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We are now looking at Iraq imploding, with its army folding faster than that of the ARVN in 1975, and part of our problem here is not understanding our history.

The conventional thinking is that we lost despite never having lost a battle.

This is echoed in many places, most notably in the PhD thesis of General Can't Keep His Pants On Petraeus.

You remember, that quote by General Giap about never winning a battle.

It turns out that not only is the quote false, but we lost over 70 battles in Vietnam.

Still, you say, we lost.  Remember those Iconic pictures of the helicopter on the embassy roof?

Here is the reason that we didn't lose:  Because if we lost, it was a failure of will, and so we buy into the Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics, that success is dictated purely by will, which makes the Vietnamese victory an artifact of the inadequate soldiering of our draftee army, and the will of the American people.

That is not what happened.  We got beat.  We got beat as badly as Brazil got beat by Germany in the World Cup.

This is important, because if we lost because we were not tough enough, than there were no lessons learned beyond endless Friedman Units as the path to victory, and we just have to suck it up while our blood and treasure are spent.

If the Vietnamese beat us, as opposed to us losing, the lessons are quite different.

The lessons are things like:

  • Don't occupy a country, "Just Because".
  • Don't install a petty tyrant if you need to win hearts and minds.
  • Intervention frequently makes things worse, not better, for the inhabitants.
  • Intervention frequently costs more than blood and treasure, it costs credibility and respect.
  • WHOEVER THOUGHT THAT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA SHOULD NEVER BE LISTENED TO EVER AGAIN.

You see, if we ask, "How did we lose Iraq," rather than "How do did we get beaten in Iraq," then Papa Dick and Baby Dick (Cheney) and their ilk still have credibility, because they continue insisting that it was simply a matter of will.

It's not a matter of will.  It is a defeat, and the seeds of the defeat were laid by people like Poppa Dick and Baby Dick.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (39+ / 0-)

    I cannot claim ownership of the Papa Dick/Baby Dick witticism.  That was Emptywheel.

    6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

    by LunkHead on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 01:45:30 PM PDT

  •  Your pic isn't the embassy. (7+ / 0-)

    The good news is that that war was about nationalism.

    I own exellent lenses made in Viet Nam.

    We didn't win. We may have made a positive change.

    •  Not sure what "positive change" (6+ / 0-)

      our war against Vietnam wrought upon the Vietnamese.

      Perhaps you could elucidate.

      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

      by corvo on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:25:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Every interventionist war (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GAS, G2geek, chimene

        we've fought has, finally, destroyed a reactionary anti-democratic force and fatally undermined or caused collapse of the horrible, dying, vicious Agrarian/Industrial Age old order in the country.

        My parents immigrated from Germany after WW2.  Germany got more of a workover than Vietnam did, but you won't find any serious widespread bitterness about it.  Sorrow, yes, but with some grace.  WW2 destroyed a huge amount of its backwardness and awfulness and horrible people.  If you want to know why Western Europe was so progressive, liberal, and all that after WW2, it's due to the lack of middle aged men (who died in camps and on battlefields and under bombs) who would have voted in far more right wing governments, and a lot less of the toxic old men who never let their grudges die.

        My grandfather, who was a farmer in village near Kassel- which was burned to the ground in October 1943 by a British night raid- said that the war was the best thing that ever happened to Kassel.  The evacuation of the city forced the authorities to confront what a cesspool of urban poverty, vice, typhoid, cholera, crime, alcoholism, horrible xenophobic fascism and rage, and mental illness the medieval city core was.  Sewage ran in open ditches, people got water from public pumps, streets were mostly constructed for horse and donkey pulled wagons and too small for cars, the housing was ancient wood buildings without proper plumbing or lighting.  Socially it had been northern Hessia's ghetto, its dumping ground for unwanted local people for many generations, gathering in a horror of monsters and degradation.  The British destruction of the place then ensured that these hundred to two hundred thousand people couldn't just be moved back in.  Their horrible state had to be acknowledged and dealt with and the city core had to be rebuilt with proper streets and a proper sewage system and electricity, sanitary modern housing, functional police and hospitals and schools, decorrupted city government.

