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Ed Driscoll

Video from Prager University: How the Vietnam War Was Won and Lost

April 13th, 2013 - 1:55 pm

“Most of what you believe about the Vietnam War isn’t true,” the YouTube page for this Prager University video notes. It features Prager’s 2011 interview with “foreign policy expert Bruce Herschensohn, [who] explains how the U.S. Congress turned victory in the Vietnam War into defeat.” Herschensohn is the author of 2010′s An American Amnesia: How the US Congress Forced the Surrenders of South Vietnam and Cambodia.

It’s understandable that America would want to forget that period, as 1968 through 1980 was an extended nadir in America’s history. Back in 2011, I assembled a lengthy post titled “Welcome Back My Friends, to the Malaise that Never Ends,” which rounded up quotes and videos from liberal elites in 1968 such as Bobby Kennedy, who had abandoned the optimism of his late brother’s New Frontier-era worldview, through Jimmy Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech of 1979. Midway through that period were the events captured in the above video, including the Democrat Congress pulling the plug on our funding to South Vietnam in 1975, and ushering in its defeat.  About which, this quote from Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-AR) appears at the 3:15 mark in the video:

On the night of the surrender of South Vietnam to North Vietnam former Senator J. William Fulbright announced that he was “no more depressed than I would be about Arkansas losing a football game to Texas.”

Carter delivered his “malaise” speech in 1979, which further signaled the exhaustion of postwar liberalism. This was the self-defeating atmosphere in the west that Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II turned around the following decade, as Mark Steyn noted this week:

In 1979, Britain was not at war, but as much as in 1940 faced an existential threat.

Mrs. Thatcher saved her country — and then went on to save a shriveling “free world,” and what was left of its credibility. The Falklands were an itsy bitsy colonial afterthought on the fringe of the map, costly to win and hold, easy to shrug off — as so much had already been shrugged off. After Vietnam, the Shah, Cuban troops in Africa, Communist annexation of real estate from Cambodia to Afghanistan to Grenada, nobody in Moscow or anywhere else expected a Western nation to go to war and wage it to win. Jimmy Carter, a ditherer who belatedly dispatched the helicopters to Iran only to have them crash in the desert and sit by as cocky mullahs poked the corpses of U.S. servicemen on TV, embodied the “leader of the free world” as a smiling eunuch. Why in 1983 should the toothless arthritic British lion prove any more formidable?

And, even when Mrs. Thatcher won her victory, the civilizational cringe of the West was so strong that all the experts immediately urged her to throw it away and reward the Argentine junta for its aggression. “We were prepared to negotiate before” she responded, “but not now. We have lost a lot of blood, and it’s the best blood.” Or as a British sergeant said of the Falklands: “If they’re worth fighting for, then they must be worth keeping.”

Mrs. Thatcher thought Britain was worth fighting for, at a time when everyone else assumed decline was inevitable. Some years ago, I found myself standing next to her at dusk in the window of a country house in the English East Midlands, not far from where she grew up. We stared through the lead diamond mullions at a perfect scene of ancient rural tranquility — lawns, the “ha-ha” (an English horticultural innovation), and the fields and hedgerows beyond, looking much as it would have done half a millennium earlier. Mrs. T asked me about my corner of New Hampshire (90 percent wooded and semi-wilderness) and then said that what she loved about the English countryside was that man had improved on nature: “England’s green and pleasant land” looked better because the English had been there. For anyone with a sense of history’s sweep, the strike-ridden socialist basket case of the British Seventies was not an economic downturn but a stain on national honor.

A generation on, the Thatcher era seems more and more like a magnificent but temporary interlude in a great nation’s bizarre, remorseless self-dissolution. She was right and they were wrong, and because of that they will never forgive her.

In America, Barack Obama will never forgive President Reagan for ushering in an era of America rebirth in the 1980s, as Jonah Goldberg wrote this past week, when the news of Lady Thatcher’s death broke:

Obama’s stated desire to become a transformative president — unlike Bill Clinton — stems from an ambition to return to the pre–Thatcher-Reagan era when conservatives were expected to agree with liberals in principle, but have small business-like quibbles about the details. That’s why he so often waxes nostalgic for Eisenhower and the old Republicans who played the “me too” card on domestic policy. His idea of a reasonable Republican, to borrow a term from WFB, is a castrated Republican.

