October 25, 2007

MOSTLY READINGS ON THE AMERICAN WAR IN VIETNAM

"What did I learn from the experience in Vietnam? [Bob Innes] asked himself out loud, letting the silence formulate his next statement. "I learned that honor and integrity are personal qualities, not institutional ones, not ones we should expect the state to always have. If you don't like the policy tough. Bad things happen in this world. You do the best you can in your job, and let the crybabies write the books." Robert Kaplan, Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground (New York: Random House, 2005), at 27-28.

Bates, Milton J., et al. Advisory Board, Reporting Vietnam Part I: American Journalism, 1959-1969 (New York: Library of America, 1998) (From 'A "Very Real War" in Vietnam--and the Deep U.S. Commitment,' by Homer Bigart: "SAIGON, Feb. 24[1962]--The United States is involved in a war in Vietnam. American troops will stay until victory." "That is what Attorney General Robert Kennedy said here last week..." "Actually the United States has been deeply involved in the fate of Vietnam since 1949 when the decision was made to subsidize the continuation of French rule against the Communist Viet Minh rebellion. The first United States Military Advisory Group (M.A.A.G.) arrived in 1951 to supervise the distribution of supplies. Thereafter the United States played an increasingly important role. To use a favorite Washington term. aid was 'escalated' until today $2 billion has been sunk into Vietnam with no end to the outlay in slight." Id. at 26-27. From Joe McGinniss, 'The Selling of the President': "There was on the Nixon [1968 presidential campaign] staff an 'ethnic specialist' named Kevin Phillips, whose job it was to determine what specific appeals would work with specific nationalities and in specific parts of the country. He watched Vietnam and sent a quick and alarmed memo to Len Garment: 'This has a decidedly dovish impact as a result of the visual content and it does not seem suitable for use in the South and Southwest.'" "His reasoning was quite simple. A picture of a wounded soldier was a reminder that the people who fight wars get hurt. This, he felt, might cause resentment among those Americans who got a big kick out of cheering for wars from their legion halls and barrooms half a world away. So bury the dead in silence, Kevin Phillips said, before you blow North Carolina." Id. at 659. There is some very fine--and powerful--writing contained in this anthology of journalism.).

Bates, Milton J., et al. Advisory Board, Reporting Vietnam Part II: American Journalism, 1969-1975 (New York: Library of America, 1998).

Berman, Larry, Lyndon Johnson's War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam (New York & London: Norton, 1989) (This is a sequel to Planning a Tragedy (see next entry). "Lyndon Johnson's War focuses on the repercussions from President Johnson's failure to address the fundamental incompatibility between his political objectives at home and his military objectives in Vietnam." "Lyndon Johnson chose to Americanize the war in July 1965; he chose to accept General Westmoreland's attrition strategy; he chose not to mobilize his country for war; he chose and encouraged others to paint optimistic scenarios for the American public; he chose to hide the anticipated enemy buildup prior to Tet because, in an election year, he had hoped for a military miracle--perhaps Westmoreland would turn the tide when the enemy began it final desperate assault." "It was left to Clark Clifford as secretary of defense to convince Johnson that Vietnam had become a sinkhole. The irony was that Secretary McNamara had been banished from the administration for the same advocacy. George Ball had been listened to but not heard. Johnson's decision to remove himself from the renomination race represented the ultimate recognition that the Vietnam war had become interwoven with his personality and his presidency. 'I shall not accept' was the president's admission that Vietnam had become, against his every desire, Lyndon Johnson's war." Id. at 203. "The problem of defining what was and was not an enemy soldier was part of the problem of the war itself. Counting the size of the enemy force and the rate of infiltration was an inexact process. That's why an NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] is called an estimate! Estimating guerrilla forces was tantamount to 'trying to estimate roaches in your kitchen.' as General Westmoreland testified in the libel trial. While the CIA believed that every Vietnamese who stuck a pungi stake (a bamboo stake used as a booby trap) in the ground belonged on the Order of Battle, Westmoreland did not, even though two-percent of U.S. combat wounds occurred from these traps." "In retrospect, the intelligence process was corrupted from above by an excessively paranoid president." Id. at 113.).

Berman, Larry, No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam (New York: Free Press, 2001) ("This is the story of a peace negotiation that began with Lyndon Johnson in 1968 and ended with thee fall of South Vietnam in 1975. Many secret meetings were involved...." "Here, then, is the emerging story of what Nixon call 'peace with honor' but was, in fact, neither...." Id. at 10.).

Berman, Larry, Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent (New York: Smithsonian Books/Collins, 2007) ("The president, who a year earlier had promised to end American involvement in Vietnam, had expanded the war into neighboring Cambodia." "The day after Nixon's national address, [Pham Xuan] An sent Anson a package, providing him with an English translation of a captured Viet Cong enemy document. This was the type of document reporters had easy access to, but An provided additional commentary for his colleague, who had just returned to Saigon for the weekend. The document was a July 1969 'battle plan' captured in October 1969 in which the North Vietnamese predicted that with Vietnamization failing, Nixon would turn his attention to Cambodia. An circled one paragraph and underlined the last sentence, writing across the page, 'You damned Americans. You read, but you never learn.'" "Here is what An circled for Anson: 'If our attacks in all aspects are not sufficiently strong and if the Americans are able to temporarily overcome part of their difficulties, they will strive to prolong the war in South Vietnam for a certain period of time during which they will try to de-escalate from a strong position of one sort or another, and carry out the de-Americanization in a prolonged war contest before they must admit defeat and accept a political solution. In both these eventualities, especially in the case of a prolonged de-escalation, the Americans may, in certain circumstances, put pressure on us by threatening to broaden the war by expanding it into Cambodia.'" Id. at 33-34.).