        Pre-Modern societies have a lot less of a sentimental and selfimportant relationship to losing people in war than contemporary Americans and Europeans do.  It was just a fact of life in those times- there was a war or two every generation for as far back as there were any records and orally transmitted history.   People you knew got killed, some nearby and some in far off lands for reasons no one could quite identify, but there was no one to make answerable for this fact of life.  People were precious in the sense of being someone's son, someone's mother, someone's best friend in the here and now.  They weren't precious for having some sort of special knowledge or special morality or representing the future or being especially well developed human beings.  Material human misery and losses in war were part of the price of life in general.  We forget now that people in the past were hardened by harsher lives, more callous and more arrogant and more selfassured in many respects than they are now, and they were also hit more harshly and more broken by life as it was and fatalistic in their accepting- or utterly rage filled- that adult life is to a large extent labor, misery, and loss without thanks or respite.

        Long story short, other societies with which the U.S. has waged war don't finally regard themselves as tragic victims of American aggression after the war is over.  Japan doesn't, Germany doesn't, Italy doesn't, Korea doesn't, China doesn't, Vietnam doesn't, Kuwait doesn't, Iraq doesn't, Libya doesn't, Iran doesn't.  A portion of Serbia does, but their case is bad.  Panama may have a case, but doesn't care enough.  Afghanistan is still ongoing.  Russian nationalists see themselves as tragic victims of the U.S. and West generally, but that's a complicated problem yet to be rightly negotiated.

        What these societies are glad of is that, bad as the wars were, they got out of the political cul-de-sacs and dilemmas and obsolete ideologies and horrors they were stuck in as direct or indirect consequences of the wars involving Americans.  A good bunch of them have made it to liberal democracy and the rest are various distances along the way.

        •  Vietnam made its way from (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis, Meteor Blades, kurt, akze29

          a nationalist-communist revolution to a repressive capitalist oligarchy.  Whoop-dee-doo.

          Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

          by corvo on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 07:17:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Same story with China (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek

            but in China, people readily admit that democracy is the direction the country is headed.  

            I guess in your book Taiwan and South Korea are horrific failures too.

            If The Revolution is still viable, you could go and initiate it in Vietnam.  My suspicion is that 'repressive capitalist oligarchy' is inseparable from overpopulation, i.e. an excess of working class workers.  Solve overpopulation and your dream may be realized.

            •  And Vietnam made it (5+ / 0-)

              with only several million deaths -- mostly caused by us!  

              Taiwan and South Korea are, actually, better democracies than ours.  In Taiwan's case, how many millions of Chinese did we kill in order to create Taiwanese democracy?

              South Korea is sui generis; we killed no shortage of Koreans in order to protect an authoritarian regime which -- thanks to nothing we ever did, and certainly not as a result of our intervention there -- eventually became an admirably functioning representative democracy.

              And I'll have to disagree with you on China: as we drift ever so noticeably away from representative democracy ourselves, China seems more or less moored in place.  As government forms go, we'll probably meet China on its level, and not the other way around.

              Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

              by corvo on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 08:09:57 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Korea (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek

                I don't know how you'd come to the conclusion that Korea isn't better off because of our intervention.  Were it not for that, Korea would be unified under the north and the whole country would be a totalitarian mess rather than just half.  And certainly South Korea wouldn't have become the thriving democracy it is today without US assistance over the decades.  Democracy isn't the default political system.

                Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

                by Sky Net on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 09:20:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Korea is better off (0+ / 0-)

                  but not because of our intervention.  We went there just to fight off the commies, but we had no interest whatsoever in Spreading Democracy.  In the same way, we threw money at them not to make them democratic, but to keep them in our orbit.

                  That accomplishment belongs to the South Korean people -- no thanks to us.

                  Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

                  by corvo on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 03:57:15 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Alternate history (0+ / 0-)

                    So you're saying that if the US had blithely stood aside when North Korea crossed the 38th parallel back in 1950, that South Korea would have essentially turned out about the same?  That's quite an alternative history you have there.

                    Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

                    by Sky Net on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 04:54:13 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  No, I'm not saying that at all, (0+ / 0-)

                      and you know that.

                      I'm saying we didn't Promote Democracy in South Korea, and that their going democratic is their accomplishment, not ours.  It's certainly not why we fought a war there.