But when you think about it, 1979 was even more significant. That was the year that Deng Xiaoping introduced market reforms in China, in effect beginning the era of “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” that replaced the horrors and ineptness of of Mao’s “Marxism with Chinese characteristics.” Of course, the Communist party kept a good amount of its Leninism, lest its leaders lose the ability to boss people around while becoming billionaires. Still, if you look back on the almost inexorable rise in intellectual and political respectability for statism, 1979 looks increasingly like the moment when the arc of history started to bend away from the inevitability of socialism.

For a moment, at least.

Related: By the way, good thing our current elites would never try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, eh?

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Top Rated Comments   
Do you know that the kids of today are being taught that the Vietnam war was Richard Nixon's war not LBJ's. LBJ is hardly mention except for his Great Society program. If you tell a lie long enough eventually people will believe it and THAT lie will then become the "new" truth.
Vietnam vet 11D Armor Recon, 25th ID wounded Tet 68.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have read, pondered what this war was about for 44 years since I came home. I even went back a couple years ago and found a charming place. Whatever it was about or why it turned out the way it did, it was a hell of a ride for those who served in combat. Now we're old men not the far side of the sixties youth culture.
Fulbright's comment that the outcome was no different than a football game tells you everything you need to know about what a craven class of fools who make up our political betters are. Fifty thousand lives here, fifty thousand there; after a while you're talking about real numbers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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There is evidence that President Nixon knew back in 1972 that South Vietnam would never survive once the U.S. withdrew its forces. What Nixon wanted from Kissinger was a deal with North Vietnam that would last long enough for Nixon to get re-elected in November 1972, and last a couple more years, until the American public had forgotten about Vietnam

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2006/11/henry_kissinger.html
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Do you know that the kids of today are being taught that the Vietnam war was Richard Nixon's war not LBJ's. LBJ is hardly mention except for his Great Society program. If you tell a lie long enough eventually people will believe it and THAT lie will then become the "new" truth.
Vietnam vet 11D Armor Recon, 25th ID wounded Tet 68.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Absolutely true.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One thing I've learned about Vietnam over the years is that there are plenty of facts to support lots of theories. I just missed the Vietnam era but I did live in the Philippines and then Peace Corps in Africa, so I know a little bit about the third world. I also had good friends who were in Vietnam (one for four years) and discussed this for long periods of time. (BTW, his take is, "We were winning when I left.")

My own take is just my two cents, but here goes: LBJ and the country got sucked into this war one step at a time. Both sides constantly misjudged each other. I think within six months, way back in 66, LBJ realized he was screwed. He kept doubling down.

When Nixon took over, he did some things right. Had Nixon not done Watergate and completed his second term untainted by scandal, he may have been strong enough with Congress to avoid a complete collapse of the South regime. Possibly.

But what about Chinese-backed Cambodia v. Soviet-backed North Vietnam? Remember that North Vietnam invaded Cambodia and in retribution, China invaded North Vietnam.

It's all too complicated. I'm not sure anyone can.

On one hand, our fight in Vietnam may have completed its geopolitical purpose: To forestall communism's spread and allow the development of the Asian tigers, until the Cold War was won. By 1979, China was rethinking communism and by 1985, the Soviets were.

On the other hand, you don't ask people to be pawns.

We won the Cold War; Vietnam was the equivalent of a queen sacrifice. And we as Americans don't play chess with our people.

FWIW. I may have no idea what I'm talking about.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have read, pondered what this war was about for 44 years since I came home. I even went back a couple years ago and found a charming place. Whatever it was about or why it turned out the way it did, it was a hell of a ride for those who served in combat. Now we're old men not the far side of the sixties youth culture.
Fulbright's comment that the outcome was no different than a football game tells you everything you need to know about what a craven class of fools who make up our political betters are. Fifty thousand lives here, fifty thousand there; after a while you're talking about real numbers.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“capitalism with Chinese characteristics”

Godless capitalism and godless communism fails. The atheist tyrant with all that power and authority bring radical change on a dime while our agnostic nation wonders if they must join them or flee .
What do you have the people hold onto with past greatest and now lukewarm agnostism ?
They say: let us fight the little people great evil :Islam to make the world great for super power Atheist communist capitalist Red China and once they become the Superpower in the world they can call themselves anything they want to add to the superpower great victory
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
footnote
the only power to stand up to what we face in the future is how the west finds great faith in the True God and then can speak with great authority to stand against and real enemy
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We should review this not-too-far-off-topic item:

Note from the video clip that France admitted 96,000 Vietnamese refugees from their former colonial fief while we Americans admitted more than 400,000....