Berman, Larry, Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam (New York & London: Norton, 1982) ("This historical record illustrates how events can often shape the parameters of decisional choice; how situations can deny flexibility in response; how individual world view influences the definition of a situation; how official institutional rank can place advisors in quite unequal advocacy positions; how advisor role definitions can influence advocacy strategy; and most important, how no one decision can be studied in isolation from what preceded it." Id. at xiii. "Ball then returned to a familiar theme: 'No one has yet shown that American troops can win a jungle war against an invisible enemy.' Ball quoted extensively from the memoirs of Gen. Matthew Ridgway who in 1954 had urged Eisenhower not to intervene on behalf of the French at Dien Bien Phu: [] 'The land was a land of rice paddy and jungle--particularly adapted to the guerrilla-type warfare at which the Chinese soldier is a master. This meant that every little detachment, every individual, that tried to move about that country, would have to be protected by riflemen. Every telephone lineman, road repair party, every ambulance and every rear-area aid station would have to be under armed guard or they would be shot at around the clock.'" Id. at 87-88 (italics added). From rice paddy and jungle to desert, we did not learn. "Thirty thousand American troops died in Vietnam between July 28, 1965, and the inauguration of Richard Nixon in January 1969. 'How,' asked James C. Thomson, Jr., 'did men of superior ability, sound training and high ideals--American policymakers of the 1960s--create such a costly and divisive policy?'" [] "The cognitive error was not Johnson's alone. Six postwar presidents and their advisors refused to think critically about the changing nature of Asian communism. As the BDM study put it: [] 'Like leaders in any organization, presidents are not immune to confusing dissent with disloyalty. The Vietnam experience should point to some of the dangers in such confusion. Premises fail to receive the critical examination they require in formulating a sound policy that keeps pace with changes in a dynamic world." Id. at 130-131. "An important insight into how the advisory process operated within the White house is evidenced by a previously unavailable memo from McGeorge Bundy to the president regarding the position of various principals... Bundy them stated his own preferences to the president. The memo is perhaps one of the most significant to be released under recent declassifications: '.... I think you may want to have pretty tight and hard analysis of some disputed questions like the following: 1. What are the chances of our getting into a white man's war with all the brown men against us or apathetic?'" Id. at 93-94.).

Bird, Kai, The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy, Brothers in Arms: A Biography (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998) ("Mac[George Bundy] finished his studies at Yale and graduated in June 1940. During his senior year he had written a thirty-page essay on the looming question of war. [] Mac's essay is an argument on behalf of intervention against European fascism." [] "Having staked out his position, Bundy then goes on to explain why he found himself in the minority. Why were so many of his peers skeptics? His answer is to recall 'somewhat painfully' the first American history book he read in grammar school. The text made all of America's history 'a series of triumphant victories,' from the revolution all the way down through the years when America went off in 1917 to 'make the world safe for democracy, and to take our rank as the richest, wisest, bravest, kindest, strongest and most civilized of nations on the earth.'" "America was indeed a great and astonishing country, but it was also a country, Bundy says, with 'imperfections' in its past. 'We are taught at an early age to salute the flag, to be patriotic, and to believe a lot of lies. It is therefore nor surprising that when our eyes are opened, we react rather strongly against the innocent credulity of our childhood.'" Id. at 66-67. Far too many Americans never get beyond their grammar school American history books. "Writing in George [] Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., wistfully noted that [MacGeorge] Bundy represented 'the last hurrah of the Northeast Establishment. He was the final executor of the grand tradition of Henry Stimson, Dean Acheson, Averell Harriman, Robert Lovett, John J. McCloy--patricians who, combining commitment to international responsibility with instinct for command and relish in power, served the republic pretty well in the global crises of the twentieth century.' On a personal level, Schlesinger remembered his friend as a man of 'sparkling personality, witty and elegant.' Bundy, he said, had displayed the courage to 'transcend the politics and the complaisancies of his class.' Born a privileged Republican, he had become a liberal Democrat. 'A single tragic error,' Schlesinger concluded, 'prevented him from achieving his full promise as a statesman.'" Id. at 408 (citations omitted).)

Dallek, Robert, Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Time, 1961-1973 (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1998) ("Mac Bundy now urged consideration of sending in ground forces. American air operations alone, he counseled the President, would not stop Hanoi's aggression against the South. It was essential that the United States show the Communists that it was not a paper tiger. Moreover, with conservatives vocally warning against the abandonment of Vietnam, Bundy cynically declared: 'in terms of the U.S. politics[,] which is better' to 'lose' now or to 'lose' after committing 100,000 men? Tentative answer: the latter'" Id. at 255. This the second volume of Dallek's two-volume biography of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Though I don't consider this biography quite as good as the three-volume biography by Robert Caro, it is well worth the read. Dallek sums up the Johnson presidency and Johnson-the-man well. "His presidency was a story of great achievement and terrible failure, of lasting gains and unforgettable losses. Whatever impulse future historians may have to pigeonhole Johnson as a near great, average, or failed President, I am confident that a close review of his time in office will leave them reluctant to put any single stamp on his term. Some people loved the man and some despised him. Some remember him for great works and others for a legacy of excessive governance at home and defeat abroad. In a not so distant future, when coming generations have no direct experience of the man and the passions of the sixties are muted, Johnson will probably be remembered as a President who faithfully reflected the country's greatness and limitations--a man notable for his successes and failures, for his triumphs and tragedy." Id. at 628. Let me add, when the historians review the Johnson presidency it will be marked as flawed, but not as hubris and incompetent.)

