Thursday, July 05, 2007
Now that you mention History
I still don't want to talk about Independence Day or current events, because they are just too depressing. Instead, I'll just throw out a few random tidbits from the Vietnam era. This is not intended to build a narrative, or draw a direct comparison to Iraq.
If there's any intent at all in this, it is to point out that the people who are running our government, many of whom were in positions of power during the Vietnam experience, should have known better.
Yeah, I know, a drunk 16-year-old should have (and probably would have) known better.
July 28, 1965
During a noontime press conference, President Johnson announces he will send 44 combat battalions to Vietnam, increasing the U.S. military presence to 125,000 men. "I have asked the commanding general, General Westmoreland, what more he needs to meet this mounting aggression. He has told me. And we will meet his needs. We cannot be defeated by force of arms. We will stand in Vietnam."
Time Magazine - Jan. 07, 1966 - Time's "Man of the Year" - William Westmoreland
The Guardians at the Gate
Whatever the outcome of the war, the most significant consequence of the U.S. buildup is that, for the first time in history, the U.S. in 1965 established bastions across the nerve centers of Southeast Asia. From formidable new enclaves in South Viet Nam to a far-flung network of airfields, supply depots and naval facilities abuilding in Thailand, the U.S. will soon be able to rush aid to any threatened ally in Asia. Should the British leave Singapore, as they may do by the 1970s, the new U.S. military complex would constitute the only Western outpost of any consequence from the Sea of Japan to the Indian Ocean.
The U.S. presence will also have a beneficent impact on the countries involved. The huge new ports that are being scooped out along the coasts of Viet Nam and Thailand should permanently boost the economies of both nations. Vast, U.S.-banked civilian-aid programs are aimed at eradicating the ancient ills of disease, illiteracy and hunger...
Unless Peking and Hanoi withdraw from South Viet Nam—and lose face throughout Asia—it is the Communists themselves who risk being bogged down in wars that they can neither afford nor end...
In the next few months, the U.S. public can hardly demand major victories—at least until a serious supply bottleneck is broken and Westmoreland gets the extra combat divisions he has been pleading for. But as the U.S. troop level climbs toward 400,000 men, as the price of war begins to crimp Great Society programs and boost taxes, Americans may find it harder than ever to accept the long war predicted by the Administration. Military men talk in terms of years, and though other officials insist that "something will give" long before that, few would risk curtailing the U.S. buildup...
* The total since Jan. 1, 1961, when the Pentagon began counting casualties: U.S.: 1,484 killed in action, 7,337 wounded...
Time Magazine - Friday, Jul. 14, 1967
"North Viet Nam is paying a tremendous price with nothing to show for it in return. The war is not a stalemate. We are winning, slowly but steadily." So said General William Westmoreland last week in Saigon as he briefed Robert McNamara at the outset of the Defense Secretary's ninth visit to Viet Nam.
Time Magazine - Friday, Jul. 21, 1967
Judicious Dribs and Drabs
The President's decision, arrived at after several days of anxious contemplation, was a typically Johnsonian compromise. There will be more American troops in Viet Nam at the end of this year than originally scheduled, but not so many as General Westmoreland wanted.
There are now 465,000 U.S. service men there, and another 25,000 have long since been tagged to go. With allowances for anticipated casualties, that would have given Westmoreland a total force of 480,000 troops by Jan. 1 . Now the timetable has been accelerated. The 480,000 mark will be reached by mid-October, 2½ months ahead of schedule.
Richard Nixon - Nov 3, 1969
The 'Silent Majority' Speech
In 1963, President Kennedy, with his characteristic eloquence and clarity, said: ". . . we want to see a stable government there, carrying on a struggle to maintain its national independence.
"We believe strongly in that. We are not going to withdraw from that effort. In my opinion, for us to withdraw from that effort would mean a collapse not only of South Viet-Nam, but Southeast Asia. So we are going to stay there."
President Eisenhower and President Johnson expressed the same conclusion during their terms of office.
For the future of peace, precipitate withdrawal would thus be a disaster of immense magnitude...
The Vietnamization plan was launched following Secretary Laird's visit to Vietnam in March. Under the plan, I ordered first a substantial increase in the training and equipment of South Vietnamese forces.
In July, on my visit to Vietnam, I changed General Abrams orders so that they were consistent with the objectives of our new policies. Under the new orders, the primary mission of our troops is to enable the South Vietnamese forces to assume the full responsibility for the security of South Vietnam...
We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat ground forces, and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly scheduled timetable. This withdrawal will be made from strength and not from weakness. As South Vietnamese forces become stronger, the rate of American withdrawal can become greater.
I have not and do not intend to announce the timetable for our program...
My fellow Americans, I am sure you can recognize from what I have said that we really only have two choices open to us if we want to end this war: I can order an immediate, precipitate withdrawal of all Americans from Vietnam without regard to the effects of that action. Or we can persist in our search for a just peace through a negotiated settlement if possible, or through continued implementation of our plan for Vietnamization if necessary-a plan in which we will withdraw all of our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program, as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom.
I have chosen this second course.
It is not the easy way.
It is the right way...
The last ten Marines in Vietnam evacuated the American Embassy on April 30, 1975.
There are 58,256 American Armed Forces names inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial.
Best estimates place Vietnamese casualties of that war at over 5 million.
Let us not speak of Cambodia.