McMahon Ch. 1 Week 13
The Wages of War, Michael H. Hunt
-The Vietnam War exacted a heavy toll on Vietnamese society with many casualties, refugees, and damage to the environment.
-The unification with North Vietnam was rocky. Many were moved to reeducation camps, unemployment increased, rice production fell because of the collectivized system.
-Vietnam increasingly became dependent on Soviet aid.
-When Nguyen Van Linh replaced Le Duan in 1986 things changed for the better. There was a new economic policy and foreign policy.
-Relatively, Americans did not suffer that many losses in terms of casualties. However, the damage may have been more psychic than physical. There were many different interpretations of the war.
-Hawks blamed LBJ, his team of advisors, and poor support from public.
-Doves interpreted it as Cold War arrogance. US was world police. Lesson was to approach intervention warily.
-Military drew lessons to fight where goals were clear, public support assured, power overwhelming, and victory certain.
-Hunt concludes that Americans were caught up in the Cold War and blindly went into Vietnam. The will of the Vietnamese people far exceeded their own and they ultimately prevailed.
The Necessary War, Michael Lind
-The Vietnam War as a proxy war between the US and the Soviets and China.
-For radical left, war was a symbol of depravity and “capitalist imperialism.” For realists of left, war was tragic and unnecessary mistake. Conservatives argued that U.S. could have won had it not been for the limited nature of the war.
-U.S. fought the war because of “geopolitics,” and forfeited the war because of domestic policitcs.
-Geopolitics was it was trying to prevent the domino effect from occurring in SE Asia
-Domestic politics, Lind argues, was that preexisting regional, ethnic, and racial division in American attitudes about foreign policy were exposed through this war.
-There was a tradeoff, in fighting the Vietnam war, between global credibility and domestic consensus.
-Lind’s central argument is that it was necessary to escalate the war in the mid 60s to preserve credibility of US as a superpower. Necessary to forfeit the war after ’68 to preserve American favor for the Cold War on other fronts.
Indochina was important because a general war between the superpowers could not be risked, so proxy wars took on major importance. Indochina was especially important because it was peripheral (very far from both Soviets and US).
-South Vietnamese lost. North Vietnamese won. Vietnamese people as a whole were losers. France, China, and US were losers. Clear winner was Soviet Union.
-Vietnam didn’t win, US lost because of limitations of war.
-If US didn’t show its might as a great power, industrial economies such as West Germany and Japan would be more inclined to appease the communist powers.
A Grand Delusion, Robert Mann
-Vietnam experience continues to impact our political institutions. Influenced presidential elections, congressional elections, etc.
-Vietnam War changed American’s view of public institutions; they found that presidents had routinely lied to them.
-American’s accepted myths and illusions about Vietnam-domino theory, success of policies in Indochina, Ngo Dinh Diem, true nature of the conflict, Gulf of Tonkin incident, bombing as a solution, Nixon’s claim to end the war with honor.
-War was a grand and tragic delusion.
McMahon Ch 15 Week 13
1. Gerald R. Ford on the Lessons of Vietnam, 1975
-Multilateralism is important
-Countries must fight their own battles, we can give them aid, but not personnel
-We are in a better position to judge how to handle ourselves militarily.
2. Jimmy Carter Sees a “Profound Moral Crisis,” 1977
-We had adopted the tactics of our adversaries. Now we have found our own principles once again and regained our confidence.
-Vietnam produced moral crisis in that the world lost faith in the US.
3. Richard M. Nixon Reads Vietnam’s Lessons, 1985
-Justifies fighting Vietnam war through atrocities that occurred after in Vietnam and Cambodia.
-Strategic interests and idealism was at stake in Vietnam.
-Did too little to save South Vietnam.