Dallek, Robert, Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960 (New York & Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1991) (see above).

Dallek, Robert, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power (New York Harper Collins, 2007) (The book contains a lot of detail, but I don't think it contains much understanding of rich nuances of human nature.).

Dallek, Robert, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963 (Boston: Little, Brown, 2003) (Dallek seems to think that more facts, more information, etc., about someone necessarily leads to better insight into that person. Still, it is a valuable read in that it does serve to debunk many of the myths surrounding the Kennedy presidency. It has been a rather long time since anyone who studied the Kennedy presidency seriously has considered it a great presidency; the real question for debate is whether it had the potential for greatness. "In proposing to get out of Vietnam before it turned into a political liability in the United States, McNamara reflected the president's thinking. Kennedy wanted the lowest possible profile for U.S. involvement in the conflict. In May, he instructed that there be no 'unnecessary trips to Vietnam, especially by high ranking officers,' who might draw more attention to America's role in the fighting. In a meeting with congressional leaders, Kennedy made it clear that he did not want to announce increases in U.S. troops. The objective for JFK, Fulbright said, was to keep the United States from becoming 'formally involved.' The increase in advisers was less important than keeping things 'on an informal basis, because ... we couldn't withdraw if it gets too formal.' In October, Kennedy reluctantly agreed to let the military destroy crops in Viet Cong-controlled areas. It was a small concession to the Joint Chiefs, who were pressing him to use more muscle in Vietnam. 'His main train of thinking,' an NSC member told Bundy, 'was that you cannot say no to your military advisers all the time.' But he wanted to be sure that crop destruction did not become an embarrassment to the administration. 'What can we do about keeping it from becoming an American enterprise which would be surfaced with [or described as] poisoning food?' Kennedy asked his advisers." Id. at 527-528. That, no matter how you spin it, is not greatness. Dallek, like so many others, still place a gloss on the Kennedy presidency by talking about what might have been. "The sudden end to Kennedy's life and presidency has left us with tantalizing 'might have been's.' Yet even setting these aside and acknowledging some missed opportunities and false steps, it must be acknowledged that the Kennedy thousand days spoke to the country's better angels, inspired visions of a less divisive nation and world, and demonstrated that America was still the last best hope of mankind." Id. at 711. Did it really?).

Fall, Bernard B., Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu (Philadelphia & New York: Lippicott, 1967) ("On Saturday, April 3, 1954, eight senior legislators were called to the Department of State for a secret conference with Secretary [of State] Dulles, Admiral Radford, and some of their senior aides. The legislators were a bipartisan group including Senators Lyndon B. Johnson (then Minority Leader...." "Dulles stated that President Eisenhower himself had asked him to call the meeting and that the President wanted Congress to pass a joint resolution permitting him use of air and navel power in Indochina--in other words, a resolution granting him a far more restricted freedom of maneuver than that which President Lyndon B. Johnson was given in August, 1964. Radford then succinctly outlined the situation in Indochina and particularly the desperate straits of Dine Bien Phu, In language which was to be used against almost verbatim a decade later, Secretary Dulles warned that the fall of Indochina might well lead to the loss of all of Southeast Asia and that 'the United States might eventually be forced back to Hawaii.' He also added that failure by the United States to support the French and the local governments now might result in an abandonment of the war by the French.... Upon questioning, Radford allegedly stated that the action contemplated might put the United States 'in the war' and that, if the initial strike did not bring full relief to the fortress [at Dien Bien Phu], follow-up strikes were contemplated." "He hedged his reply as to the possibility of eventually committing American ground troops in the war and admitted that none of the other military staff chiefs agreed in full with his plan...." "According to Chalmers Roberts, Lyndon Johnson put the other key question in the form of a little speech.' The Senate Minority Leader stated that the Korean War had been financed and fought by the United States to an extent of ninety per cent and then asked Dulles whether any other allied nation (outside the French, who already were committed to the war) had been consulted as to whether they would join the United States in intervening in Viet-Nam." "Retrospectively, this seems to have been the key question and the key stumbling point. When Dulles acknowledged that, in view of the urgency of the situation, he had not yet consulted any other allies, the eight Congressional leaders flatly turned down the idea of a joint resolution..." Id. at 300-301. "Perhaps without realizing it, Lyndon B. Johnson, on April 3, 1954, had made his first crucial decision on Viet-Nam." Id. at 308.)

Fanon, Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth translated from the French by Richard Philcox (New York: Groves Press, 2004) (There are some who suggest the American War in Iraq is a 21st-century form of 'colonialism'. Here is not the place to argue the suggestion one way or the other. However, consider the following paragraph reading "colonialism" as "21st-century colonialism" or as what ever "-ism" you think more appropriate. "As long as colonialism remains in a state of anxiety, the national cause advances and becomes the cause of each and everyone. The struggle for liberation takes shape and already involves the entire country. During this period, spontaneity rules. Initiative rests with local areas. On every hilltop a government in miniature is formed and assumes power. In the valleys and in the forest, in the jungle and in the villages, everywhere, one encounters a national authority. The action of each and everyone substantiates the nation and undertakes to ensure its triumph locally. We are dealing with a strategy of immediacy which is both all-embracing and radical. The objective, the program of every spontaneously formed group is liberation at a local level. If the bastion is present everywhere, it must then be here. One step further and it is present only here. Tactics and strategy merge. The art of politics is quite simply transformed into the art of war. The militant becomes a fighter. To wage war and to engage in politics are one and the same thing." Id. at 83. Just food for thought. In the larger context, I don't see how any American law student interested in foreign relations, at least as it pertains to Africa, Asia, and South America, can ignore re-reading Fanon.)

