Thursday, 21 September 2017

Quote of the day: Vietnam

This is spot on:

The Vietnam War was the greatest U.S. military catastrophe of the 20th century. A conflict begun under false pretenses, based on ignorance and hubris, it killed 58,000 Americans and as many as 3 million Vietnamese. It ended in utter failure. Never in our history have so many lives been wasted on such monumental futility.

My generation (and those a year or so older who sang peace and love) associate the disaster of Vietnam with Richard Nixon - it sort of suits the more lefty-minded for it to be a shockingly corrupt Republican President who shoulders the blame for this awful war. Truth is that the origins of the problem* - at least as far as US involvement is concerned - rests rather with the sainted John F Kennedy.

I've always taken the view that, far from being some blessed individual, Kennedy was as committed to projecting US power as any Republican. Kennedy's knack was to wrap it up in the promotion of democracy rather than the less appealing and blunted cold war rhetoric of Republicans like Eisenhower and Nixon.

*Interestingly the "strategic hamlet" approach developed by the French and US advisors whereby radicalised communities were relocated into controllable locations was a straight lift from the policy used by the British in Malaya. The main difference was that the Malay insurgency was by ethnic Chinese making it far easier to isolate the community hiding guerrillas and terrorists.

1 comment:

pen seive said...

I understand the post war Vietnam problems started when the allies back-tracked on their promise to give Vietnam independence if they fought against the Japanese occupation. France demanded it return to being a French colony and the British, to our shame, allowed them to do so. When the Viet Minh (the term Viet Cong was an American invention as it was felt going to war against a people who called themselves 'Minh' would only bring derision upon themselves) destroyed the French forces, Kennedy decided to use the might of the USA to destroy the evil communists and look how that turned out. It was Nixon who brought the conflict to an end, even though it was a foregone conclusion that Ho Chi Minh's forces were going to win. He oversaw the best possible circumstances of the American defeat. Historians reckon that if France had accepted Vietnamese independence, not only would it have saved countless lives, but the level of communism wouldn't have been so draconian. However, as we know, hindsight is an exact science.