July 6, 2009

Robert S. McNamara, dead at 93.

"The war became his personal nightmare. Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam. He concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life."

Here's an excerpt from the great Errol S. Morris documentary "Fog of War":

60 comments:

Beta Conservative said...

Berkeley for undergrad and Harvard for his Masters. Thank God the highly educated are looking out for the rest of us.

Keeps us safe from all the free thinkin' hillbillies out there.

traditionalguy said...

The biggest myth that we have passed onto our children's generation is that Nixon was the Vietnam villain. In reality this man was the villain, along with that over educated Secretary of State Dean Rusk all relied on by LBJ who only had a congressional negotiator's style. Their dark failures openly defended as Smarter Management was what the 1960's rebelled against. Poor Dick Nixon has been the scapegoat of choice, but he was more intelligent than those two combined because he could react to reality and not theory like thoee two Ivy League prima donnas.

Beta Conservative said...

From "The Best and the Brightest" by David Halberstam, good advice regarding being fooled by Ivy league prestige that seems to preclude common sense:

"Johnson, after his first Kennedy cabinet meeting, raved to his mentor, the speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, about all the president’s brilliant men. “You may be right, and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say,” Rayburn responded, “but I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.”

dbp said...

There was a lot of blame to go around for the Vietnam fiasco, but McNamara is first among equals in being the most blameworthy.

If he didn't think the war could be won, he should have resigned and let a non-looser do the job.

Joseph said...

dbp, That's basically what he did. Once he decided that deescalation was the best strategy and presented his plan to the president, Johnson appointed him to run the World Bank. It was under Nixon's watch that it became eminently clear that the war was futile but it was also under Nixon's tenure that the vast majority of American casualties were incurred.

Roman said...

Robert McNamara caused many good young men to loose their lives, limbs and years of life because of his misguided political loyalty. One of my best friends is still listed as MIA, since 29 Dec 1967.

Only now is he getting his just rewards!

Joseph said...

McNamara's is a tragic story but I do give him credit for doing what most people who hold such positions of power too rarely do--seriously and genuinely account for their mistakes.

Randy said...

Oh, MacNamara built a car
E-I-E-I-O
And with that car you couldn't go far
E-I-E-I-O
With an Edsel here and an Edsel there
E-I-E-I-O
Oh, MacNamara built a car
E-I-E-I-O
Now his success was so immense
E-I-E-I-O
They put him in charge of our defense
E-I-E-I-O
With a Cuba here and a Cuba there
E-I-E-I-O


(I forget the rest. It's to the tune of Old McDonald's Farm, of course ;-)

RIP, Robert McNamara

Valerian said...

What does the Ivy league have to do with any of this? He was also an Eagle Scout, Air Force Capt., and president of Ford Motor Co. Why not blame them?

And if Wikipedia is to be believed, he opposed the Edsel.

Kirk Parker said...

Joseph,

Maybe, except that in attempting to account for his mistake McNamara move in precisely the wrong direction.

Randy said...

That's true, Valerian. It is also true that McNamara's best work was done later, as President of the World Bank.

Beta Conservative said...

@Valerian,

Over the weeknd there was alot of back and forth about Palin being stupid, etc.

The Ive League reference here is not to demean those educated there, but as a reminder that the type of elite education touted by the liberal media does not conote any superlative decision making ability when it comes to the great issues.

The comon sense of the lesser educated is sorely lacking in the national debate these days (as it was during Vietnam).

bearbee said...

Johnson, after his first Kennedy cabinet meeting, raved to his mentor, the speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, about all the president’s brilliant men. “You may be right, and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say,” Rayburn responded, “but I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.

Just finished reading another book on the Great Depression. Roosevelt started off with economic academicians and ended up replacing them with businessmen.

Joe said...

Lost in all this is that McNamara fucked up the T-Bird. For that, he will burn in hell.

The Drill SGT said...

Joseph said...
but it was also under Nixon's tenure that the vast majority of American casualties were incurred.


not true

they were both in office about 6 years.

even if you give Nixon the blame for 1969, when he really could not change that year, Johnson's losses were nearly double Nixon's

Marsha Mason, "Heartbreak Ridge": "You remember 68? I hardly slept a wink. All those boys coming home in boxes.

68 was a bad year.

1963 118
1964 206
65 1,863
66 6,143
67 11,153
68 16,592
36,075

1969 11,616
1970 6,081
1971 2,357
1972 641
1973 168
1974 178
21,041

The Drill SGT said...

Strange :)

Randy said...

Very :)

Joseph said...

Drill Sgt: Interesting. I didn't know 68 was such a spike. No wonder that election year was so much about Vietnam.

