Monday, January 08, 2007
just to see you torn apart, witness to your empty heart:
Mac Owens reviews the new Mark Moyar "we coulda won in Vietnam!" book in the new Standard. In Moyar's world, Ngo Dinh Diem is a towering figure, and...
The United States had ample opportunities to ensure the survival of South Vietnam, but it failed to develop the proper strategy to do so. And by far our greatest mistake was to acquiesce in the November 1963 coup that deposed and killed Diem, a decision that "forfeited the tremendous gains of the preceding nine years and plunged the country into an extended period of instability and weakness."
I'd be mightily impressed if Moyar can consistently explain why the U.S. could have ensured the survival of South Vietnam if we kept on using improper strategy. It won't do to rely on the truism that if we had only had the right strategy, things would have been A-OK. Further, if memory serves, Vietnam was united in 1975 on Communist terms and for the past 3o-plus years the republic has survived and prospered. You might think this makes the war a pitiful waste, but apparently it was worth fighting.
--Spencer Ackerman
Most depressingly, the former South Vietnam has actually become the leading part of the country since the country's transition to a market economy. Not only has the south not been subjected to some nightmarish Tibetan-style ethnic cleansing, it's prospered (as much as one can) under Communist rule.

Yes, Commies=mean, etc. Still, the nightmare scenarios never ended up occurring.
Blogger john | 6:01 PM

I happen to be reading Stanley Karnow's history of Vietnam right now, and what pops out again and again is how the proclamations about Iraq now echo proclamations about Vietnam then. Everyone keeps saying that we "can't lose" in Iraq or all hell will break loose, but that's exactly what they were saying back in the 60's. It's kind of eery.

I don't know what Karnow's biases might have been, but he has absolutely nothing good to say about Diem. If it's accurate that Diem kept nearly everything within the family and refused the advice of experts, then I fail to see how keeping him in power was going to accomplish anything. Karnow suggests that the "strategic hamlet" concept was something Diem latched onto and pushed hard more as a way to prevent rural Vietnamese from backing the VC. Never mind that the initiative alienated these folks and accomplished exactly the opposite. Another example of how Diem wasn't contributing to progress against the VC.
Blogger kurzbein | 5:26 AM

Kurzbein, in Owens' review of Moyar's book, Owens -- I believe following Moyar -- makes a point of saying how you can't trust Karnow, Sheehan,& Halberstam because they got their information from a communist agent & LTC John Paul Vann. It so happens that, along with Ward Just & Jonathan Schell, K, S & H were by far the greatest reporters on the ground in Vietnam. Discredit them and you can discredit independent ground reports.

For the record, while I haven't read Karnow's VN book -- his book "In Our Image" about the US-Philippine relationship is excellent, however -- Sheehan's Bright Shining Lie & of course Halberstam's Best & Brightest are the best books out there about Vietnam. Especially Sheehan's. In fact, I'd strongly encourage you or anyone to read A Bright Shining Lie ASAP.
Blogger spencerackerman | 6:37 AM

Thanks for the recommendations, Spencer.
Blogger kurzbein | 1:28 PM