This is also a good opportunity to remind all readers here that unsung heroic Americans were involved for a long time in that South East Asian cauldron...... note that Civil Air Transport airdropped supplies to the besieged French at DienBienPhu in 1954, and it wasn't until 2004 that the French Ambassador in Washington awarded the legion of Honor medals to the very few living survivors....cf: website ...pasted:

"
Home Page : News: Newspaper Articles

Last Updated March 10, 2004

This article appeared online on February 15, 2005
France Honors CIA Pilots for Vietnam Service

By Robert Burns
ASSOCIATED PRESS....."......end paste

There is so much involved in this lengthy complicated conflict that we should not be too quick to jump to any conclusions.


By extension, let's get the hell out of Central/West Asia as soon as possible.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Zeke 1: Thank you for a better summary of events.

So often overlooked is the fact that when the French left, Eisenhower and Ridgway put their heads together and inserted a single regiment of Marines into Northeast Thailand. They had the Ho Chi Minh Trail interdicted. The NVA were stymied and the VC could not be built into a meaningful force. (Hence a widespread assasination and terror campiagn in the South, which could have been countered with a "well-regulated militia" .) The McNamara crowd failed to utilize those Marines and then withdrew them and Westmoreland did absolutely nothing to compensate for the lackof an interdicting force. The only thing that saved our posteriors was Harold Johnson getting Abrams out there. In turn "Abe" had a victory-in-waiting while keeping a retreat from becoming a rout. One of the most remarkable Generaling jobs of all times.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks Dave -- Vietnam was essentially about one underlying thing. The agreement matters surrounding the DMZ. I always like to have people who have an interest, to begin with, when was the DMZ formalized, by whom was it formalized and why, followed by, why did Ho Chi Minh renege on the agreement. There is a direct French, U.S., China, Russia and Vietnam connection throughout. With this knowledge, one can then better proceed to learning about the French miltary response followed by the U.S. military response wit a much better understanding. Separate, is the matters of the U.S. military infighting for command, control and strategies and the military and political corruption that ensued to the wars end.

My boss (Gen Vic Krulak USMC) was slated to be the central commander but ultimately lost to the infighting war with Westmoreland as did others to follow.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This shoehorns well into a point I was going to make. As I have read, it is considered that a fatal flaw was Westmoreland's monomania about "Search and Destroy," which didn't amount to much. However, Abrams altered this to "Clear and Hold," which did work well.

I suppose to support this is the fact that post-Westmoreland, the VC were never able to re-establish themselves in the RVN and that all major Operations following were by large scale NVA units.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My Dear Fail Burton: May I suggest you summarize your knowledge on a 22 caliber cleaning patch, writing with a 50 caliber chamber brush. Don't worry, you will have plenty of space left over and if you use disappearing ink, nobody will be the wiser.

The FACTS of the matter are as follows: The Armed Forces of South Vietnam were for a few years quite inept and corrupt. The reason was the Kennedy and Johnson adminstrations paid them to be that way. Plus there was William Westmoreland. Then came Nixon and Creighton W Abrams plus some better blood in the State Department. By 1972, Ruff Puffs and White Mice had defeated the insurgency and defeated it in detail. And ARVN regulars conducted themselves extremely well in fighting off and NVA offensive that left said NVA more than decimated.
As a reward, ARVN was left to suffer attrition while NVA were rebuilt.
In spite of this ARVN held on for two years and only broke when there was nothing else they could do. And the final battle, that of Xuan Loc was an ARVN victory when their last undersized and under-equipped Division destroyed a complete NVA Corps. Your version of the fall of Vietnam is erroneous. Herchenson's is closer to the truth.

And BTW: American Victory does not cause hatred of America. The warm feelings the generality of Vietnamese have towards Americans are a result of how American soldiers conducted themselves during the war. Not because RVN was ovverrun in 75.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Our side won tactically, didn't fight the war strategically, thereby leveling the playing field and undoing the tactical victories, and we eventually lost the political will to continue. That was not malaise but the realization that fighting a war in that specific half-assed way could not be won. The costs all around, financially and politically, were simply too high to rationalize backing a failed paradigm any longer. It was a war crime.

I understand the fear at the time - that a greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere would be founded ideologically rather than strictly militarily as Japan had done, and that it would be hostile to us and constrain trade and access to raw materials. Nevertheless our response was a failure of vision. With a victorious and free hand afterwards, many in the region simply rejected communism, and the whole thing came to nothing.