                      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

                      by corvo on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 05:28:53 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  by your logic, (0+ / 0-)

                      we should fight wars everywhere there's a government that doesn't live up to our Democratic Ideals, so that we can take the credit if and when a few of them actually develop representative democracies out of the wreckage.

                      That's classic neocon cant.

                      Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

                      by corvo on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 05:29:54 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Democracy (0+ / 0-)

                        You can't say that the U.S. didn't promote democracy in South Korea.  It may not have been the only interest, but it certainly was part of U.S. policy in South Korea, particularly in the late 80s.

                        You just seem disappointed that we intervened in a country and things turned out pretty well in the end.

                        Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

                        by Sky Net on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 06:02:09 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  ahh, in the late 1980s. (0+ / 0-)

                          When South Korea was actually developing a democracy . . . and about 35 years after the war we fought there.  For all we knew at that time, President Park could've installed his son as Dear Leader and we'd have been no less happy for it.

                          Your second paragraph doesn't even merit comment.

                          Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

                          by corvo on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 06:22:44 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  meanwhile, (0+ / 0-)

                          Iran, anyone? Guatemala? because our interventions have such positive outcomes, you know.

                          Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

                          by corvo on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 06:23:57 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

              •  So it's all just coincidences (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek

                that governments of the countries intervened in have almost invariably improved in quality and all those American soldiers and foreigners died arbitrarily.  Plus, wealth distribution is the only valid metric when it all boils down.

                I find that too intellectually embarrassing to take seriously.

                That last part is pretty pessimistic about both us and China.  I think you're missing the forest for all the (economic) trees in our domestic politics.  No other country has yet exposed and engaged the madness inside itself via partisan political means and process to the extent the U.S.A. has.  We live inside a civil war that in elements has always raged, but now we've precipitated the thing in earnest.

                •  Vietnam's government improved in quality? (0+ / 0-)

                  Coulda fooled me.  We also overthrew corrupt but peaceful monarchies in Laos and Cambodia and gave those countries  . . . what again?  (Remember that we even supported the Pol Pot regime at the UN against Khieu Samphan's VN-dominated government . . . because the latter was VN-dominated.)  Care to discuss Kuwait and Iraq too while you're at it?

                  Rather embarrassing that your worldview seems to have ended at 1945, and seems to exclude Latin America, where most of our meddling produced really nasty regimes.  Chile, anyone?

                  Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

                  by corvo on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 04:00:40 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

            •  amen about overpopulation. (0+ / 0-)

              The flip side of that coin is overconsumption, as far as sustainability goes.

              But overpopulation in and of itself directly feeds all manner of tyranny and despotism.  "Excess of working class workers" translates via supply & demand, to downward spiral of wages and living conditions.  

              We got the future back. Uh-oh.

              by G2geek on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 03:40:22 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  The best thing that ever happened to... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kurt, akze29, truong son traveler, G2geek, melo

          ...Guatemala and Nicaragua was not the interventions that cost at least 200,000 lives in those nations, lives lost because the U.S. intervened to overturn revolutionaries who overthrew a dynasty of dictators installed by the U.S. or to overthrow elected leaders and later to maintain in power one of a string of dictators. I know quite a few Guatemalans and Nicaraguans who do (quite rightly) view themselves as victims of U.S. aggression.

          Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 09:15:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's fine, those are of (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek

            a different category as I see it.  And they're not settled matters, either- they fester, and some sort of justice and/or compensation is unavoidable in the future.

            The original argument was Vietnam, though.  I will fight you to the end on Vietnam and the wars outside the Americas since the 1920s.  Wars aren't right, but their medium and long term consequences can be.

            I thought you got things right back in 2011 involving Libya.  You've been missed on Syria and Ukraine, though.

          •  Guatemala and Nicaragua were straight-up cases of (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Meteor Blades, melo

            ... international terrorism committed by the US.  Grenada, same thing but faster.

            Imagine what would have been the case if Maurice Bishop had lived, and gone on to forge a kind of new-direction socialist alliance with the Sandinistas.  For that matter, any such deal that also included Cuba, could potentially have led to a faster track toward democratization in Cuba: but as a socialist democracy.  

