I spend more time there than I would like; but, it gives me the opportunity from time to time to ask for their stories. There are amazing stories of escape; and heart wrenching stories of the hardships experienced by those still there after the Communists took over. (the so-called re-education camps, which were mandatory for any man who had been involved with the South Vietnamese government or Americans, were simply brutal; and often fatal. The Communists not only punished those directly engaged, but imprisoned their sons for indoctrination when they reached the age of 18.) One can’t help but feel embarrassed by the way that the U.S. abandoned them.

  4. Matthew M Says:

    Being the world’s policeman is a thankless job.

  5. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    “It cannot be in the interests of the United States to let other nations believe that we are prepared to look the other way when agreements that have been painstakingly negotiated are contemptuously violated.

    It cannot be in our interest to cause our friends all over the world to wonder whether we will support them if they comply with agreements that others violate.” President Gerald Ford

    Prophetic words.

  6. Griffin Says:

    Ken Burns has his big Vietnam War series airing on PBS in September. Who knows what his will be like as his increasingly transparent leftism combined with the never ending left wing obsession with Vietnam could be something to behold.

  7. Ken Mitchell Says:

    Who lost Viet Nam? Walter Cronkite, who terribly misinterpreted the Tet attacks in Hue, and panicked. The Viet Cong were trapped trying to RETREAT out of Hue, and Silly Walty thought that the VC were attacking and had routed the SVN troops. The Democrats in Congress never saw past Cronkite’s errors.

    Years later, when the Viet Cong were extinct and South Viet Nam had been mostly stabilized and the Americans had mostly left, the North VietNamese Army, with substantial Soviet support, invaded, and the Dems in Congress cut off funding to support the South Vietnamese troops.

    Jerry Pournelle has written extensively about the timeline of the invasion of South Viet Nam.

  8. Ann Says:

    Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, published in 1955, was about the beginnings of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Interesting 1956 review of the book in the NY Times that sure doesn’t sound like something that would appear in the Times today; here’s the ending:

    When Graham Greene grants primary justice to the Communist cause in Asia, and finds insupportable its resistance under the leadership of America, he raises inevitably this question: Has he reconciled himself to the thesis that history or God now demands of the church and of Western civilization a more terrible surrender than any required of the tormented characters in his fiction?

  9. Irv Says:

    So to summarize:

    The Democrats got us into Vietnam with no plan to win.

    During the war they refused to allow us to win by a insisting of a strategy of gradualism. They used this to send a message that we were serious while proving we weren’t by not using enough power to win.

    When it appeared to the press (Cronkite) that we were losing the Democrats withdrew support from the military and started a campaign of blaming them for the perceived loss.

    When Nixon got into office the support for the war was gone and he had to institute a policy of Vietnamization, training them to take over the war while withdrawing our troops.

    Nixon had to try to negotiate peace but the enemy sensed his weakness and argued over the shape of the table for over a year just to keep him from trying win.

    Nixon got tired of their strategy and restarted bombing the North which caused them to sign a peace treaty within a month of the resumption.

    Nixon gave enough of out equipment to the South to allow them to gain the upper hand but then was forced out of office by Watergate.

    Ford completed the withdrawal but tried to maintain support but the Democrats had taken control of congress and cut off aid to the point that the South could not win. This they felt, proved them right for being against the war since Nixon came into office.

    I said when I was serving in Vietnam and I still say to this day that we could have won the war within 3 months at any time during the 10 years we were fighting if we had been allowed to attack the North, their supply lines and their factories more than just an occasional token slap.

    Obama’s pull out of Iraq was an eerie replay of congress’ forced withdrawal and abandonment of Vietnam and had the same result.

    As was often said by Mark Twain (although there’s no evidence he originated it) ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, although it often rhymes.

  10. Michael Says:

    There is a book titled Air War – Vietnam by Drew Middleton.The introduction ends with the following…

    “…the war was not lost in the sky’s above Vietnam. Nor, I suspect, was it lost by the infantry’s “grunts” in the rice paddies and jungles. It was lost in the hearts and minds of the American people. It was their choice.”

