Free Markets, Free People

Don’t bother buying this book

Marvin Kalb and his daughter Deborah have written a book called “The Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama”.

I can give you one very good reason not to even bother buying or reading the book.  It comes from an email interview Kalb did with TIME’s Battleland:

Why did you write Haunting Legacy?

The Vietnam War was the only war the U.S. ever lost, and it left a deep scar on the American psyche. From then on, American presidents, whenever faced with the need to send troops to war, worried about getting trapped in another Vietnam, meaning another war without a clear mission, without an exit strategy, without Congressional support. Deborah and I wanted to explore this crucial dimension of recent American history. That’s the reason we wrote the book.

Bullsquat.  “Losing” a war usually means you were there to fight it and got beaten.  That’s not the case with Vietnam, although it is a very persistent myth.  If we lost anything it was the political war (and will), certainly not the war on the battlefield.

So someone who would make a statement like the first in that paragraph has zip for credibility with me.   Our last combat troops left South Vietnam in August of 1972.  Saigon fell in April of 1975.  Who is the “we” that lost the war?   I think we all know who that is and Kalb was right there with the bunch of ‘em painting a picture that wasn’t accurate and is still doing it.

Screw ‘em.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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34 Responses to Don’t bother buying this book

  • Soldiers were ordered not to open fire on Taliban fighters planting mines in case they disturb local people, it has been claimed.
    U.S. military chiefs ordered troops to exercise ‘courageous constraint’ and even warned them they could be charged with murder if they shot any Taliban without permission from above.

    The claims were made by a former Royal Marine who spoke out following the inquest into the death of Sergeant Peter Rayner last week.

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2015944/Soldiers-ordered-shoot-Taliban-planters—WAKES-UP-locals.html#ixzz1Sfc7JH4P

    Some things that should change do not change.  Lessons that should have been learned have not been learned.

    • My biggest gripe about those two wars are the idiotic, schizophrenic ROE’s, especially under Bush who should have known better.

  • Martin Kalb is an old fake.  He spent years after retiring from Journalism teaching proper journalism to students and NEVER, EVER, admitted that the old mainstream media had a liberal bias.  He is a fraud and a tool. Let that be his legacy.

  • And “without congressional support”?
    Seems like there was plenty of it for quite some time…
     
    “Without a clear mission”?
    Apart from “keep South Vietnam from being conquered by the North”, he means?
     
    “Without an exit plan”?
    Exit plans are a plan for failure.

  • Bullsquat.  “Losing” a war usually means you were there to fight it and got beaten.  That’s not the case with Vietnam, although it is a very persistent myth.  If we lost anything it was the political war (and will), certainly not the war on the battlefield.

    But war is everything, from the physical battles to the political struggle.  We can argue over details, and I think we’d agree on most, but I’ll go with my father, who was a veteran, on this: the US lost the Vietnam War.
    The communists engaged in asymmetrical warfare and pursued a strategy of attrition.  Most decidedly, they accomplished an attrition of political will, which was much more effective than anything they could accomplish with bullets.  This stuff is straight out of Sun Tzu.
    The best strategy would have been to never send US troops there after the French bugged out.  Even better, not helping the French to resume their colonial rule after WWII.

    • The best strategy would have been to never send US troops there after the French bugged out.  Even better, not helping the French to resume their colonial rule after WWII.

      WTF are you using for history?
      Cripes, I hate pontificating idiots.
      We gave up.  We were not beaten.  I dearly hope you can see the distinction.

      • WTF are you using for history?

        Books.  Recollections from discussions with my father.  Perhaps a bit from documentaries like “Vietnam: The 10,000 Day War”.
        My first exposure to some of the deeper history of Vietnam was in a chronology which was an appendix to John Del Vecchio’s The 13th Valley which was historical fiction.  That piqued my interest to read non-fiction accounts.
        Here’s what I wrote, which you quoted:

        The best strategy would have been to never (1) send US troops there after the French bugged out.  Even better, not (2) helping the French to resume their colonial rule after WWII.

        What, precisely, do you object to?
        For #2: As the victors in WW II, the US, UK, and USSR were calling the shots all over the globe, including Indochina.  Nationalist Chinese went in to pacify the Japanese and the Vietminh north of the 16th parallel and British to the south.  The British rearmed the French and some Japanese to help them take control of the south.  The French colonialists then took Hanoi back from the Vietminh, which began the First Indochina War.  The French lost at Dien Bien Phu and bugged out in 1954.
        For #1: In the 1960s, JFK sent “advisers” and LBJ escalated after the Gulf of Tonkin.  These were the US troops sent after the French had left.  Perhaps you assumed I mean immediately, rather than years later.