            The potential for that combination drove the neocons batshit crazy, with the results we observed.

            We got the future back. Uh-oh.

            by G2geek on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 03:44:57 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Imagine indeed (0+ / 0-)

              Since Maurice Bishop was killed by radicals in his own party, I suppose we'll never know.  But your theory that Grenada, Nicaragua and Cuba were about to embark on a new path toward democracy seems more than a bit far-fetched.  None of those countries seemed to have the slightest interest in doing so, and I seriously doubt anyone in the US thought it was even a remote possibility, let alone were driven "batshit crazy" by the prospect.

              Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

              by Sky Net on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 05:00:26 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  the timing of that whole thing was.... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Meteor Blades

                .... highly suspicious to put it mildly.

                I'm ordinarily a strong supporter of the US Intelligence Community and somewhat to the right of the center of DK opinion when it comes to national security and military policy.   But when it comes to Iran 1959, the Chile coup against Allende, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Grenada, I'm a critic.  

                Grenada coup: 16 October.  Invasion: 25 October.  NINE days to organize and deploy an invasion force from scratch?  Really?

                Nicaragua was already ahead of Cuba by most measures of a democratic society, and was also subject to illegal acts by the US including the mining of its harbor.  

                But the prospect of a black socialist leader of a Caribbean island nation, who spoke English, was too much for Reagan to tolerate.  

                And Reagan comparing the US students in the medical school to the Iran diplomats and saying they were at risk of being taken hostage, well excuse me but that was transparent propagandistic bullshit.  

                The irony of that, in light of the US hostages in Iran being released at the very moment Reagan was taking the Oath of Office, would be too much to pass off on a script submitted to Hollywood.  

                Coincidences abound, right!

                We got the future back. Uh-oh.

                by G2geek on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 05:30:37 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Grenada (0+ / 0-)

                  Nine days isn't too much time to prepare an invasion of a small island, and it was obviously very rushed as the US troops were using maps from the 1800s and it was executed pretty poorly.  It would have been an amazing coincidence if the U.S. had been planning an invasion for months and then suddenly the opportunity presented itself just days before the planned invasion.

                  Nicaragua may have been ahead of Cuba as a democratic society, but then so is everyone except North Korea.  Low bar there.

                  I think you're wildly overstating the concern anyone had in the Reagan administration before Bishop was killed.

                  Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

                  by Sky Net on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 06:05:58 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

        •  well said, very thoughtful, and i had no idea... (0+ / 0-)

          ... that there were significant portions of Germany that suffered from open sewage in ditches and cholera & typhoid etc., right into the near-middle of the 20th century.

          Interesting idea that foreign intervention breaks local stalemates that have prevented all progress, and enables new configurations to emerge that have at least a decent chance of moving forward.  That seems to be self-evidently true and I'm surprised I haven't heard this idea before.

          I don't know that we can write any conclusions about Iraq; in some ways it seemed that it was better off before we went in there, particularly in being a secular state where women had rights.  Had, past tense.  

          What I see occurring in the Middle East right now is pretty damn scary: if ISIS gets hold of a country or part of one, and becomes the established power, they will harbor terrorists with international ambitions, and we will have to deal with that.  Fortunately the technical means have improved, but still unpleasant to contemplate.

          We got the future back. Uh-oh.

          by G2geek on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 03:39:13 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  They became much better organized, of necessity. (0+ / 0-)

        It wasn't easy or cheap, though.

    •  Right. It's the Pittman building. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mookins, Sky Net, kurt, G2geek

      http://www.nwfdailynews.com/...

      As Caron landed on the rooftop of the Pittman building, there were already dozens of people waiting for him. They had crammed onto a rickety ladder leading up to the rooftop. At least 50 were on the rungs.

      I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

      by Just Bob on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 03:21:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It survived until a few months ago. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, G2geek

      We saw it on a tour late last year and were told it was scheduled to be torn down a few months after that.

      It overlooks a section of Saigon (they still call it that mostly) which has a shopping area filled with high-end design shops. Chanel, Versace, Hermes, etc.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 04:19:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well said (7+ / 0-)

    Unfortunately we don't learn from mistakes or from history.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:01:10 PM PDT

  •  Have you ever seen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Santa Susanna Kid

    "triumph of the will" ?