Fitzgerald, Frances, Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press Book/Little, Brown, 1972) ("In 1970, two years after the start of the peace talks in Paris, the Vietnam War became the Indochina War with major battles in three countries. By 1971 the governments of Indochina had more than two million men under arms; the political and social geography of Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam had changed more radically than it has changed in all the years of the Johnson administration." "How was it possible? It was possible because the American government did not want to face the consequences of peace. It was, after all, one thing to wish for an end to the war and quite another to confront the issues upon which the war had begun. President Johnson had wanted to end the war; so, too, had President Kennedy. But to end the war and not to lose it: the distinction was crucial, and particularly crucial after all the American lives that had been spent and all the political rhetoric expended. Nixon, perhaps even more than his predecessors, felt that he could not take the responsibility for 'losing the war.' 'Johnson got us into the war quietly, now we are trying to get out of it quietly,' said Henry Kissinger. But the time for Senator Aiken's solution had long since passed: the issues were all too clearly formulated. To withdraw support from Saigon and allow the Thieu government to fall would be, by Nixon's definition, to 'lose the war.' There remained hope of winning it, and failing that, of not losing it until sometime after an American withdrawal from Vietnam." Id. at 404.).

Halberstam, David, The Best and the Brightest (New York: The Modern Library, 2001) ("[T]he Tet offensive caught the American mission, both military and civilian, largely by surprise and undermined the legitimacy of almost everything it was reporting about Vietnam, most particularly its relentless military optimism. What the American army at the highest levels lost in Vietnam, my close friend and colleague Charlie Mohr told me years later, in the best summation of that time, was its intellectual integrity." Id. at xv. "The commitment was already operative, burning with a special fuel of its own--bureaucratic momentum and individual ambition--men let loose in Saigon and Washington who never questioned whether that something was right or wrong, or whether it worked or not. In government it is always easier to go forward with a program that does not work than to stop it altogether and admit failure." Id. at 242. "Why did McNamara have such good figures? Why did McNamara have such good staff work and Ball such poor staff work? The next day Ball would angrily dispatch his staff to come up with figures, to find out how McNamara had gotten them, and the staff would burrow away and occasionally find that one of the reasons that Ball did not have comparable figures was that they did not always exist. McNamara had invented them, he dissembled even within the bureaucracy, though, of course, always for a good cause. It was part of his sense of service. He believed in what he did, and thus the morality of it was assured, and everything else fell into place. It was all right to lie and dissemble for the right causes. It was part of service, loyalty to the President, not to the nation, not to colleagues, it was a very special bureaucratic-corporate definition of integrity; you could do almost anything you wanted as long as it severed your superior." Id. at 661.).

Halberstam, David, The Making of a Quagmire (New York: Random House, 1964, 1965) ("The first lesson that an American adviser in Vietnam learned was that the enemy was good; if he stayed on a little longer, he learned that his was wrong: the enemy was very good. He learned that the Vietcong concentrated on a few things and that they did them well; that they made few mistakes; and that--in sharp contrast to the Government forces--they rarely made the same error twice. The American officers also learned that the enemy had a reason--political, psychological or military--for almost everything he did. Even when he appeared to be doing nothing, we learned belatedly that this did not mean he was inactive, only that he was content to appear inactive." "If they paid attention, Americans also learned that the enemy was absolutely sincere; he was willing to pay the price for the difficult task he had set for himself, and he had a far better sense of these difficulties than the authorities in Saigon. If he was underrated in Saigon, this was certainly not the case in the field; there it was widely known that we were fighting his war on his terms." "The Vietcong had no illusion about the type of war in which they were engaged. It was a war of revolution, and they knew the weaknesses of the Government as well as their own strengths The American military thought of them as men carrying weapons, but the fact was that they were most effective at night indoctrinating the peasants--when they carried no weapons and wore no uniforms. The misery of the people was their ally, and they played on it. Where Americans often parroted slogans about improving the world of the Vietnamese peasant, the Vietcong, who had risen from this misery themselves, knew that lip service was not enough. To them the war was entirely political; its military aspects were simply a means to permit them to practice their political techniques. They made every grievance theirs: long-standing historical antagonisms, whether against Asians or Caucasians, became their grievances, as were economic inequities, the division of land, the arbitrary system of tax collection--even the ravages of disease." Id. at 111-112.).

Johnson, Denis, Tree of Smoke: A Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) (From the jacket cover: "This is the story of William 'Skip' Sands, CIA--engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong--and the disasters that befall him. This is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert and into a war where the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In its vision of human folly, this is a story liking nothing in our literature.").

