.. started. Winters writes: I cannot now repudiate my predecessors commitments.’ Johnson, of course had not been among the handful of friends and advisors who knew of Kennedy’s intention to quit Vietnam before he was overtaken by fate. Herring portray’s in his book LBJ and Vietnam that there was nothing President Johnson wanted more than get away from this harrowing war. Unfortunately there where only very few options for him to undertake that where outlined by his advisors after Americans had been deliberately attacked several times in South Vietnam. To take the loss and get everybody out and eventually look weak, some middle thing or to send troops.
What other option should LBJ have undergone in spite of the few he had. On the other hand, who could have predicted that the resistence by North Vietnam would have such a outcome. This brings us to the other question herring tries tp answer in his essay. The question why America, the number one super power of the world, failed to achieve its objects. Herring explains in his essay that the U.S.
troops where simply not trained to fight a war in a place such as Vietnam. It was fought in a climate an a terrain that were singularly inhospitable: thick jungles, foreboding swamps and paddies, rugged mountains, insufferable heat and humidity. Furthermore the large cultural gap and the lack of regular war objectives made it hard for the American forces to fight a serious war. Lack of understanding the language or the culture of the Vietnamese made it hard for Americans to understand who was enemy and who friend. Their mission was at best morally ambiguous and, however benevolent their intentions, Americans often found themselve on the wrong side of Vietnamese nationalism. America was trained in conventional warfare such as in the World Wars and Korea, this unconventional warfare the U.S.
faced in Vietnam made it hard to even estimate how one was doing. And there was always the gnawing- but fundamental – question, first raised by John F. Kennedy: how can we tell if we are winning? Their was no real battle line, no real objectives no real sense of victory, the only way to estimate one’s progress was by the notorious body count. Furthermore Herring complains that their was no foundation on which to build nationhood. After their last war, the economy had suffered incredibly and their was no real government nor elite to run the country or to work with the U.S., because the french had destroyed the political order. Finally, Herring describes that the United States simply underestimated its enemy and its determination and staying power.
They skillfully employed the strategy of protracted war, already tested against France, perceiving that the Americans, like the french, would become impatient and, if they bled long enough, might weary of the war. Winters answers this question on one similar account as Herring, and that is that their was no government to fight with. But instead of blaming it on the french as Herring does he blames the American government and particularly the Kennedy administration who decided to assassinate their South vietnamese Allie and by doing so completely wipe out the South Vietnamese government. For he agreed with the analysis of the CIA and of the former ambassador Nolting that such a coup would be an invitation to governmental chaos throughout South Vietnam and would ruin the war effort. Robert Kennedy recognized this and blurted out at some meeting before the coup This makes no sense on the face of it… to support a coup would be putting the future of Vietnam and in fact all of Southeast Asia in the hands of one man not now known to the U.S…
Unfortunately the U.S. government was not able to recognize this until it was to late. America lost the war because it blew away South Vietnam’s government, you can’t win a war without a stable government. By looking at the principal personalities involved in this conflict it shows that a certain arrogance and self interest was the drive to a number of decisions which eventually turned a local conflict into a major international clash. Such personalities involve Dean Rusk, President Kennedy, the President of South Vietnam Diem, President Johnson, and more. Most of the characters such as JFK and Johnson did what they did in Indochina in order to ashore reelection.
Characters such as Secretary of State Dean Rusk acted on the accounts of American patriotism and the ideology that every country should be molded after the perfect democratic country the United States. The Vietnamese government was dismissed by Rusk and others because it contradicted irreconcilably their own ascendant Enlightenment formula of democracy. It is understood that President Kennedy’s personal interest for reelection was his primary implication to stay in Vietnam. After his reelection in 1964, he was planing on leaving Indochina and leaving it to its own faith. Furthermore President Johnson just wanted to finish what his predecessor had started, a mission that cost him great remorse. South Vietnamese President Diem was fighting for a free South Vietnam.
All he wanted is to be independent without having any strings attached. His problem was that he was planning a different democratic reform as the Americans had in mind, which succeeded in his assassination. Diem, for example was planing democratic reform on a different scale and calender than his American (and Vietnamese) critics. It is clear that Vietnam was Americas only foothold in Southeast Asia and that it was therefore necessary to the U.S. that its government would execute its exact orders or face damnation.
Regarding the ethical issues of the war it is clear that for one the US once more had to impose its chauvinistic ideals on another nation, and try to mold them in its own image. Furthermore it demonstrates that in some countries non democratic but rather autocratic governments make more sense due to their tradition and culture. It is debatable if the outcome would have differed if America would have let Diem act on his own terms. It would have been very unlike of the US government to do so regarding its history. Herring sketches several positive aspects out of the war. The fact that no nuclear conflict happened probably because of Vietnam and that by showing its determination and endurance America probably intimidated the soviet union. Finally he accounts that the lost war might have been a part of winning the cold war.
..a lost battle in a Cold War eventually won. This though is not the answer to justify the Misery the US brought to Vietnam. Much rather it is a perfect example for American Imperialism and the suppression of communistic ideals in total self interest and not to help any one.