  11. neo-neocon Says:

    Ken Mitchell; Irv:

    For those of you interested in learning the more complete story of Cronkite and Tet and the war, please read this and this

  12. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Vietnam was one of those research topics I had between 2003 and 2007, which revealed just how many souls the Left was responsible for hurting.

    They still exist and want justice too.

  13. Paul R Says:

    One of my beefs, in retrospect, with the decision to go into Iraq, is that we should have known that, even if successful, the democrats, when they eventually got back in power, would throw it all away.

    I didn’t think of this at the time, but more astute actors should have. I can’t believe we tried it. The anchors that held the Mideast together have been ripped out, and the potential peace that we won has been thrown away. Hate to say it, but maliciously thrown away.

    The left won’t fight for anything overseas. We learned that lesson with Vietnam. We should have known better. I supported Bush all through this, and still love the guy, but this was a huge mistake, and we should have known better.

    Colin Powell was extremely reluctant about this venture. In retrospect, I think he was right.

  14. AesopFan Says:

    Matthew M Says:
    August 31st, 2017 at 6:36 pm
    Being the world’s policeman is a thankless job.
    ** *
    Particularly when you behave like the ones at Charlottesville and Berkeley.

    * *

    Geoffrey Britain Says:
    August 31st, 2017 at 6:46 pm
    “It cannot be in the interests of the United States to let other nations believe that we are prepared to look the other way when agreements that have been painstakingly negotiated are contemptuously violated.

    It cannot be in our interest to cause our friends all over the world to wonder whether we will support them if they comply with agreements that others violate.” President Gerald Ford

    Prophetic words.
    * * *
    Still the MO of the Left.

    If you really want a Deep State Conspiracy Theory, was the hysteria over Watergate (a rather normal piece of partisan chicanery) and the churning until something more serious turned up (the Tapes) part of a plan to find some way to get rid of Nixon precisely so the Left could end the war they way they wanted to?

  15. AesopFan Says:

    Ann Says:
    August 31st, 2017 at 7:39 pm
    Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, published in 1955, was about the beginnings of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Interesting 1956 review of the book in the NY Times that sure doesn’t sound like something that would appear in the Times today;
    * *
    The entire review was worth reading, and I can’t imagine the NYT printing such an anti-Leftist review today.

    I found this portion especially relevant today:
    “Even in this indictment the book is inconsistent. As a non-implicated man who really understands the East, Fowler scorns American liberals for trying to introduce into Asia their textbook notions of democracy and freedom. “I have been in India, Pyle,” Fowler says, “and I know the harm liberals do.” At the same time, sounding very much a liberal, he accuses the Americans of selfish opportunism, of letting the French do the dying while they clean up commercially. Emotionally and usually Fowler describes the war as a meaningless slaughter of women and children, as if no enemy existed, and yet he is in touch with this enemy, the Communist Vietminh, and expects it, because of its superior understanding and organization, to win the war.

    Admiring American girls for their bodies, Fowler insists to himself that they could not possibly be capable of “untidy passion.” He has contempt for their bright vacuousness; yet Phuong, the comely Vietnamese, the only person in the world who means anything in his life, shows few qualities beyond self-interested compliance. She prepares his opium pipes and allows herself to be made love to at his convenience. She says nothing of interest, takes her rewards in bright-colored scarfs, and pores over picture books of the royal family.

    What will annoy Americans most in this book is the easy way Fowler is permitted to triumph in his debates with the Americans. The priests whom Greene makes argue so tersely and effectively with the skeptics at the conclusions of “The Power and the Glory” and “The End of the Affair” did not have so easily their own way. When Americans are condemned for letting others do their dying for them no one speaks of Korea. Fowler says that only the Communist respects and understands the peasant. “He’ll sit in his hut and ask his name and listen to his complaints; he’ll give up an hour a day to teaching him — it doesn’t matter what, he’s being treated like a man, like someone of value.” Pyle, the American, does not remind Fowler of the thousands of individuals who make desperate escapes from Communist countries every week in order to life as humans. He only replies uneasily, “You don’t mean half what you are saying.” There is no real debate in the book, because no experienced and intelligent anti-Communist is represented there. Greene must feel either that such men do not exist or that they do not serve his present purposes.”