Khurana, Rakesh, From Higher Aims to Hired Hands: The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2007)(I think this book may be of interest to those concerned about the current state and future state of legal education generally. It raises questions concerning what makes an MBA a professional education and MBA’s professionals, and what gives business schools their legitimacy. It argues, I think, that business schools are floundering and have misplaced their willingness or ability to self-regulate and, as a result, they find themselves responding to questionable external forces (i.e., marker pressures) for their legitimacy. The rate of growth in the number of U.S. law schools has not been as dramatic as the growth in U.S. MBA programs: 131 law schools in 1955-1956, to 195 in 2003-2004; 138 MBA programs in 1955-1956, to 955 in 2003-2004; and 73 MD programs in 1955-1956, to 118 in 2003-2004. So, law schools have not experienced the same market pressures/competition as business schools, but we all know that law schools have begun to feel such pressures and challenges to their legitimacy (e.g., some state legislators are considering abandoning the J.D. requirement for admission to the bar). Though the subject book is not about law schools, I think those who are concerned about the continued legitimacy of law schools—in a world where it is difficult to establish even the appropriate criteria for evaluating the quality and worth of a legal education--will find it of interest and enlightenment.).

Kissinger, Henry A., A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-22 (Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin, 1957) ("Those ages which in retrospect seem most peaceful were least in search of peace. Those whose quest for it seem unending appear least able to achieve tranquility. Whenever peace--conceived as the avoidance of war--has been the primary objective of a power or a group of powers, the international system has been at the mercy of the most ruthless members of the international community. Whenever the international order has acknowledged that certain principles could not be compromised even for the sake of peace, stability based on an equilibrium of forces was at least conceivable." "Stability, then, has commonly resulted not from a quest for peace but from a generally accepted legitimacy. 'Legitimacy'...implies the acceptance of the framework of the international order by all major powers, at least to the extent that no state is dissatisfied that, like Germany after the Treaty of Versailles, it expresses its dissatisfaction in a revolutionary foreign policy.... Diplomacy in the classic sense, the adjustment of differences through negotiation, is possible only in 'legitimate' international orders." "Whenever there exists a power which considers the international order or the manner of legitimizing it oppressive, relations between it and other powers will be revolutionary. In such cases, it is not the adjustment of differences within a given system which will be at issue, but the system itself. Adjustments are possible, but they will be conceived as tactical [maneuvers] to consolidate positions for the inevitable showdown, or as tools to undermine the morale of the antagonist.... But the distinguishing feature of a revolutionary power is not that it feels threatened...but that nothing can reassure it. Only absolute security--the neutralization of the opponent--is considered a sufficient guarantee, and thus the desire of one power for absolute security means absolute insecurity for all the others." "Diplomacy, the art of restraining the exercise of power, cannot function in such an environment...." "The defenders of the status quo therefore tend to begin by treating the revolutionary power as if its protestations were merely tactical; as if it really accepted the existing legitimacy but overstated its case for bargaining purposes; as if it were motivated by specific grievances to be assuaged by limited concessions... 'Appeasement', where it is not a device to gain time, is the result of an inability to come to grips with a policy of unlimited objectives." "But it is the essence of a revolutionary power that it possesses the courage of its convictions, that it is willing, indeed eager, to push its principles to the ultimate conclusion.... The characteristic of a stable order is its spontaneity; the essence of a revolutionary situation is its self-consciousness." Id. 1-3.).

McMaster, H. R., Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies that Led to Vietnam (New York: HarperCollins, 1997) ("Although it was not immediately apparent in Washington, the growing momentum behind the evolving strategy of graduated pressure would have profound consequences. Because the president and his key policy makers were preoccupied with the 1965 presidential] election and continued to regard the strategy of graduated pressure as a sensible way to prevent a wider war, they never considered alternatives to that ostensibly inexpensive policy, such as neutralization or diplomacy. Despite predictions that graduated pressure would fail and isolated calls for consideration of a negotiated settlement to extricate the United States from a commitment with little prospect for success, U.S. involvement in Vietnam continued, in the face of increasing governmental instability in Saigon. Instead of considering what deepening American involvement in Vietnam might ultimately cost or voicing individual doubts, the Joint Chiefs compromised, listed actions that would contribute to the war effort, and contented themselves with gaining incremental approval for them. Everyone--the president, his closest civilian advisers, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff--had taken the path of least resistance. As a result the most difficult questions about the nature of American involvement in Vietnam remained unanswered, and the assumptions that underlay the president's policy went unchallenged by the one formal body charged by law and tradition with advising the president of the United States about strategy and warfare." Id. at 177-178.).

MacPherson, Myra, Long Time Passing: Vietnam & the Haunted Generation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984) ("Above all, Vietnam was a war that asked everything of a few and nothing of most in America. While the country turned its back on veterans for a decade after the defeat, the tendency today seems to be a swing back to a visceral dislike of the ones who didn't go. In a country that buys the myth of egalitarianism, residual loathing exists...." "But the blame rightly belongs with the misbegotten war itself and the politicians who cynically judged the self-interest that abides in everyone--particularly adolescents. The government made it easy to avoid the war with deferments and legal loopholes: there were so many men in that generation; why not give the most vocal an out? Nixon even more cynically knew that if he turned the draft into a lottery, many of those clamoring voices in universities would be stilled." Id. at 612. "I asked why John Binder devotes so much of his time to the memorial." "'I had a son who was there. He was wounded several times and survived--and I'm grateful for that. This is the least I can do.'" "He speaks to the larger, finally most important message of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial." "'It doesn't say whether the war was right or wrong. That's for everyone to decide on his own,' said Binder. 'It just says, "Here is the price we paid."'..." "I look back at the wall of names." "Here is the price." Id. at 622. More than 58,000 Americans were killed in the American War in Vietnam, compared to the less than 4,000 to-date in the American War in Iraq. It will be (sadly) interesting to see what 'price' American are prepared to pay in Iraq. Just as the lottery and draft deferment made it easier for many Americans to ignore the price tag during Vietnam, the all-volunteer military--and the private contracting--has made it even easier to ignore the price tag of Iraq. Each of us must decide whether the American War in Iraq is right or wrong, and whether the price asked is worth paying. Again, however, most of us are able to ignore all this as others pay the final price.).