    "please love deeply...openly and genuinely." A. M. H.

    by indycam on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:05:38 PM PDT

  •  Never try to reform a corrupt country (10+ / 0-)

    especially if you're paying for it.
    That was the most unlearned lesson of Vietnam and the 2d most unlearned lesson is never go to war with someone braver than you, who's been fighting a lot longer than you and who has a lot more at stake

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:07:21 PM PDT

  •  The US did not win that war. (5+ / 0-)

    Viet Nam was strong enough to beat back China.

    •  Viet Nam was strong enough to beat back (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truong son traveler, G2geek

      Genghis Khan and his children, why are we dumb enough to expect better results?

      •  I would suggest (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        that it is due to ignorance and hubris.

        We might have noticed that the streets in the towns and cities of Viet Nam are named after those who became heroes and heroines fighting foreign invaders and occupiers.

        But we thought we were so smart and so tough and that it would be an easy victory, that others would take note. The primary justification as per The Pentagon Papers was for the sake of US prestige.

        Orwell - "Political language ... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable"

        by truong son traveler on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 02:45:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Couldn'ta Been the Greatest Generation Brain Trust (7+ / 0-)

    that ran elements of it like it was the Europe some of them fought in, or revenge for Bataan?

    Hammer, nail. I think there were some lessons applied in Vietnam that should have been forgotten.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:10:54 PM PDT

  •  A very excellent diary. (14+ / 0-)

    Can we stop with the "greatest army in the world" crap?

    We've had our asses beaten in the three major wars fought since I was born in the 50s: Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.

    The truth is that technology can't beat determined national liberation armies, and all those wars were fought so that the U. S. could control the destinies of nations where they had no business at all.

    Now let's admit that we can still win "wars."  Grenada.  There's a biggie.  Twelve Cuban soldiers wiped out (admitted hyperbole but not by much).  Panama.  Our guys beat our ex-guys handily.  Impressive.

    We're real good at bombing shit.  Nobody else has the air power we do because our stupid taxpayers pay out the ass to buy every plane and bomb dreamed up by the warmongers in the Pentagon.  But on the ground, where it's person-to person, we suck.  And we should, because we're trying to conquer while they're just trying to defend their own land.

  •  Yep. We got beat. (4+ / 0-)

    But the "Domino Theory" is alive and well, as illustrated by marriage equality.

    But seriously. We think we "won" the Cold War. We think we "won" WWII. We think we "won" WWI. And everyone thinks they "won" the Civil War, no matter North or South.

    We actually have a horrible record. We're late to the party, quick to claim victory, and we behave like assholes.

    That doesn't sound very "exceptional" to me.

    SPES MEA IN DEO EST.

    by commonmass on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:11:54 PM PDT

  •  We are pretty good at killing people though. nt (4+ / 0-)

    "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubt." Bertrand Russell I'm very certain that is true. 10−122

    by thestructureguy on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 02:31:40 PM PDT

  •  I suspect that a major reason why the likes of (5+ / 0-)

    Cheney and Rumsfeld were so keen on war against Iraq in 2003 was to show that if they (and not the Dems) had been in charge back in the early 70s they would have won in VN

    As it is, what has happened and continues to happen in Iraq just shows that they were wrong both times.

    We're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression.

    by Lepanto on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 03:18:19 PM PDT

  •  Comments (13+ / 0-)

    1. While it's not strictly true that the US "won every battle", for the most part we "won" the majority (and all of the really big ones) in the sense that you "win" at whack-a-mole each time you hit one of the thingies on the head.  And if the objective was to "not lose", we could have remained there forever and pulverized the entire country back to the stone age -- aka, "we had to kill them to save them."

    2. Even a decisive military victory by the United States would not have "won" in the sense of meeting any of our stated or hidden agenda.  Most Vietnamese did not want us there.  Even if we'd deployed five times as many troops and nuked Hanoi, we'd have cut down on the number of American casualties, but the population would still hate our guts.