4. Ronald Reagan Calls Vietnam a Noble and Just Cause, 1988
-Gentle heroes of Vietnam; champions of a noble cause
-Much cause for our fighting
-Greatly stylizes depiction of people fighting in Vietnam; perhaps because he made this speech on Veterans’ Day
5. Bill Clinton Announces the Normalization of Diplomatic Relations with Vietnam, 1995
-Trade embargo lifted on Vietnam because of cooperation to secure remains of lost Americans and determine fate of those who have not been found
-Glorifies Vietnam and our motives there. We fought for freedom and independence of the Vietnamese people.
6. An American Veteran Helps to Dedicate the Vietnam War Memorial (1982), 1985
-Veteran describes his emotions at unveiling of Vietnam War memorial
7. An African-American Draftee Reflects on the War’s Impact, 1984
-Psychological problems after the war for a veteran.
8. A Former Army Nurse Considers the War’s Impact, 1987
-Memoirs of a nurse and coming back and integrating into society.
The Impact of Vietnam on America’s World Role, Paul Kennedy
-Fought by an open society: television and press coverage, Pentagon Papers.
-First war that US had undoubtedly lost.
-Profound influence on personal and psychological levels.
-Superior military hardware does not mean superior military effectiveness. A major disadvantage to the US was the limited nature of the war.
-Much more willpower on part of North Vietnamese than South Vietnamese or Americans
-Shock to American hubris which may have caused it to reassess itself.
The War’s Tragic Legacy, Marilyn B. Young
-Axioms of America brought into question- axiom that America is on the side of freedom and justice. That U.S. always did the right thing.
-America has developed Vietnam syndrome: reluctance to send American troop abroad, questioning of interventionist appeals.
-Those who fought in the war were disproportionately poor, badly educated, and black. It was a teen aged army.
-Project 100,000 enlisted those who were previously considered ineligible for military service because of their low test scores.
-No effort to help prepare soldiers to make transition from war to peace.
-Especially difficult for veterans to integrate back into society.
-Difficult to get a job
-Post traumatic stress disorder was particularly prevalent.
-Woman veterans had even tougher time because at first they were not acknowledged to be veterans
-Maya Ying Lin designed the Vietnam memorial: two black granite walls bearing the names of those Americans who had died
Competing Memories, Arnold R. Isaacs
-There was much controversy over the memorial. As a concession, a naturalistic statue representing 3 GIs along with an American flag was placed.
-War still divides us: those who supported it, those who didn’t; those who served and those who didn’t
-All wars bring waste, degradation, and cruelty
-Even if Vietnam had not gone to war, many of the radical things that happened would still have: racial tensions, women would have assumed new roles, immigrants, globalization.
-Vietnam had a shattering effect on the national spirit. At first people imagined it in line with WWII.
Image and Reality, Week 13
-Vietnam may have a long and powerful impact on the conduct of American foreign policy.
-Lessons of history are neither self-evident nor simple
-Lessons of the past are relevant to thinking and actions of both publics and foreign-policy officials.
-Towards the end of the war, many more people felt that the U.S. should withdraw from Vietnam compared to the beginning of the war.
-After the war, people agreed that the US had failed to achieve its goal, but had differing interpretations of why that failure occurred. The most important consideration in this survey were that Americans underestimated the dedication of the North Vietnamese, Soviets provided aid to North Vietnam, the regime in Saigon lacked popular support. America’s goals were unrealistic, US fought with a no win approach, US had no clear goals, US was ignorant of Vietnamese culture.
-The lessons that people thought were most important were that if there is foreign intervention it should be done in a short period of time, Soviet is expansionist rather than defensive in foreign policy goals, and a nation will pay a heavy price if it honors alliance commitments selectively.
-Two distinct belief systems on the Vietnam War. Military officers and business executives form one belief system. They were stronger advocates of military victory in Vietnam, likely to ascribe failure of war to the way it was conducted, attach greater significance to domestic dissidents, mass media.
Educators and leaders in electronic and printed media subscribe to another belief system. They were more likely to support complete withdrawal from the war, more likely to trace failure to unrealistic goals, lack of knowledge of Vietnam.