Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Real History

Critics, some ignorant of history, are coming out of the wood works to castigate further former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara for his role in the Viet Nam War. Here is the real history.

We largely funded, but did not fight, the first Viet Nam war, 1946 to 1954, which involved mainly French troops and really evolved from a neocolonial war into an anti-Communist effort.

We began to supply South Vietnamese with soldiers and arms in real numbers during the Administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. That is to say, the beginning of the second Viet Nam war, 1965-1973, was wholly a Democratic war consistent with the Democratic policy of containment of Communism. Don't get me wrong, I think it was the right thing to do--stop Communist expansion--but the Democrats muffed it despite billions of dollars and millions of American soldiers poured into the fray. My problem with the first part of the second war, 1965-1968, was with how it was fought. It was not really a counterinsurgency effort, and, although the Viet Cong suffered a near complete tactical defeat in Tet in 1968, the NVA took over competently and fought well in the second part of the war, which was under the leadership, ultimately, of Republican president Richard Nixon.

Under the Republican, the war went better and we pushed the NVA into the fringes of South Vietnam as we turned the real fighting over to the ARVN. By Spring, 1973, we had essentially won, as our combat troops were all out and the south had survived a determined invasion by the north the previous year, during Easter, and had killed or wounded probably 100,000 NVA, largely through our air power. We even signed a peace treaty in January, 1973.

Then Democrats in Congress stabbed our former ally in the back and prohibited selling or giving South Vietnam any war material and preventing our giving air support to the ARVN. So when the north tired a probe much smaller than the 1972 Easter offensive in 1975, they were a lot more successful and they pressed the attack and took over the south.

To paraphrase Sidney Greenstreet in The Maltese Falcon: These are facts, historical facts, not schoolbook history, not popular lefty history, but history nevertheless.

So, in short, you can indeed criticize McNamara for his conduct during the first part of the war but that doesn't mean that the war was unwinnable or doomed. The defeat of the ARVN in 1975 was almost 100% the result of Democratic legislation which removed the ability of the south to defend itself and threw away our hard fought, Republican-led victory there.

Then the real suffering began.
UPDATE: Seth Lipsky has a similar but broader view over at the National Review Online.


Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?