    3. Much of the conduct of the war was ideologically driven on our side.  We assumed that a minority of evil red communists were trying to impose themselves on Vietnam.  The locals simply wanted us to get the hell out.

    4. We didn't have any support on the ground, and we weren't prepared to do what would have been necessary to force our will on Vietnam.  (By contrast, we bombed Germany to powder and nuked Japan.  Dresden and Tokyo firebombings, anyone?)  We weren't prepared because (a) the war was always unpopular in the US and television images of utter armageddon would not have sat well, (b) we had virtually zero support in the rest of the world, (c) we were afraid (legitimately) of any potential Soviet response, and (d) the egos involved were too big to accept that a half-starved group of partisans and a fourth-rate power in North Vietnam could take on a global superpower.

    The majority of the people we sent there fought hard and well despite doubts as to what it was all for.  All they got from conservatives (it was the conservatives who were screaming insults at returning troops) was Agent Orange poisoning and little support for re-integration.

    •  Wack-a-mole! (4+ / 0-)

      Perfect analogy since the method they used to beat us was by digging a vast network of tunnels. Though we employed "tunnel rats" for a good number of years, we seemed no to understand the complexity of their tunnel systems until very late in the war. Our soldiers reported that they would "clear" an area, very sure their was no enemy and then they would just emerge like ghosts.

      Wack-a-mole.

      •  The tunnels... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        matador

        ...yes, reportedly they had a system that ran from Saigon to Cambodia.  I don't think anyone ever found them all.

        And I've heard of the tunnel rats.  Reportedly, that was one scary (and often fatal) way to serve one's time in Vietnam.

  •  We didn't "lose" in Iraq (7+ / 0-)

    We won in less than a month.
    We went to "war" (undeclared) against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It's hard to argue that somehow that guy "won."
    One could argue we "lost" the following occupation, but in my view one would be wrong.
    It's true the whole thing was a monstrous waste of blood and treasure, the greatest foreign policy blunder in our lifetimes, but it was not a war that was "lost."

    •  Every Faction In the Country Ran Us Out and Iran (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      unfangus, Chi, blueoasis, kurt

      now has major influence there.

      I can't think of any sense in which we won the occupation after as you rightly point out we won the actual war.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 03:48:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  we technically won the maneuver warfare phase. (0+ / 0-)

        But Rumsfeld had deliberately discouraged his subordinates from any planning for the post-maneuver phase aka the occupation.

        We were ill-prepared to act as an occupier, and the result was immediate breakdown of law and order in Iraq, starting with the looting of weapons caches and museums.

        In effect we triggered a crash of Iraqi civilization down to the level of lawless chaos.  And the logical outcome of that was the insurgency warfare that the US was also not prepared for.

        The US command structure didn't even want the word "insurgency" used for about six to nine months after it started, until it was unavoidable.

        Iraq is a mess and is going to get worse before it gets better.

        The messes in Iraq and Syria point to ISIS grabbing a chunk or two of a country or two, and then we are going to have something worse than the Taliban in power locally, with access to higher-technology weaponry and with likely support for international terrorism.  This situation is very bad and getting worse, and something will most likely occur to trigger another US intervention on the ground in about 2 - 4 years.

        We got the future back. Uh-oh.

        by G2geek on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 03:59:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We won the kinetic portion of the war (0+ / 0-)

          But that was less than 1/10 of the war.

          That is kind of like saying that Denver beat Washington in Superbowl XXII, because they were ahead 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.  (Then there were the 5 touchdowns by Washington in the 2nd quarter.)

          6/24/05: Charlie the Tuna Creator Dies En lieu of flowers, please bring mayonnaise, chopped celery and paprika.

          by LunkHead on Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 12:49:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Not a blunder. That indicates it was a... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt, Santa Susanna Kid, melo

      ..."mistake." It was an intentional act of aggression based on lies, not a slip-up.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 09:24:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We also got beat because of our military command (8+ / 0-)

    Robert McNamara had a huge spreadsheet and managed the war like he would any business.  Robert McNamara would call the targets for the next day from his cushy office in DC instead of letting the generals on the ground prosecute the war efficiently.  
    Robert McNamara was one of the worst influences on our military in the history of the country.  His influence is still being felt -- to the tune of $400 Billion for an fighter airplane that won't fly when it rains.   The Robert McNamara mentality of today's military is still very strong.  We're going to phase out the A-10 Warthog -- which is cheap and will fly with one wing shot off to replace it with an expensive POS with engines that burst into flame.  
    The Robert McNamara mentality won't realize that our enemies will have great swarms of cheap disposable weapons to throw against our brittle, ineffective, gold-plated pieces of shit.  
    But, on the other hand, Halliburton gets to make a lot of money supplying those expensive pieces of shit.