        We gave up.  We were not beaten.  I dearly hope you can see the distinction.

        You can stuff the “pontificating idiots” comment up there with your head.  You quoted statements of mine which were factual, and you left out the portions of what I wrote in which I did make the distinction between a political victory and one “they could accomplish with bullets.”  You’re a dishonest a*hole to pretend I failed to make such distinctions.

        • We had a treaty with South Vietnam.  Under that treaty…which had SQUAT to do with France…we had obligations.
          We were fighting an aggressively expansionist Soviet and Chinese Communist hegemony.
          I get that you prefer NEVER to understand that.

          • Just FYI, I don’t rely on “books”.  I lived it.
            I may be the only person you will ever communicate with who both refused induction (1968), and then served voluntarily (1972) when I had no chance of being drafted.
            I personally knew pilots who flew sorties off of carriers with ONE 500# bomb on F4s that could carry more than WWII heavy bombers, just so DC could report a high sortie number back home.
            I lost friends and classmates.  Most all of them were volunteers, BTW.

          • I get that you prefer NEVER to understand that.

            You don’t know spit about me.  So quit pretending that you do, a*hole.
            The RVN didn’t exist until 1954.  There was no RVN with which to have a treaty before then.  After WWII, the French were restored to power by the Allies, specifically by Nationalist Chinese and British troops, with the help of some Japanese troops.  The US sided with them and did nothing to prevent resumption of French colonial rule.  To his credit, Eisenhower didn’t intervene in the war between the Vietminh and the French.
            The 1954 Geneva Accords divided at the 17th parallel.  The US got involved to see to it that their hand-picked guy, Diem (who had been appointed as Interior Minister by the French before the war), was able to consolidate power.  Senator JFK was among the group who picked Diem, in part because he was Catholic.
            I understand that once the French were out of the picture, the concern was to stop the spread of communism.  The communists murdered tens of thousands before setting their sights on the south.  The “land reform” was large scale theft and consolidation of power.  Reeducation camps were set up for political prisoners.  As rotten as Diem was, his consolidation of power had very little affect on the lives of most in the RVN.  In contrast, the communists took authoritarian control over all aspects of the lives of the people in the north.
            But still, it wasn’t worth the lives or money that the US government sacrificed.

          • I appreciate that you served and knew people who died.
            But I haven’t written anything inaccurate.  You’re just making ignorant assumptions about what I think.  To even suggest that I would willfully ignore the evil of communism is proof of that.
            I couldn’t even begin to count the number of comments and articles I’ve written in which I attempt to put the atrocities of communists in proper perspective with the Nazis, for example.  There are probably a few dozen useful idiots who have tasted my ire after I saw them use Che avatars or make statements in admiration of the like.
            So you might think twice before jumping to conclusions next time.

          • And I’ll testify to Elliot’s bona fides in that regard.

    • Elliot – we didn’t lose the war. We forfeited it.

      • I get the point you’re trying to make.
        I just disagree that a forfeit is not a loss.  You can’t lose the number of lives and the amount of money that the US government put into that war, only for the enemy to win, and not call that a huge loss.

  • Teaching foreign policy and IR I can assure you that all foreign policy texts and international relations book record this as a US loss – a humiliating one at that, with incidents like the Mai Lai massacre harming US moral credibility.  Moreover, when does a forfeit not count as a loss?  If you give up, Rags, you’ve been beaten.   If your enemy gets you to give up, he beat you.   And in war it’s not just military, its politics.  Vietnam wasn’t worth one American life.

    • Thing is, Erp, you are too stupid to understand the significance of what you just said.
      Mai Lai was an aberration for the US.  It was isolated and punished.  It was not unique in American history.  We did bad stuff in WWII, as well.  It was not tolerated when it was identified.  We hung people.
      It is SOP for your Collectivist buds.  Mai Lai was just what your cadres did every day.
      There were two distinct wars, you flucking idiot.  The one our troops fought and won, and the one your political and cultural cadres fought to stab our nation in the back.
      Clear enough?