I was going off the NYT account which said "more than 16,000" died on McNamara's watch. Knowing that around 58,000 died overall, that MacNamara served most of Johnson's tenure and that there were very few casualties under Eisenhower's initiation of the war, I figured most of the other 42,000 deaths were under Nixon but I should have said that those deaths were after MacNamara left office.

In any case, MacNamara was advocating to Johnson to change strategy in 1967 when things really started to get bad and leaders of both parties after him decided to continue sacrificing lots more American lives in what turned out to be an extraordinarily expensive, counterproductive and altogether horrific infatuation with a flawed domino metaphor.

Naked Surfer said...

Yeah, that ole UC Bezerkely sure was a hawk-peddling hotbed of warmongers, wasn’t it?

And poor ole innocent victim-kicked-around Nixon just outdid McNamara by leaps and bounds in the confession-of-guilt department, when tricky-Dicky waxed his wiki with his life’s greatest confession, “you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." Then again, innocent Dick prolly couldn't count complicated things like news conferences since he didn't attend one of those fancy number-crunching, Ivy League digs.

And thank God that evil Ivy League produced only one recent president capable of high brow Ivy-League-isms like, “But we all lived in this century. I didn't live in this century” -- which just happened to be, err, the very same century and the same Ivy League presidency which gave Halliburton a no-bid-Bonanza for a five-year, $7 billion contract to service Iraq. Time is running out!

NightBastard said...

Joseph, you illustrate traditionalguy's point perfectly. Your teachers probably didn't teach you that Nixon pulled troop levels down almost 90% in 4 years either.

Joe said...

with a flawed domino metaphor.

I disagree. Given what happened after the US pulled out, I believe the domino theory was valid and that US mostly put a stop to it (at great cost and in a horribly incompetent way.)

(Incidentally, you can blame Vietnam on Truman. He's the asshat who refused to recognize an independent Vietnam after WWII and let the French back in. Then he turned around and recognizes the French puppet government of South Vietnam and gives military aid to the French.)

save_the_rustbelt said...

Reminds me of my friend and mentor who lies somewhere in the Central Highlands, a hero while Henry the K was playing diplomat.

And my friend and mentor who, via a load of shrapnel and a case of encephalitis, has spent every day since 1969 in a fog.

Damn LBJ. Damn McNamara. And Nixon and Kissinger.

Reminder to me: send another check to the USO.

Joe said...

To explain further, I believe that the domino theory was valid, but largely caused by meddling by France, with support of the US immediately after WWII. One great irony is that the US did a similar thing with Cuba in the late 50s (point being that Castro would have still been a bastard, but he could have been our bastard, not the Soviet's bastard.)

Aaron said...

Vietnam was probably unwinnable the way we fought it. but there will always be a school of thought that says that if we invaded the north, we would have won the whole thing. there is certainly something to be said for the theory, but i won't pretend to know the answer.

bearbee said...

Viet Nam protests heated up before 1968.

McCarthy announced his candidacy in November 1967

Johnson made his 'I shall not seek, and I will not accept' speech in March 1968

Joseph said...

NightBastard, My teachers never taught Vietnam. Johnson and MacNamara certainly deserve the blame for drastically escalating the war but Nixon still bears responsibility for continuing to pursue it into his second term, just as Obama now takes responsibility for the continuing casualties of Bush's wars.

But I thought the conservative revisionist history of Vietnam was that we would have "won" if only we had stayed longer and bombed more and not caved to the whims of the weak-kneed American public. That seems to me to conflict with the meme that Nixon did right by Vietnam.

William said...

The first but not the last of the quants. He tried to quantify the progress of the Vietnam War as a later generation of whizz kids tried to quantify the risks of credit instrutments. There is much in life and markets that is not quantifiable, but give someone really bright enough time and enough data to work with and he will develop a precise way to measure the chaos in which he is drowning.....Really smart people tend to overestimate the number of problems that can be solved with intelligence. A high IQ is very useful in the study of mathematics, but more problems are solved by loving Trig than by learning trig as Palin would say. McNamara's guilt was as grandiose as his pride.

The Drill SGT said...

Naked Surfer said...Halliburton a no-bid-Bonanza for a five-year, $7 billion contract to service Iraq. Time is running out!

The Left continues to spread that distortion. Let me give you a better understanding.

Since GWI, the Army has had a series of competitively awarded contracts to provide logistical augmentation to the Army if it deploys. Here is a snip from an Army Press release from 2008:

The LOGCAP IV performance contracts are being awarded as Indefinite Quantity / Indefinite Delivery (ID / IQ) contracts with one base year and nine option years. Each contract has a maximum value of up to $5 billion per year. This allows the Army to award a total annual maximum value of $15 billion and a lifetime maximum value of $150 billion.

