Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, and don't hesitate
To send your sons off before it's too late.
And you can be the first ones in your block
To have your boy come home in a box.
Country Joe And The Fish, wrote that and made the Vietnam Song famous during Woodstock. Gimme and "F"...Gimme a "U"...
I thought about that song when I started writing these posts on if our effort was worth the cost. Was the condemnation of Kitt, Cronkite, Kennedy, King, the hippies justified? Were they the one's who "lost" the war for us, or, like I believe now, the war was never ours to win since South Vietnam had nothing to offer its people other than being not-communists, which for a peasant, means very little.
I want to go back to Carl von Clausewitz understanding of war:
[T]he use of power involves two factors. The first is the strength of available means, which may be measured somewhat by numbers (although not entirely). The second factor is the strength of the will which can not be specifically measured (only estimated) as it is intangible. Once a state has gained an approximation of the enemy's strength of resistance it can review its own means and adjust them upwards accordingly in an effort to gain the advantage. As the enemy will also be doing this, it too becomes reciprocal. [third reciprocal action] (1)We had the strength, no doubt about that. But in Vietnam, it really did not matter how strong our military was, without the other factor needed to meet our objectives - a stable south Vietnam government - all our military could do is keep the bad guys at bay, which Tet showed in 1968, was not going to be easy.
Now that we knew, and by "we" I mean the people of the US, Carl von Clausewitz's second factor kicks in:
The second factor is the strength of the will which can not be specifically measured (only estimated) as it is intangible. Once a state has gained an approximation of the enemy's strength of resistance it can review its own means and adjust them upwards accordingly in an effort to gain the advantage.Walter Cronkite and Robert Kennedy saw what it was going to take, and understood how difficult, or most likely saw it as impossible, for the United States to "win" this conflict. Which is why Robert Kennedy said in his February 1968 speech:
For years we have been told that the measure of our success and progress in Vietnam was
increasing security and control for the population. Now we have seen that none of the population
is secure and no area is under sure control.
Four years ago when we only had about 30,000 troops in Vietnam, the Vietcong were unable to mount the assaults on cities they have now conducted against our enormous forces. At one time a suggestion that we protect enclaves was derided. Now there are no protected enclaves.
This has not happened because our men are not brave or effective, because they are. It is because we have misconceived the nature of the war: It is because we have sought to resolve by military might a conflict whose issue depends upon the will and conviction of the South Vietnamese people. It is like sending a lion to halt an epidemic of jungle rot. (2)I think that was a reasonable and fair analogy. It is also an accurate understanding of what was happening in Vietnam. So if we can't "win" with our military alone, how much "means" should we put into it as we "adjust upwards accordingly?"
This is where it hits close to home for me. I could have been the "means" had we continued. Without fully understanding my reasoning for taking exception to General Patrick Brady's San Antonio Express News article, I understood when I read it that he was incorrect in his premise:
[O]ur defeat came from the elite in the courtrooms, the classroom, the cloakrooms and the newsrooms, from cowardly media-phobic politicians and irresponsible, dishonest media and professors from Berkeley to Harvard.General Brady is an absolutist (in addition to being delusional). Had we pressed on; "Unbelievably, there was no military follow-up." would that have changed anything? I can't say, but neither can he. But the fact still remains that we could not achieve our objectives with the military alone. Unless you don't want to believe the CIA's analysis in May, 1968:
"The situation thereafter will largely depend, as it has in the past, on the question of the will to persist of either side rather than on the attainment of an overwhelming military victory."General Brady, as an absolutist, thinks the lion can cure jungle rot. Walter Cronkite and Robert Kennedy, as realists, understand that the lion cannot.
General Brady is one of "those who said that we could win and must" and Cronkite, Kennedy, Kitt, and "the elite in the courtrooms, the classroom, the cloakrooms and the newsrooms, from cowardly media-phobic politicians and irresponsible, dishonest media and professors from Berkeley to Harvard (3)" are "those who said that even if we could win we should not and that the military considerations were a complete obfuscation of the basic issues." (4 page 2)
General Brady is free to express his reasons as to why he thinks we could win and should have continued on, something he has not done other than denigrate those who share the other view and make up stories in an effort to right a wrong that is there but not there to the degree he thinks it is. How he feels about what took place is uniquely his own, and. like for me, his objectivity can be compromised by factors that fall close to home.
Without a crystal ball there is no way to determine what course taken - or not taken - would have resulted in a better outcome. What we do know for sure is that the enemy had the capability of making us work for that victory. That's where Carl von Clausewitz's "it can review its own means and adjust them upwards accordingly in an effort to gain the advantage" comes in. Evaluate and re-evaluate. Left to General Brady, Kid Rock, Hawks, and absolutists, the means is "whatever it takes."
In 1968 I was 11 years old. When I was 12, Country Joe was telling me what could await me. When I was 16, Richard Nixon finally put an end to "whatever it takes."
There but for the grace of God go I.
Next Post: My Country Right or Wrong