  •  We got beat because they were a tough, tough bunch (5+ / 0-)

    My wife and I went on a 19-day tour of Vietnam last Nov and Dec. We found a thriving, prosperous country. We also found that they are about 2 generations past the war and aside from a lingering Agent Orange problem and some old fortified aircraft hangars across from new resort hotels in the "China Beach" area etc, they don't remember it all that well. We had lunch at a nice house in the country and got to meet a couple of men who had been Viet Cong commanders. One of our group asked them what they did after "the war", and we were told they went to Cambodia and fought another 10 years, until 1985.

    We picked on a country who had had maybe a thousand year history of defeating all comers, including the Chinese. We suckered ourselves.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 04:16:48 PM PDT

  •  intervention (4+ / 0-)
    Intervention frequently makes things worse, not better, for the inhabitants
    You could have stopped at "makes things worse, not better".    This is a life lesson that applies as much at home, as it does in Iraq or Vietnam.   Yet, "intervention" is one of the most popular hobbies that exists in the U.S. starting with Evangelism, and The Drug War and moving on from there.  

    It often reminds me of one of those internet clips, where some person imagines themself racing gracefully up a ramp, sailing through the air, and executing a perfect landing, when in reality, the vehicle slides off the side of the ramp, or dives nose first off the end of the ramp.  

    Our imagination often produces beautiful visions that we are not capable of reproducing in real life.  Our "Mission Accomplished" is sometimes anything but.

  •  Maybe we ought (4+ / 0-)

    to quit looking at everything on God's green earth as a fucking war. War and winning is not at good it's not beneficial to anyone or thing. What's so funny about peace love and understanding? Nobody wins in America's endless wars except the masters of war that make a killing in endless profit. All humans lose there are no victor's just victims, including those who proclaim we won.
     

     

  •  Yeah...we got our asses handed to us...but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Santa Susanna Kid, G2geek

    it wasn't because of "inadequate soldiering by our draftee army."  It was because we had many, too many, Pentagon pricks who wanted a "combat command" to get the check mark and who were also shitty leaders, tacticians and strategists and who didn't have any combat experience.

    We also lost because our politicians chose...I repeat chose...to not really unleash our military strength and shatter the NV people.  Thats what war is about...it is an extension of government policy...and our policy was being guided by dumb-asses.  

    Read "About Face" by Col David Hackworth.  

    The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. - Dante Alighieri

    by Persiflage on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 05:37:24 PM PDT

  •  Lessons (0+ / 0-)

    Certainly the lesson that interventions don't always work is a fairly obvious one and not one that's really in dispute by anyone in the world.  The other "lessons"  listed here aren't really lessons.  We didn't intervene in Vietnam "just because", and I don't know why that's in quotes unless someone actually gave that as a reason back in the 60s.  Obviously installing a petty tyrant isn't optimal, but I don't recollect any Jeffersonian democrats in Vietnam at the time, either.  Sometimes you get what you get.

    Cynicism is what passes for insight among the mediocre.

    by Sky Net on Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 09:24:19 PM PDT

  •  I don't know if "we" won or lost . . . (3+ / 0-)

    . . . I lost my father when I was seven, so I certainly lost.

    "A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling 'Stop!'"—William F. Buckley, Jr.—Founder of the conservative policy magazine "National Review"

    by Village Vet on Tue Jul 15, 2014 at 01:57:26 AM PDT

  •  Viet Nam was about the Soviet Union (0+ / 0-)

    The original idea (according to a poli sci professor) was to show Western Europe that we would respond if the Soviets invaded there. The prof was basically saying better having a smaller war in Vietnam then a much bigger one in Europe. I don't know enough to agree or disagree.

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