    In this case, it would appear that “liberals” are what we now know as “conservatives” and Greene is a blatant voice for the Left, as his avatar Fowler certainly acts like the smug elite we so frequently disparage.

  16. AesopFan Says:

    Irv Says:
    August 31st, 2017 at 8:50 pm
    So to summarize:
    * * *
    .. brilliantly.

    When I was teaching computer programming in the Eighties, two of my brightest pupils were a pair of sisters, probably in their thirties, who were ethnic Chinese but escaped from North Vietnam. One was a math teacher, and the other’s profession I don’t remember, but they were very smart, very diligent, and very grateful to be in this bastion of bigoted xenophobia.

  17. blert Says:


    You left out the SINGLE most pivotal event: the testimony to Congress by two American Lt Cols about the POL fiasco that cost ARVN its ENTIRE strategic fuel supply.

    IIRC, this happened in August of 1974.

    AGAINST vehement USA advice — theirs — ARVN generals bought an insane amount of POL and over-stocked their two strategic dumps.

    They were trying to beat the OPEC price gouge, of course.

    The US Corps of Engineers told them REPEATEDLY that by doing so they’d end up with NOTHING. What came to be was totally foreseen.

    ARVN — and Thieu — took the attitude that Congress would bail them out if it came to the worst.

    What’s $ 750,000,000 in POL PLUS $250,000,000 in infrastructure ?

    It was THIS testimony that caused the REPUBLICAN faction to totally lose heart.

    The officers made the point that you can’t help stupid… that it really didn’t matter WHAT America sent them, the fools in Saigon were going to repeatedly blow it — and BTW — were as corrupt as any Chinese general under Chang Kai-shek.

    In sum, we were seeing a repeat of the Chinese civil war, circa 1949.

    The leadership in Saigon was so POOR that the second they were in command, everything fell apart.

    LONG before the NVA started rolling south, Saigon had ALREADY blown it.

    The lose of that POL was so significant one would have to compare it to the Big Week of WWII — when the USAAF destroyed Adolf’s fuel reserves across Germany. ( 8,000 tons in aviation fuel manufactured at two critical refineries… etc. Adolf lost both. )

    Saigon never had the refineries to lose. Their POL was coming in from Singapore and California already refined.

    As for the fiasco itself, the POL dumps burned out of control for TWO solid weeks. The smoke output was astounding — very much in the manner of Kuwait, 1991.

    It was THIS fiasco that caused Congress to, essentially, zero out ARVN.

    The bill that was under consideration — hence the testimony — was an emergency funding bill to purchase POL — at the very same time that OPEC was putting the squeeze on America and Holland.

    The bill became radioactive.

    For the South, it was as if they’d just lost Atlanta. Saigon’s ability to airlift reaction forces utterly collapsed. The parachute troops stayed in Saigon. ( With only a token response, too late, here and there. )

    SAIGON lost the Vietnam War.

  18. Irv Says:

    In an attempt to apply the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq to today, here are my thoughts.

    Nixon’s failure lay in thinking he could appease his critics by giving them what they wanted. He engaged in fruitless peace talks. He drew troops down too soon and too fast. He fought a holding action with bombing halts trying to maintain areas instead of increasing them. He allowed the news media and his critics (redundant) to dictate his actions even in the early days of his presidency when he could have gotten serious and won the war. There would have been terrible complaining until he won but he had no other viable options.

    Bush senior’s failure was in allowing the left to convince him that they wouldn’t use him going back on his pledge of no new taxes against him. He thought he could enlist them in doing what was right for the country. He was wrong!

    Bush junior’s failure as president was the same. He thought he could appease his enemies with honorable actions, kindness and by not responding to their attacks. It didn’t work! Their response was to double down every time he remained silent. He finally realized the right thing to do and did it but it was too late. The left and the press (redundant) had too much time and turned the country against him.

    You can’t give in to the left in even the slightest manner. Any attempt to enlist their support or even to reduce their ardor in their attacks against you is doomed to failure.