Moore, Lt. Gen. Harold G (Ret.) and Joseph L. Galloway, We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young: Ia Drang: The Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam (New York: Random House, 1992) ("Finally--even though it took ten years, cost the lives of 58,000 young Americans and inflicted humiliating defeat on a nation that had never before lost a war--some of us learned that Clausewitz had it right 150 years earlier when he wrote these words: 'No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it.' Id. at 345. "In the small, closed world of the military, great victories, great defeats, and great sacrifices are never forgotten. They are remembered with battle streamers attached to unit flags. Among the scores of streamers that billow and whirl around the flags of all the battalions of the 1st Cavalry Division thee is one deep-blue Presidential Unit Citation streamer that says simply" PLEIKU PROVINCE." "Schoolchildren no longer memorize the names and dates of great battles, and perhaps that is good; perhaps that is the first step on the road to a world where wars are no longer necessary. Perhaps. But we remember those days and our comrades, and long after we are gone that long blue streamer will still caress proud flags." Id. at 347.).

Moyar, Mark, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: The CIA’s Secret Campaign to Destroy the Viet Cong (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1997) (This book is part of Vietnam War revisionist history. From the jacket cover: "Drawing on recently declassified documents and interviews with more than one hundred U.S., South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese sources, [the author] dissects the various attempts to eradicate the Viet Cong infrastructure and analyzes the effectiveness of each. [H]e addresses serious misconceptions about these efforts and provides the most accurate and complete picture available of the allies' decapitation of the Viet Cong shadow government." I found the prose rather dry, and I thought the author was trying to hard to demonstrate that most thing we our own historians, political scientists, foreign policy analysts, etc., have told us about the war biased and wrong. Unfortunately the author comes off as writing a Vietnam War version of "Dances with Wolves." That is, he takes all the clich├ęs about Americans in Vietnam and turns them on their head, as though if what we thought was true is false then the opposite of what we thought must be true. That, however, is a fallacy. I still think a definite history of the American War in Vietnam has yet to be written. I think it cannot be written until our grandchildren's grandchildren's grandchildren get the necessary distance from the rhetoric of that war. Many of the current generation of historians are apologists for their fathers, and you don't get truth when you fell obliged to defend the family honor. However, here is an observation worth noting in light of the American War in Iraq, at least to the extent one thinks that war is about bring democracy to Iraq. Remember this book was published in 1997, so the interview being quoted is several years before than. "The anguishes of the American failure did not leave Ed Brady alone for a long time. 'It took me ten years before I was willing to go to the Vietnam Memorial,' Brady confided." "Vietnam profoundly changed Brady's view on foreign policy and politics, as it did for many veterans: 'When I went to Vietnam I was a very idealistic, anti-communist, pro-democracy person who thought it was a very simple black-and-white issue, and I came back thinking it was a very gray and very difficult to decide what's right and what's wrong.' He also said, however, 'I thought the activities I was engaged in were good and useful things. Otherwise, I wouldn't have spent all that time in Vietnam.' He strongly criticized some U.S. policies in Vietnam but added, 'I think the Vietnamese bear a large part of the blame for why we failed. I don't think the we're mainly responsible. They were responsible for themselves. That took me fifteen years to figure out.' He still thinks that the United States should try to promote democracy in the world, but, like many Vietnam veterans, he does not think that the United States can change the behavior of stubborn people outside of its borders. 'If we went into the former Yugoslavia and stayed for twenty or thirty years, overtime things might gradually get better. But the idea that we can go there for a year and fix it up and come home is totally ridiculous. I have very little confidence and very little faith that the American public or the government has the stamina and the know how to carry out that sort of thing.'" Id. at 357-358.).