Each LOGCAP contract has been awarded through full and open competition. Brown & Root Services held the LOGCAP I contract from 1992-1996; DynCorp held LOGCAP II from 1997 through 2001 and KBR held the LOGCAP III contract from 2001 to the present. In February 2007, the U.S. Army Sustainment Command selected Serco, Inc. to provide planning and program support under a separate LOGCAP IV contract. - 30 -


the Haliburton (KBR) contract in place at the beginning of the war was competed and won by KBR. KBR had bid a schedule of services for the Army to order from with no hassle. The rates were low. It is the volume that makes the big numbers. need a Dining Facility? KBR will set it up, staff it, and you can contrct for so many meals for so much per meal.

The point is, the competition occurs up front. rates are low, but in execution, there are "NO BIDS" you just order from te menu of services. easy and fast to use.

there are 4-5 (KBR, Dyncorp, SERCO,Fluor etc) firms that do this work and they compete hard against easch other. I was no sweetheart deal for Cheney.

Here is the contract in place since 2008 The three companies awarded under the full and open competition process are DynCorp International LLC of Fort Worth, Texas; Fluor Intercontinental Inc., of Greenville, S.C.; and Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) Services of Houston, Texas. A total of five companies submitted offers.

traditionalguy said...

The "Ivy League" meme is not saying that there is anything wrong with a theoretical educational base. What it is saying is that a stubborn refusal to admit that the Ideas from your professor's course do not describe reality means that you are TOTALLY INCOMPETANT. The best strategists have learned that war is not a game but is a man to man struggle like a wrestling match, in which there is no second place. That basic truth can not ever be learned in an Ivy League cocoon. You have to go out and face a few wolves in the wild or a few front line commanders in the field to experience that learning curve. That old fool Mcnamara, along with the liar Dean Rusk, were the cause of the death of many of my friends. Richard Nixon came in and fixed it quickly just like he saved Israel from anihilation in 1973 Yom Kippur sneak attack from 3 sides. The Democrat's 40 year long chant that the scapegoat Nixon did everything wrong in those wars is as false now as it was when they started it.

Larry J said...

Clarance Darrow once said, "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."

I can agree in this case. McNamara's arrogance in micromanaging the Vietnam War cost a lot of lives for no good reason. He and his crew were bean counting weenies. For example, the military was asked to draw up a list of the top targets for aerial bombardment in North Vietnam and they complied. Instead of starting at the most important targets and working down the list, Johnson and McNamara had them start at the bottom and work up. The North Vietnamese weren't stupid. They used this time to build up what was then the most heavily defended airspace on Earth. A lot of pilots died or ended up in the Hanoi Hilton as a result of this stupid policy.

I remember watching a program on what is now the Military Channel a number of years ago about the men who flew the F-105 over North Vietnam. One story dealt with a shortage of bombs (old leftovers from WWII). The commanders were under pressure to keep up the sortie rate (a sortie is a mission by one plane). One squadron was down to 8 bombs which easily could've been carried by 1 or 2 F-105s. Instead, to keep McNamara happy, they loaded 1 bomb each on 8 planes to attack the same target. The chances of coming home safe under the circumstances were not good but they had to do it to keep McNamara's bean counters happy. About half of all the F-105s ever built was lost in action in Vietnam and stupidity like this was a contributing factor.

May McNamara end up as one of the 72 virgins promised to martyrs.

Maguro said...

By the way, those KBR Dining Facilities that Cheney built for us are first-rate. I have no idea how much the Uncle Sam paid for them, but those are the nicest damn chow halls I've ever seen.

traditionalguy said...

Looking over the deaths by years list posted by Drill Sargeant confirms the truth that once Nixon's strategies came into place, beginning 10 months after his inauguration, that only 9,000 out of the total 58,000 deaths occurred, and he had also ended the Draft by the end of those first 10 months. Facts are difficult things to hide, unless you own the news media.

Cedarford said...

Joseph - Johnson and MacNamara certainly deserve the blame for drastically escalating the war but Nixon still bears responsibility for continuing to pursue it into his second term, just as Obama now takes responsibility for the continuing casualties of Bush's wars.