    What’s necessary for success is very hard to do in the face of so much opposition every day from every direction (especially ‘friendly’ fire) but it is the only road to success. In the words of Carolyn Glick in the article I cited yesterday:

    “You cannot appease people who want to destroy you. And you cannot succeed by embracing the failed policies of your predecessors that you were elected to roll back. The elites who reject you will never embrace you. The only way to govern successfully when you are under relentless assault is to empower your supporters and keep faith with them.”

    I hope Trump realizes that a no-compromise approach is the only possible road to success. He has to force his policies into effect and then throw the successes in their faces.

    Obama ruthlessly, and often illegally, forced his bad policies in. Trump needs to be just as ruthless in getting his good ones in. He has to remember, success is the only real goal. Popularity is a goal for teenagers.

  19. Irv Says:

    Blert – You can make a case that Saigon lost their war but we lost our war before they did. It was our war for 10 years and over 57,000 lives. They didn’t lose our war…we gave up.

  20. Cornhead Says:

    The Clintons.

  21. parker Says:

    No, it is simple, but it seems simple is difficult to understand. Never go to war unless we are prepared to use all of the force we can muster to bring the enemy to a state of being where they grovel, kiss the dust, and ask how high we want them to jump.

    Sheesh. No wonder the phat boi thinks he thinks he can tip over Guam. As my dad and uncles taught me, walk away from a fight but if you can’t walk away, get behind him quickly and shoot him in the back. No rules, anything is permitted. Just get it done. No mercy, no regrets, no excuses, no guilt.

  22. miklos000rosza Says:

    I held nothing more than the prevailing Common Wisdom on the Left as I was growing up. I was not going to run to Canada however if drafted. But the new lottery intervened, I got a high number, and that was that.

    In the 1990s I very much by chance became friendly with (Ret) Col. Stuart Herrington, who’d served in Vietnam, and written two books about his service there in Military Intelligence, and my thinking about the War changed a great deal as a result.

    I also read some books by actual Vietnamese on the subject, most notably “In the Jaws of History” by Bui Diem (no relation to the murdered president of that name).

    I could look back and see what a poisonous effect Graham Greene’s novel still had, no one seeming to care how bitterly Greene loathed America (something he had in common with John Le Carre).

    The slanted coverage of Vietnam did not start with Cronkite. David Halberstam and a few others, earlier, saw anti-military bias as good for their careers. A la “Dr Strangelove,” it told the intelligentsia what they wanted to hear.

    Bui Diem’s memoir begins when he was a member of the Vietminh — Giap had been his schoolteacher — until he left Hanoi for Saigon when the Communists began, one by one, assassinating anyone in the leadership of the Vietminh who was not also communist and loyal to the party line.

    Some may not know that when the country was split into North and South, more than 900,000 Vietnamese fled to the South to escape the totalitarianism already developing in Hanoi.

  23. miklos000rosza Says:

    “The Necessary War” by Michael Lind is also good, though I would recommend Bui Diem’s “In the Jaws of History” before anything else.

  24. AesopFan Says:

    An excellent history lesson in miniature.
    There will always be disputes about what happened and what it meant. We have seen with our own eyes how easily “memories” of the past can be altered, erased, and repurposed.
    It’s very sobering to realize how long this revisioning has been going on (since Cain?) and that there really is no way to stop it this side of the Millennium.

  25. AesopFan Says:

    parker Says:
    September 1st, 2017 at 1:11 am
    No, it is simple, but it seems simple is difficult to understand. Never go to war unless we are prepared to use all of the force we can muster to bring the enemy to a state of being where they grovel, kiss the dust, and ask how high we want them to jump.
    * * *
    Apparently, the two parties could not first decide to fight the same enemy.

  26. AesopFan Says:

    Irv Says:
    September 1st, 2017 at 12:04 am
    In an attempt to apply the lessons of Vietnam and Iraq to today, here are my thoughts.

    Nixon’s failure lay in thinking he could appease his critics by giving them what they wanted.

    * * *
    In small defense of the Presidents, they always thought they were just dealing with “normal” Democrats, not the hard Leftists that even then controlled the party from “under cover” — which they are throwing off today as never before, and the GOP still hasn’t figured it out (at least so far as we can see).

  27. Irv Says:

    AesopFan – Exactly right!