Moyar, Mark, Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2006) (This is a first projected two volume revisionist history of the American War in Vietnam. "Like earlier scholarship ... the recent historical literature ... has been dominated by one major school of thought. Most of the new works are concerned primarily with American foreign policymaking in Washington and Saigon. Most of them come from what is known as the orthodox school, which generally sees America's involvement in the war as wrongheaded and unjust. The revisionist school, which sees the war as a noble but improperly executed enterprise, has published much less, primarily because it has few adherents in the academic world." Id. a xi. "In sum, South Vietnam was a vital interest of the United States during the period from 1954 to 1965. The aggressive expansion of North Vietnam and China threatened South Vietnam's existence, and by 1965 only strong American action could keep South Vietnam out of Communists hands. America's policy of defending South Vietnam was therefore sound. U. S. intervention in Vietnam was not an act of strategic buffoonery, nor was it a sinister, warmongering plot that should forever stand as a terrible blemish on America's soul. Neither was it an act of hubris in which the United States pursued objectives far beyond its means. Where the United States erred seriously was in formulating its strategies for protecting South Vietnam. The most terrible mistake was the inciting of the November 1963 coup, for Ngo Dinh Diem's overthrow forfeited the tremendous gains of the preceding nine years and plunged the country into an extended period of instability and weakness. The Johnson administration was handed the thorny tasks of handling the post-coup mess and defending South Vietnam against an increasingly ambitious enemy--and in neither case did the administration achieve good results. President Johnson has available several aggressive policy options that could have enable South Vietnam to continue the war either without the help of any American ground forces at all or with the employment of U.S. ground forces in advantageous positions outside South Vietnam. But Johnson ruled out these options and therefore, during the summer of 1965, he would have to fight a defensive war within South Vietnam's borders in order to avoid the dreadful international consequences of abandoning the country." Id. at xxii-xxiii. Interesting read, yet I remain unconvinced that the consequences would have been all that dreadful had we, and the French before us, abandoned South Vietnam. Moyar tells the tale of Vietnam from an Anti-New-Left perspective, and not from a neutral perspective whose analysis concludes that the New Left got in wrong about Vietnam. You cannot convince me that the other guy is necessarily wrong, and that you are necessarily right, merely by giving the reverse spin. You convince me the other guy is wrong and that you are right by proving the conclusions of the no spin analysis and, then, showing me that that no spin analysis requires me to reject the other guy's analysis and conclusions. So, I am not saying Moyar is wrong, only that I am not convinced yet. I think it may be still to early for anyone to write an objective history of the American involvement in Vietnam. That war, or at least the ideological aspects of it, is being fought inside too many American heads still.).

Nixon, Richard M., RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978) (I first read this memoir when a graduate student and in a period where I seem to find just about any excuse for not working on my doctoral dissertation. I thought it was good and interesting then. Now, with some distance and some history, I think that, as presidential memoirs go, it is very good and quite interesting. Flawed as he was as a man, a politician, and as a president, history will be quite kind to him. That so many hated him, and so few loved him, says less about Richard Nixon and more about ourselves. "A quarter of a million people came to Washington for the October 15 [1969] Moratorium. Despite widespread rumors that some of the more radical left-wing organizations would provoke violent confrontations with police, the demonstrations were generally peaceful." "Opinions within the administration was divided over how to respond...." "The Washington Post praised the protesters and said that the Moratorium was 'a deeply meaningful statement' of the anguish they felt about the war. Elsewhere, however, reservations were expressed. The Washington Star, for example, said, 'What counts is whether the demonstration, regardless of intention, dies in fact give encouragement to Hanoi and thereby presumably prolongs the war.' As if in answer to that point, the Vietcong Radio said that the Communists had gained 'strong encouragement' from the Moratorium." "The Vietnam Moratorium raised, for the first but by no means the last time in my administration, a basic and important question about the nature of leadership in a democracy: should the President or Congress or any responsible elected official let public demonstrations influence his decisions?" "I had strong opinions about this question, and I decided to address it head on. I asked that one letter be selected from all those we had received criticizing my press conference statement that I would not be affected by the protests and that a reply be prepared to it." "The letter the staff chose was from a student at Georgetown University. In it, he stated, 'It has been my impression that it is not unwise for the President of the United States to take note of the will of the people; after all, these people elected you, you are their President, and your office bears certain obligations. Might I respectfully suggest that the President reconsider his pre-judgment.'" "I replied, 'If a President--any President--allowed his course to be set by those who demonstrate, he would betray the trust of all the rest. Whatever the issue, to allow government policy to be made in the streets would destroy the democratic process. It would give the decision, not to the majority, and not to those with the strongest arguments, but to those with the loudest voices.... It would allow every group to test its strength not at the ballot box but through confrontation in the streets.'" Id. at 402-403. When most people think of Nixon they, quite understandably, think Vietnam, Watergate and the Resignation. What they should think about more are Opening China, US-USSR Detente, Racial Polarization in America, and The Four Supremes: Burger, Blackmon, Powell, and Rehnquist. "I consider my four appointment to the Supreme Court to have been among the most constructive and far-reaching of my presidency. Some critics have characterized my appointments as an effort to create a 'Nixon Court.' It is true that the men I appointed shared my conservative judicial philosophy and significantly affected the balances of power that had developed in the Warren Court. But as individuals they were each dedicated and able constitutional lawyers who often disagreed in major cases. When I appointed them, I told each that I would never try to influence his judgment and that his only loyalty should be to the law and not to me. Their decisions in cases that affected me politically or personally reflected the fact that they accepted my admonition." Id. at 424.).

Sheehan, Neil, A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam (New York: Random House, 1988) ("Vietnam was Scanlon's first war too.... [H]e had been pushed into the military by the Korean War.... [T]he desire of the Army to build up its forces in Europe to meet the perceived Soviet challenge there had kept him from seeing any combat in Korea. He had stayed in because the life of an American officer in the 1950s, with its sense of mission and travel, was a lot more interesting and meaningful than his civilian life as a dividends clerk in a St. Louis brokerage. Scanlon was a paratrooper as well as a tanker, and he was flush with the faith of the U.S. Army that the best defense is an offense and that aggressiveness wins battles and wars. This faith was the reason he now found himself in a rice paddy with his .45 caliber service pistol in his hand and bullets from guerrilla weapons he could not see ricocheting off the M-113 beside him." Id. at 249. "The reflex of aggressive action and the virtue of firepower were so ingrained in Scanlon by his training that it was beyond him to think the best thing to do was to back off, analyze the situation, and come up with a more sensible solution than a bull-headed assault. He had always been taught that when you couldn't see the other fellow, the answer was to lock horns with him. In the jargon of the tactical instructors, the solution was to 'resolve the firefight.'" Id. at 250.).