Nixon appears to have done pretty well with the Vietnam situation he inherited. Remember, Vietnam was just a sideshow in a larger, potentially vastly more dangerous rivalry.
The main thing was to de-escalate the conflict and arms race with the Soviets and pry China away from them. Nixon worked that brilliantly and was also the leader that ended the arms race in germ warfare and deadly nerve gases.
Meanwhile he objective in Vietnam was peace with honor - which he saw as:
1. Eliminating the Cambodia logistics path & sanctuary that was how 80% of the North troops got into combat in S Vietnam.
2. Start work to "Vietnamize" the War. Set S Vietnam to fight on their own on the ground, continue to supply US equipment and air power.
3. Negotiate for a peace treaty and release of POWs. IF the commies play games and draq it out for years, threaten to bomb them back to serious negotiations.
4. Bombed the crap out of them in 1971 and 72. While cutting US casualties 10-fold.
5. Treaty signed in 1973, POWs released. POWs give Nixon full credit for a strategy that freed them.

Had Nixon stayed in office and not screwed up legally, no liberal Democrat betrayal of the obligations to S Vietnam under the Peace Treaty and arms cutoff would have happened.. No Cambodia genocide..Likely no Afghanistan and the start of the radical Islamists..

Today, Europeans, Chinese, Russians generally regard Nixon as the architect of ending the Cold War. They credit Carter with fully backing the "human rights" pacts which gave the Soviets and Chinese fits, and with Reagan doing the final push..

Nixon - Peacemaker. Creator of the post Cold War structure. Ender of the WMD arms race.
McNamara - Another major cynic of the Ruling Elites.
Carter - Gets not enough credit for beginning rebuilding of forces, the Carter Doctrine, or how he used the communists own human rights rhetoric against them to globally discredit them.
Reagan - Checked the dying Soviet Empires last moves.
Bush I - Carefully watched over the disintegration of the communist Bloc. Very wisely rejected the Neocons demands to rub Russia's nose in it.

Big Mike said...

If he had died 50 years earlier there are many people who would still be alive today.

He shares something in common with Donald Rumsfeld. When their grand strategies ran into reality, and were found wanting, neither one had any idea how to adapt.

Naked Surfer said...

Drill SGT,

Thanks, a good response, really.

It’s understandable how such reconstruction “menus” hoping early for a fast and unobstructed rebuilding program dovetail into hopes for a shorter war schedule – given a few generous inferences. And given the practical necessity to go with proven vendors established and large enough to chandler the whole shooting match.

I’d say McNamara’s systems analyses melt down into his catastrophic confession about war as too complex for human management is susceptible to criticism as a forced-by-facts, and not a heartfelt confession, even if that judgment is true in substance. I doubt (wonder, question) whether McNamara’s judgment on the excess complexity of war guides our war/peacetime strategy as much as our general feeling of buoyancy for doling out butt kickings in the two majors – until casualties pile up in a poor causality/cause ratio, where cause is a felt-just-cause, anyway.

It’s weird (I mean this descriptively, not in advocacy or sarcasm) that the Eisenhower-Nixon initiative in Vietnam included one side of that ticket later warning against military-industrial policy wagging, and with Nixon later using McNamara’s analysis and justification for getting out of Vietnam.

On the merits of McNamara’s modest comment on war-as-too-complex, sharing substance with Eisenhower’s warning – none of this hi or lowfalutin analysis stops a nation bombed at Pearl, nor England alone at bay – damn the analyses and damn the torpedoes too, because we’re not fighting for spreadsheets, but our lives (so the perception goes– and should); but, it’s just this kind of wartime complexity that Eisenhower, and too late McNamara, saw as the predatory opportunity for a Haliburton, already wrangling Nigerian bribes, guilty of SEC charges of accounting irregularities to puff profits, and later having issues of wartime accountability, and, not doing too well under the 2004 Pentagon audit finding about 40% of Haliburton’s $1.8 bill to Uncle Sam inadequately documented.

Any overlap in a McNamara-Eisenhower shared criticism about accountability isn’t necessarily left or right in skew. And it’s too easy to dismiss criticisms of the host of Haliburton (industrial part of the military-industrial equation) irregularities as leftist. Discount McNamara. I’d like Ike’s take. I think he’d know.

Maguro said...

If he had died 50 years earlier there are many people who would still be alive today.

I wouldn't go that far. His decisions turned out to wrong, but seemed reasonable enough at the time and it's unlikely that someone else could have done better.

The decision to support South Vietnam militarily was above his pay grade and the war would have happened with or without McNamara.

Kirk Parker said...

Cedarford,

"Likely no Afghanistan and the start of the radical Islamists..

You need to get out more. Certainly Afghanistan provided a big boost in credibility to a certain branch of Islamist, but you can't really think that's where they started, can you?

You might want to check out Qutb, Wahhab himself, or others going all the way back to Ibn Taymiyyah.

Larry J said...