  28. The Other Chuck Says:

    Never go to war unless we are prepared to use all of the force we can muster to bring the enemy to a state of being where they grovel, kiss the dust, and ask how high we want them to jump.

    That’s it in a nutshell. The immorality and betrayal of sending young men off to fight, get maimed for life, or die in wars half fought is to our shame. Here is what Colin Powell has said in regard to Vietnam and fighting wars in general:

    For those of us who were Vietnam veterans and rose to positions of leadership in the American armed forces later, and we all have a view that says “If you’re going to put us into something then you owe the armed forces, you owe the American people, you owe just your desire to succeed, a clear statement of what political objective you’re trying to achieve and then you put the force to that objective and you know when you’ve accomplished it, you take the initiative out of the hand of your enemy.”

    Lessons learned in Vietnam and not learned by Trump if his statement last week about Afghanistan is any indication. But then he wasn’t in Vietnam, was he?

  29. Irv Says:

    Trump has not revealed his plans for Afghanistan other than to say he trusts his generals to conduct the war.

    He stated one clear objective for the generals, that Afghanistan will never again become a breeding ground from which terrorists attack the United States.

    He gave no instructions to build a country or change any cultures, only to make it clear to them that the U.S. is no longer a punching bag for either the Muslim terrorists or for the far left. They are both trying to take over Europe and they are both attempting to start here.

    For the first time since WWII we will recognize our enemies and the enemies of civilization and we will fight back.

    Everyone should have no illusions about the future. The fight is coming to you and we will either destroy them or our civilization will be destroyed. The middle ground of negotiation and accommodation no longer exists.

    Actually I should have said ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ because I’m 75 and not likely to be fighting a whole lot longer. So it’s your civilization that is at risk; I fought for mine and while I didn’t win, I at least held them off a while.

  30. The Other Chuck Says:

    From Trump’s speech:

    Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    This is the plan, a political settlement in which the enemy becomes part of a coalition government. Not total victory, grind them into the dust annihilation, but compromise. Maybe they will hold the peace conference in Paris.

  31. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Once the draft ended, the left had much less support but they had the momentum and the unthinking slogans.
    Their view was to have Hanoi win the war, no matter how many were killed in the process. It was not to “end” the war.
    Since then, any foreign venture the left doesn’t like is “another Viet Nam” with the overt loading that since we can’t possibly win–see Viet Nam–we shouldn’t even start.
    Because we might win and the left wouldn’t like that.

  32. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Oh, yeah. For “left”, read “democratic party”.

  33. Surellin Says:

    I have a few ol’ hippie anti-war leftist friends who still hate, loath and abominate Richard Nixon. I can’t figure it out. After all, he got us out of Vietnam, ended the draft, signed the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, started the EPA, and got us off of that cursed gold standard that forced us to be responsible with our finances. He should have been a liberal patron saint. Except, of course, for party affiliation.

  34. Ray Says:

    Johnson could have ended the war in 1965. In 1965 the Joint Chiefs thought the Vietnam war was being conducted incorrectly and urged President Johnson to let them start massive bombing of Hanoi and mine Haiphong Harbor. Johnson turned them down on the grounds that it might start World War III with the Chinese and Russians and he would not risk it. During the Nixon Administration, he followed the 1965 Chiefs’ recommendations and this worked quite well. However, it was too little, too late, and did not last long enough. After the end of the Cold War we learned that the Soviets and Chinese were bluffing when they said they would enter the war if we attacked North Vietnam.

  35. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    Vietnam can only be viewed in the larger Cold War picture. Just after WWII most politicians and voters had a pretty realistic view of the Soviets. People had followed foreign affairs in the US pretty closely from pre-war to post-war. It was widely known and agreed with that the Soviets were not reliable friends of democracy in any way. They also knew from WWII that events far away in Asia could reach us quickly, even more so in the nuclear age.

    So the initial response in Vietnam was understood and supported by the US public as part of our national defense. It has always been difficult for nations to sustain long indecisive wars in minor theaters. A lack of explicit objectives in the war coupled by a poorly run US draft policy opened an easy path for Soviet direction of left wing groups against Vietnam.

