Readers of the FM website asked these questions. Here are some answers.

We get many good questions from readers using the FM website’s comment form.  Here are some of them, with answers.  Today we have questions about about the Vietnam War and military culture.

(1)  Question:  Why do people remember Viet Nam mostly as Nixon’s war? He is much like Obama, inheriting the war and following the path laid by the predecessor, Johnson.

Answer:

  • It’s like an auto accident.  Blame goes to the last person who could have prevented it.  It’s rough justice.
  • Nixon negotiated a deal in 1973 that was at best similar to what he could have done in 1969, and probably much worse than he could have gotten in 1969.  After horrific deaths in Vietnam (both sides, and civilians) and great expenditure of scarce funds.  Plus burning so much scarce political time and capital.

(2)  Question:   Are generals always eager for war?

  • No.  After the fall of Dien Bien Phu (1954) there was great pressure on Eisenhower to go into Vietnam.  General Gavin, Army Chief of Staff, did what his successors did not do.  He sent a survey team to estimate the requirements — men, time, money — required to win.  He well knew what the results would say, and their estimate was quite accurate.  Everybody — DoD, Eisenhower, Speaker of the House Senate Minority Leader L. B. Johnson, the UK — read this and declined to play.
  • The civilian and military national security team during the Kennedy Administration were not just  hawks. They were loons on meth. Crazy eager to blow up the world.  Dr. Strangelove was a documentary.  For more on this see Virtual JFK (the book), historians discussing the declassified memos and tapes of meetings during this era.

Afterword and contact info

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