Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990

Another discovery of a good book, [The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 by Marilyn B. Young] a good history of Vietnam that is not too detailed but enough so as to be educative. You can get it on Amazon used for under $2.00!!! One passage that I like:

"The French recognized the intimate connection between the Viet Minh and the population without bothering to contemplate its meaning. Rather, it was seen as a technical problem, to be dealt with tactically. Early in the war, an effort had been made to separate the people from the Viet Minh through the construction of thousands of forts that would keep the people in the Viet Minh out. [When this did not work] General Navarre...abandoned this static approach in favor of establishing a series of strong points, linked by highly mechanized mobile forces intended to seize the strategic initiative and 'mop up' the guerrillas. In some villages, mopping up meant arresting the entire male population between fourteen and sixty, and everywhere, a French observer wrote, the military 'had a record of pillage, violence, assassination, and of burning of the villages and the execution of the innocent.' In response, the Viet Minh turned their attention to ambushing the new mobile units, and at Dienbeinphu Giap directly engaged one of Navarre's 'hedgehog' forts by a feat of arms literally beyond the imaging of the French military.

"The meaning of Dienbienphu, Giap wrote on its fifth anniversary, was that it established a 'a great historic truth: a colonized and weak people once it has risen up and is united in the struggle and determined to fight for its independence and peace, has the full power to defeat the strong aggressive army of an imperialist country.' The French journalist Jules Roy, reflecting on the defeat many years later, understood. 'Apart from the French high commissioners who supported his government,...who indeed would dare to imagine that anybody could be expected to fight to enrich the big landlords and the provincial governors?...What kind of honor could be found in the ranks of H.M. Bao Dai's army, trained by the French and paid by the Americans?' Honor lay elsewhere, in a 'faith, which we had contemptuously dismissed as fanaticism, in which our military leaders refused to believe, and which had broken our battalions, our tanks and our planes.' An American aide to President Kennedy, however, after reading Giap's account of the battle, drew the ominously obtuse conclusion that 'in Southeast Asia today...there is not pervasive national spirit as we know it.'" [pp. 35-36]

Given this level of "analysis" it is little wonder that we were defeated in Vietnam. We, like the French, had no idea of who we were fighting and why our adversaries were fighting. We treated Vietnam as, by and large, "a technical problem, to be dealt with tactically." Of course, this is how we treat almost all our "problems" from education to drug use to terrorism and terrorists to Iraq and Afghanistan. We keep coming up short and wonder why. We are blinded by the light as it were.

No comments:

Post a Comment