    The Cold war was largely a political war with hotspots here and there. The US won the war, but lost the battle for Vietnam temporarily.

  36. blert Says:

    If you want a great read: “Slow Burn.”

    This is a first person account by our CIA man in the greater Saigon area.

    His information will astound… namely the psychology of the Vietnamese citizens.

    They are wired backwards.

    They can withstand astounding torture.

    They can’t keep their traps shut when confronted with kindness.

    Our military blunders were massively, culturally based.

    Once the resistance spilled the beans… astounding ammo dumps were ‘discovered’ to be right in plain sight — having been left alone for YEARS as our troops and ARVN walked right past them. These were not small affairs. We’re talking 2,000 tons of ammo at a crack, not a couple of secreted AKs.

  37. blert Says:

    Ray Says:
    September 1st, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    The DC brainiacs totally misread the Korean War… and most largely still do.

    It was a continuation of the Chinese Civil War. The Reds used Korea to exterminate their Southern Brothers — who’d been Chang’s boys until 1949.

    The (Mao) Communists largely DID NOT participate in the war… they shoved the ex-Nationalist Troops into the front lines… and used the UN troops to wipe them out.

    THAT’S why the ChiComs were constantly engaged in suicide charges… straight out of the Japanese military playbook.

    The conflict only ended AFTER all of the ex-Nationalist military formations were annihilated.

    This slaughter confused the West — as seen in films such as Pork Chop Hill. YEARS after the war, no-one in the West figured out that Mao was liquidating his internal enemies — under American guns.

    BTW, Stalin used this EXACT gambit during WWII, and I’d bet real money he was the inspiration for this grand gambit.


    This had consequences for Vietnam.

    The US, getting this all wrong, concluded that Beijing would repeat their antics. But the need to liquidate entire armies was gone.

    All during the Vietnam war, Beijing and Moscow told Ho to settle and take the ‘grease.’ But Ho was a FANATIC.

    His internal repression was at least as intense as Adolf. Entire villages would be liquidated should anyone resist Hanoi’s drafts.

    ( He took a message from Ohio. )

    The slaughter of NVA troops was epic by any standard… as they were as ill equipped to face the US as the Japanese had been.

    The typical American civilian… reading all of the BS cranked out by the Left… can’t comprehend that the US Army was routinely killing 50 enemy troopers for every American casualty, medical care being what it was.

    But, at least Hanoi didn’t have to spend large on veterans. Graves come cheap.

    The Vietnamese mothers of draftees just figured that their son was a dead man… same as the Japanese in WWII.

  38. Montage Says:

    You can’t be for the war and against the war at the same time. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution was only opposed by two Senators – and both were Democrats. That’s 66 Democrats and 32 Republicans that voted for it. If the Republicans didn’t want the war they didn’t oppose it when they had the chance. I’ll fully agree that LBJ was wrong about Vietnam but Nixon was hardly better. The entire US government is the blame if we want to blame anyone. The few who truly opposed it like George McGovern [a decorated war veteran btw] were considered way out of touch. So in short few people opposed Vietnam in America. I remember a documentary in which a NYT journalist is show yelling at John Lennon for being anti-war. Time change.

  39. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Who killed Diem again: JFK.

  40. Ymar Sakar Says:

    I was reading a visual novel from Japan, and it was talking about CIA planting sleeper agents and all kinds of USA Supreme shenanigans… I was like, no way, this is 2008, I am still patriotically attached to the powers of the United States, they can’t be that way… but wait a moment, but didn’t Demoncrats do that exactly in Vietnam….

    The initial resistance I wore away and destroyed, since apparently it was a bunch of Leftist jingoist mind control. I did some more research and apparently almost every “evil’ thing America did in foreign affairs can be traced to the Demoncrats.

  41. neo-neocon Says:


    JFK winked at and basically supported the coup against Diem. But he did not actively kill him, and it appears from the record that JFK was surprised Diem was assassinated.

    I linked to the evidence in my post.

    You may believe that JFK killed Diem, of course.