      • There have always been honorable warriors in the US military, more than in most other countries.  But there have also been rotten, murderous bastards.  Andersonville prison in the Civil War, General Otis in the Philippine-American war are two prominent examples.  Most of the time, when such atrocities were exposed, the guilty were punished.  But from what I’ve read, many incidents are never exposed.  And, the Mai Lai perpetrators got off with a slap on the wrist.
        For me, the worst outrages on the side of the US were the draft (which is slavery), pursuing military operations for political reasons despite knowing the campaign is hopeless, bombing of civilian areas to pressure the enemy to peace talks, and the nation building support for murderous dictators.  Those were carried out by the political leaders and top brass.
        And, you’re absolutely right that the communists carried out systematic murder and imprisonment as a matter of policy.  Compared with the US, they were far worse.
        Oddly enough, Erb exploits Mai Lai as a way to bash the military as a whole without recognizing that the real evil came from political leaders.  And, he has historically tried to draw moral equivalencies between authoritarian regimes (Axis powers, communist governments) and the US, because it serves his collectivist narrative.

    • You couldn’t teach a bear to s&h^%i&t in the woods.

  • Tell a big lie often, and it will become accepted truth.
     
    Perception is reality, so in one aspect, Mr. McQ, Kalb was correct: “American presidents, whenever faced with the need to send troops to war, worried about getting trapped in another Vietnam (quagmire)…”
     
    It explains a lot as to why the current collective crop of euro-weenie neo-bolsheviks refuse to confront the reality of radical Islam.
     
    Conversely, it’s why many Americans thank God for GW Bush; a (perceived) unilateral ‘cowboy’ with the testicular fortitude to tough it out in Iraq, even during the darkest hours, despite a mob of flaccid fops in the MSM messing their diapers.
     
     

    • Actually reality is reality … perception is just someone’s version (or vision) of it.

      Ask Saddam. Oh, wait you can’t. Because his perception of reality had him bluffing the US and getting away with it.

      • Point taken, but regardless, I think we both can agree that the reality of Vietnam’s legacy is it has unduly hampered successive administrations in properly utilizing the US military; ridiculous ROEs being just one obvious example.

        • Yeah, I don’t disagree with the result, I just think it is based on a misunderstanding. That and an endemic lack of will politicians eventually exhibit.

        • Going into Vietnam was never a “proper utilization” of the US military.
          From my perspective, a proper utilization, i.e., one for which I would be glad to fund and consider participating in (when I was younger) would generally involve an attack on American soil.  Pearl Harbor, WTC.  It also wouldn’t involve conscription, internment camps, nation building, etc..

  • As a Vietnam Vet I will say, YES the United States lost the war. But it was not lost on the battlefield. It was lost by the liberal media, college professors and students  then by the politicians — LBJ, Kissenger and democrats.  I also maintain that Vietnam was a battle in a larger war, the Cold War. So the battle was lost; the war was won.  Blick

    • The Cold War (tensions between US/West and USSR/Warsaw Pact) was only one phase of the struggle between collectivism and individualism.
      I’ve read one theory that traces that struggle back to the French Revolution.
      But no matter where it started, the fact is that we have ObamaPelosiCare, Social Security, and all manner of collectivist laws and regulations in this, the “Land of the Free”.
      So you can claim victory in the “Cold War”, but it’s clear to me that the collectivists have won the day now.  The only thing which might stop them is massive economic collapse.

  • Our last combat troops left South Vietnam in August of 1972.  Saigon fell in April of 1975.

    The last Soviet left the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in Feb. 1989.  Kabul fell in 1992. 

  • Funny, having been there, 40 years later I don’t feel like a loser. However, we lose if we let the Kalbs define what the war was and how we should feel. The true authoritative sources on this topic are include McSorley, Mann, Moyar, Colby and McMaster.

  • “American presidents, whenever faced with the need to send troops to war, worried about getting trapped in another Vietnam (quagmire)…”

    That would be nice if it actually happened, but it sure doesn’t look like Clinton, Bush or Obama gave much thought to that possiblity.

    “Has anyone here claimed the USSR “lost” the war in Afghanistan?”

    I’ll claim it, if nobody else does.

  • Afghanistan – it went a long way towards breaking the back of the Soviet Union.

  • What are the scenarios on how the Vietnam War would have gone, had the nation not lost its political will?

    In Virtual History Niall Ferguson offers an essay by Diane Kunz speculating on a world in which JFK had not been assassinated. She argues persuasively that JFK would have faced the same “poisoned chalice” LBJ drank from on Vietnam. JFK would not have withdrawn as Oliver Stone and some misty-eyed liberals prefer to believe but would have escalated just as LBJ did. She offers no opinion, however, that JFK would have been any more successful than LBJ was in fighting the war while responding to the anti-war movement at home.

    • An even better question would be “What would have happened had the military been allowed to pursue the war properly?”  Within 2 weeks of Niixon letting loose the Air Force in 1972, the North was begging to sit down at the negotiating table.  We were never told to win the war, our directives were always to try not to lose.