Suri, Jeremi, Henry Kissinger and the American Century (Cambridge & London: Belknap/ Harvard U. Press, 2007) (This is an interesting, worthwhile read. "Citizens who believed they had a special, if still distant, relationship with God could not settle for what Kissinger called the 'paralysis' of a thermonuclear stalemate. He argued for a new strategy emphasizing creative initiatives, rather than reliance on massive retaliation against enemy threats: 'Simply because we are strongest in strategic striking power, we cannot base all our plans on the assumption that war, if it comes, will be inevitably all-out. We must strive for a strategic doctrine which gives our diplomacy the greatest freedom of action and which addresses itself to the question of whether the nuclear age presents only risks, or whether it does not also offer opportunities.'" "Freedom of action would come, according to Kissinger, from an effort to 'bring our power into balance with the issues for which we are most likely to contend.' This meant an emphasis on proportionality--the ability to calibrate force to serve specific and limited purposes. The large thermonuclear armaments that the United States had developed for an all-out war were blunt and cumbersome. They promised wide-scale destruction but offered few alternative. They were 'total war' weapons designed to deter a direct attack on the nation or its closest allies. The American arsenal of the 1950s emphasized intimidation through 'overkill' rather than discreet force. It neglected 'capacities for local defense.'" "The technical nature of thermonuclear weapons was not, however, the main source of U.S. rigidity. The fundamental problems, Kissinger wrote, emanated from failures of strategy. Throughout his career, Kissinger criticized American containment policy for refusing to mix limited force and energetic diplomacy more effectively." "The inflexibility of Washington's military doctrine, according to Kissinger, created grave shortcomings in deterrence, as evidence by the Soviet- and Chinese-sponsored attack on South Korea in June 1950. Thermonuclear forces were not credible as weapons of retaliation in this context. Neither America's adversaries nor most of its allies believed that it would risk its own destruction in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union to protect Seoul, Taipei, or even Tokyo. The structure of American forces and the doctrines governing their use left few alternatives to mutual suicide or conventional desperation, as the early weeks of the Korean War demonstrated." Id. at 150-151. "Containment also contributed to what Kissinger described as the 'irresponsibility' of allies and the 'psychological' weakness of citizens living in democracies.... The tendencies toward the extremes of war and appeasement within the Western world were, for Kissinger, more threatening than the inherent qualities of Soviet power.... [H]e and many other strategists feared that liberal democracy would collapse when confronted by its external adversaries. 'It should not be forgotten, ' Kissinger inveighed, 'that the defense of the Free World is a problem not only of power but of will.'" "Containment undermined collective will because it promised all-or-nothing. In the case of enemy aggression, the United States would either initiate major war or it would accept a fait accompli.... Kissinger feared that this strategic no-win situation would breed hopelessness, alienation, and defeatism.... Only a more flexible policy, mixing military threats with promising diplomatic moves, could ensure what Kissinger called a favorable 'psychological climate' for consistent, effective, and limited action by the societies allied against communism." Id. at 152-153. There are lesson here for America's so-called 'War Against Terror'.).

United States Army, Instructions for American Servicemen in Iraq During World War II with a New Forward by Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nafl (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 1943 2007).

The U. S. Dept. of the Army, The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual: U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-24: Marine Corps Warfighting Publication No 3-33.5 (Chicago & London: U. of Chicago Press, 2007) (From Introduction to the University of Chiago Press Edition: A Radical Field Manual, by Sarah Sewall. "This counterinsurgency field manual challenges much of what is holy about the American way of war. It demands significant change and sacrifice to fight today's enemies honorably. It is therefore both important and controversial. Those who fail to see the manual as radical probably don't understand it, or at least understand what it's up against." Id. at xxi. "7-36. Discrimination applies to the means by which combatants engage the enemy. The COIN environment requires counterinsurgents to not only determine the kinds of weapons to use and how to employ them but also establish whether lethal means are desired--or even permitted.... Soldiers and Marines require an innate understanding of the effects of their actions and weapons on all aspects of the operational environment. Leaders must consider not only the first-order, desired effects of a munition or action but also possible second- and third-order effects--including undesired ones. For example, bombs delivered by fixed-wing close air support may effectively destroy the source of small arms fire from a building in an urban area; however, direct-fire weapons may be more appropriate due to the risk of collateral damage to nearby buildings and noncombatants. The leader at the scene assesses the risks and makes the decision. Achieving the desired effects requires employing tactics and weapons appropriate to the situation. In some cases, this means avoiding the use of area munitions to minimize the potential harm inflicted on noncombatants located nearby. In situations where civil security exists, even tenuously, Soldiers and Marines should pursue nonlethal means first, using lethal force only when necessary." Id. at 248-249. "7-39. Mistreatment of noncombatants, including prisoners and detainees is illegal and immoral. It will not be condoned." Id. at 249. From the jacket: "'This is the definitive guide as to how the U. S., military plans to address what is likely to be the dominant form of warfare over the next decade.' Andrew Krepinevich." "'Surely a manual that's on the bedside table of the president, vice president, secretary of defense, 21 of 25 of the Senate Armed Services Committee and many others deserves a place at your bedside too.' General David Petraeus." Of course, curious minds want to ask, what is on the bedside table of those other 4 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee? Anyway, I thought this an interesting and eye-opening read.).


Who loves war for war's own sake
Is fool, or crazed or worse
Tennyson