Friday, July 8, 2011

The "Good Guys" Government: Equally important as the military effort in winning the war

Starting at the end of the memo....

Sometime before July 19, 1967, Ambassador Bunker met with Secretary McNamar and Secretary Katzenbach, concluding his meeting with this:
"I believe that we are gradually achieving out aims in Vietnam.  If we stick to it long enough - and this is not a short term proposition - I am confident that we shall have reasonable success in achieving our objectives."
And just what were "our objectives?" (1)

Meeting between Ambassador Bunker and Secretary McNamar and Secretary Katzenbach,
Okay, so that's the objective, all we need to do is "stick to it long enough."  Simple!

Now let's look at the reality....

Remember that "good guy" General Loan?  Well he plays into this reality for us.  Let's look at what we knew to be true in July 1967: (1)

Meeting between Ambassador Bunker and Secretary McNamar and Secretary Katzenbach,
So we are fighting a "limited war" locked in a "bitter and savage struggle with an enemy determined, disciplined. well equipped and resourceful."  And in the midst of all this we are trying to do is carry out a "social revolution" in Vietnam.  Whether we should, or should not, is not going to be discussed here.  I am trying to look at the reality in play to show why the view of our involvement as  "whatever it takes" would not work in Vietnam.  Tet and the Eddie Adam's photo did not change the reality that "whatever it takes" would take and take and take without ever bringing to fruition our objectives.  Time, on the other hand, was on the enemy's side:

The objectives we set out to achieve are not unworkable, however, the priorities we were to focus on in an effort to meet those objectives were a pipe dream to say the least. (1)

Meeting between Ambassador Bunker and Secretary McNamar and Secretary Katzenbach,
But above all that, there was no way to bring about a "social revolution" as long as Ky and Loan were part of the process. (2)

Herewith a first view of Thieu after the [Ky/Thieu ticket] deal
What Ky, Loan, and their allies wanted was different than what Thieu wanted.  But there was no way there would be ANY government in Vietnam unless both sides joined together and each got something.

This was the reality we were faced with and why there would be no way to "win" this war.  This was not a defeat-your-enemy-and-win-battles type of war like we were used to.  Even the fact that it was gorilla tactics and house-to-house fighting, had nothing to do with making this war un-winnable.  Simply put, the amount of effort that would be required to vanquish the enemy would do little if the "good guys" were not really good guys. (1)

Meeting between Ambassador Bunker and Secretary McNamar and Secretary Katzenbach,

What was known in 1967, before Tet, was that this war required not just the military aspect to achieve our goals, but a political one as well.  Further evidence that the proponents of stay the course would never get the "win" they wanted.

What were the political realities of Vietnam in 1967 that would work against our objectives and priorities... those things we needed to see to bring about a "win?" (1)

Meeting between Ambassador Bunker and Secretary McNamar and Secretary Katzenbach,
Why we thought we could overcome the political realities AND fight an enemy that was "determined, disciplined. well equipped and resourceful." has a lot to do with our arrogance as a superpower.  We knew in 1967 that the military aspect could only go so far.

So why to this day do some - including scholars and Generals - insist on looking at Tet in terms of winning the battle but losing the war?  They seem hellbent on getting the "true" story out...if only the American people knew the real story instead of the one presented to them as microcosms of destruction.  Look what David Culbert has to say about this.

TV  Interview  with  David  Culbert
Did the North Vietnamese gain a "stupendous psychological victory" here in the US or was what happened during Tet the inevitable harbinger of exactly what should have been understood and known in 1967 by the American people?  Are we that gullible that we would could not formulate an understanding of what we saw based on what we had been told.  The North's victory on changing our will was the result of a fabricated reality perpetuated by our government.

In other words, had our veil of ignorance been off and we known about the true strength of the enemy, the understanding that they would be in it for the long-haul, the dysfunction of the "good guys" we needed to meet our objectives, and the lack of understanding we had for what the Vietnamese people were thinking (see page 28), would we have concluded anything different after Tet in 1968?

I don't think so.  Now I'm not talking about how we felt about it at the time, or how we feel about it now.  I am talking about how we would conclude it objectively.  Had we been kept in the dark or shown a more positive picture would that have been better for us?  Better for the absolutist point of view, maybe.

All Tet and General Loan did was rip off the facade that had been put in place to bolster our own need for a psychological victory in order to keep Carl von Clausewitz's "strength of will" firm and undaunted so that we could "stick to it long enough" to have a chance at meeting our objectives.

Any other conclusion, in my opinion, is a logical fantasy.

Next post: In case you don't understand the lingo, that's marijuana."


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