Our politicians did indeed lost that war, the moment they started it. Restrain an effective army and it is not effective.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You can't legitimately start at 72 amd make 'any' conclusions about Vietnam! You have to go back and study the history of Ho Chi Minh then jump to 1945 and undertand the entire timeline of cause and events from that point. We lost few battles in Vietnam but we lost the 'war' as the old saying goes. Westmoreland created infighting among the service branches and especially the Marine Corp over command and control of the war and its strategies beginning the corruption of politics and war with the perfect alliance of the most corrupted SOD America has ever had -- Bob Mc Namara!

The ultimate Westmoreland tactical strategies from early on was the major cause of military success in the end! Two operations probably still classified well before 1968 turned what started out as a rather conventional wafare battlefield to one of guerrilla wafare for which out strategies never overcame Vietnam was divided into four corps tactical zones, each of which was a political as well as military jurisdiction under separate commands under what eventially was reorganized and became MACV. The real secrects surrounding the circumstances of the Vietnam war and its collosal failures are slowly being buried as the war command is dying off. They were still the old school breed unlike todays and some things will never be fully understood. The corruption, lying and misrepresntations of MACV (Westmoreland) and McNamara to congress and the President were again collosal!

On the other hand, the U.S. began military aid to the French efforts in 1950 in the form of money, military equipment and military advisors under the new Vietnam USMAAG command. In 1953 Eisenhower developed Eisenhower will cite a 'Domino Theory' in which he declared a Communist victory in Vietnam would result in surrounding countries falling one after another like a falling row of dominoes. The Domino Theory was be used by the following Presidents and their advisors to justify ever-deepening U.S. involvement in Vietnam. By the 60s we had increased military advisors and was actively training seasoned ranking enlisted Vietnam Marines in our Marine Corps boot camps with French speaking drill instructors.

While there is a lot of intellectualizing still talkng place today, by 'experts' of course, they ignore the simplicity of why we became involved and the time line of cause and events that ended the war in the manner it was ended. Today, we're still using the very same theories in our nation-building and the very same results have occured in nearly every situation whether it be directed to communist containment or Muslim religious conflicts of the ME. lastly, it should be noted that unconvention warfare is extremely difficult to impossible to win under the conventional 'rules' of warfare. In other words NOBODY wins militarily and rarely politically! Militarily, Vietnam was real circle jerk at the highest levels!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"The ultimate Westmoreland tactical strategies from early on was the major cause of military success in the end!"

SHOULD READ: cuase of the military non success in the end
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sorry blert: but the loss of POL and other blunders were not the reason ARVN failed. Those errors could have been corrected. (also there would have been no OPEC squeeze had not Nixon imposed wage and price controls.) In 1975 a cabal of Congressional and Senatorial Democrats were determined to wreck infantile and ideological vengence upon those Vietnamese who were on our side. This sort of attitude prevailed throughout the Carter years----led by Jimmy C himself. And now resurrected by Barack O. Friendlies are to be punished, hostiles rewarded. That is the core reason Vietnam fell.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You're re-inventing history.

Go back and check the history of the testimony and the impact.

ARVN -- in every sense -- was de-mobilized by the attacks -- which COULD NOT BE MADE GOOD.

Cutting a Congressional check would not rebuild the facilities nor restock them in time. The all out invasion by the North came shortly thereafter.

Sorry, the record disappoints. But, it is what it is.

BTW, most popular histories entirely omit this 'little' detail. It's glossed over.

But it grounded the RVN Air Force -- which was the fourth largest in the world at the time. It stopped Saigon from bombing the trails -- and Hanoi. Both options were considered -- and set aside.

Even if fuel were bought, the infrastructure was GONE. It would take a re-intervention by the US Army to reboot their logistics.

It deserves a book. But, I'm not willing to be that author. I've got bigger irons in the fire.

It is a FACT that this POL fiasco lost even conservative Republican votes.

Hence, it was BIG NEWS at the time. It's been swallowed up by the larger tragedies -- so the younger folks know nothing of it.

Do not trivialize the loss of an entire years worth of POL -- with the embargo still in effect on America -- gas lines and all.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Cutting a Congressional check would not rebuild the facilities nor restock them in time. The all out invasion by the North came shortly thereafter."

The RVN were incapable or incompetent which ever term you wish! The RVN Air Force was grounded for good cause and not because it was aged craft and not being maintained properly or lacked parts and fuel! Likewise the $80M or whatever congress did authorize, should have never been! Sorry ole buddy, but most of the congressional record is 180 degress separated from the facts -- McNamara and Westmoreland made certain of that!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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