  42. Mike Says:

    So I had the exceptional opportunity to travel in SEA as a teenager with my mother while my father was an O-6 in USAF stationed at Korat RTAFB in Thailand during the period 1974. We had the opportunity to speak to pilots and NCOs who, to a man, complained at that time (Sept ’74) that cuts in support for Air Force operations curtailed operations and left support of the Vietnamese (South) in question. If you need authentication the Wing Commander was Deacon and the dog at the O’Club was Roscoe (great dog).

  43. Ymar Sakar Says:

    JFK winked at and basically supported the coup against Diem. But he did not actively kill him, and it appears from the record that JFK was surprised Diem was assassinated.

    That just means JFK is the puppet of the Deep State or other State Department traitors.

    The President still holds accountability, unless a US President is now some kind of god that nobody can hold accountable…

    JFK directly controlled the State Department through his appointees. That means the responsibility is his. Even if the entire department went rogue.

  44. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The Democrats had already split the profit from the Vietnam aid packages, amongst their own bank accounts. Ford asking them to give some of that money back to help their enemies, against their Soviet allies… wasn’t going to work. Especially since the Soviets had almost definitely blackmail via the KGB on their Demoncrat agents.

  45. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Whether JFK had intent or not, is irrelevant. Voluntary vs involuntary manslaughter, he still killed Diem by his actions.

  46. Ymar Sakar Says:

    That’s 66 Democrats and 32 Republicans that voted for it. If the Republicans didn’t want the war they didn’t oppose it when they had the chance.

    If the Republicans had the same treasonous mindset to sabotage a war by opposing it, they would have started in WW1 and WW2, when the Democrats lied about avoiding European wars.

    Instead, they adopted what was known as “Loyal Opposition”. Which means, regardless of whether you think a war is run well or not by Democrat leaders in the US, you still refused to sabotage it and supported it politically or economically or militarily.

    As the Left liked to say in 2005, against the war, but for the troops.

  47. neo-neocon Says:


    Had you written “JFK bears no small responsibility for the death of Diem” I would not have corrected you. The reason I responded to your comment was that you wrote that JFK killed Diem. There are people who believe that JFK ordered Diem killed or intended him to be killed. The evidence is that he did not.

    There is a difference.

  48. Tom G Says:

    There seem to be missing some important points.
    1) Ho Chi Minh was a fanatical anti-imperialist. He fought against the French before WWII, he fought the Japs during WWI; he again fought the French after WW II.
    2) The US, like Ike, were not so keen on the French re-establishing colonial control — but needed France support for NATO and the anti-commie politics in Europe. The US accepted French domination.
    3) Ho was always a Communist: French Section of the Workers’ International (1919–1921) French Communist Party (1921–1925) Communist Party of Vietnam (1925–1969);
    4) The French lost post WWII Vietnam at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, but Ike’s US refused to accept an election in 1956 that would have had commie Ho Chi Minh elected.

    The US was fighting against communism, but not quite for democracy.

    Despite the S. Viet leaders being corrupt & incompetent, Saigon & S. Vietnam, after Paris Peace, could have gotten strong enough to fight alone. (When did Europe get strong enough to fight alone vs USSR? When did the last US forces leave?) (Trick; still there); but it would take more than a year.

    Of course the US could win in Vietnam, or Iraq, by the methods used in WWII: huge bombing of civilian areas where weapons are made / used, and occupation afterwards until the country is strong enough. Japan should have been the model, with the US writing the constitution.

    Lesson — we can choose the dictator type leader after the war is won, or we can let our (incompetent? corrupt? anti-American?) “local allies” to choose their own leaders; but those local leaders might be terrible.

    Plus 5) Thanks to the Democrats voting to cut funding; voting to lose, the war was lost. The Killing Fields in Cambodia were because the Dems chose to lose. Some 2, 000, 000 Cambodian men, women, children were murdered, thanks partly to the Dem votes.

    How many Asians would have to be killed for Dems to agree that continuing to support the South Viet gov’t would be better?

  49. Mike Says:

    A strategic defeat occurred by abandoning the south when we did. This was the first time Americans could see clearly what the Democrats became: a quasi-socialist, communist-leaning party bent on a retrenchment of US policy overseas and furthering their affiliations with labor, teachers and minorities to establish a new base of voters. Do you see any similarities with the Obama precipitous departure from Iraq?

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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