Carter - Gets not enough credit for beginning rebuilding of forces

I was in the military during the Carter years. He didn't do a damned thing to rebuild the military. It was awful. He was a terrible President and Commander-in-chief.

I wouldn't go that far. His decisions turned out to wrong, but seemed reasonable enough at the time and it's unlikely that someone else could have done better.

They never seemed reasonable to anyone who knew anything about the military. McNamara's policies were stupid and caused a lot of needless deaths.

As one Ford exec was quoted saying to a General about McNamara, "Our gain is your loss." They were happy to get rid of the dunce.

Duncan Cookson said...

I wonder if we'll get a posthumous memoir at some point. I got the impression watching Fog of War that he wanted to go further.

David said...

Vietnam was McNamara's nightmare?

Give me a fucking break.

It was the country's nightmare, and the soldier's nightmare. It was the nightmare of my friend Steve Drake, an infantry Lieutenant who fought severely wounded for hours and died saving dozens of his men in a horrific ambush.

McNamara did not deserve to have it called his nightmare. It was a nightmare he imposed on others.

Finally, it was not McNamara's war. The war belongs to President's Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon (especially the former two) and to the United States Congress, which acquiesced in an immoral war, a losing military strategy and at the end forced a craven desertion of Vietnamese men and women who helped us.

Then, in the most brutal admission of all, McNamara reveals in his memoir that he had "doubts" all along about the war but did not express them when he was in office.

Disgust. Outrage. I'm not quite an old man now, but I'm working on it. Fate has allowed me to get old (unlike Steve and nearly 60,000 other Americans who died for this horridly conceived and conducted war.)

Do not let Bob McNamara pass without remembering this outrage. And do not pin the entire horrid mess just on him.

NKVD said...

Nixon could have pulled out of Viet Nam in '69 with the same results as he got in '74. All those lives lost on his watch were for nothing. Fuck Nixon. And Kissinger and the rest of those guys who mismanaged that war. Too many good people were lost for no particular reason.

William said...

I just watched the film clip with McNamara discussing the immorality of war and, in a neat bit of jujitsu, throwing much of the blame on Curtis Lemay. An objection leaps to mind: The overlords of Japan never once, prior to the A bomb, discussed the fatalities that were being inflicted on the civilian Japanese population. To their mind, the people of Japan existed to safeguard the honor of the Japanese military, not the other way around. They knew the war was lost and kept on. The largest share of the disgrace belongs to Japan....Ditto with Vietnam. The losses we suffered were a fraction compared to those we inflicted on the Vietnamese. And what do the Vietnamese have to show for it? The same kind of corrupt crony capitalism that Diem was in charge of before the war......McNamara talks about proportionality in war. Weren't the Japanese and the Vietnamese the ones who did not have their cost accounting procedures in order? Also a disproportionate response is an effective weapon. If some dirty bomb with no return address goes off in New York or Tel Aviv, I would wish the good citizens of Teheran and Mecca to worry and be very afraid that Israel or the US would respond in a disproportionate, totally unjustified way. Such madness considerably diminishes the chance of a dirty bomb going off.

dbp said...

"He concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life."

He should have gotten out of the Pentagon as soon as he came to this (wrong) conclusion.

Wrong? How so? 1. We never even tried to invade the North. How can you know a war is unwinnable when you don't even try for better than a draw?

2. By 1970 the war was pretty much won. The insurgency was destroyed by Gen. Abrams' method of clearing and holding areas. As long as we had air and sea power nearby the North would never have been able to successfully invade the South. In fact, they only were able to do so because we didn't lift a finger to help the South when (in violation of the peace treaty) the North attacked.

Duncan said...

"Nothing he did, could stop the armies of North Vietnam."

I guess he couldn't do much.

The war was mismanaged. It shouldn't have been run from DC. Should have been fought more aggressively.

Minor points forgotten:

It was authorized.

It was popular (initially).

It wasn't "lost". The post-Watergate newly-pacifist Democrat Congress refused aid after the North conducted a conventional invasion of the South in violation of its treaty.

It's always moral to fight commie or fascist dictators. Such people can morally be killed at any time w/o particular justification.

Now it can be done better or worse and you may not want to do it at any given time but you always have the moral right to do it.

Cuba, North Korea, Iran. Dead meat whenever you like. No moral problems.

Those who doubt the above countenance slavery and are not worthy of the heritage of free men.

The Exalted said...

the domino theory was in no way borne out. the domino theory, at least as spelled out by mcnamara, envisioned all of southeast asia, including indonesia, malaysia, and even india, falling under communist sway. frankly, it was idiotic, even at the time.

Chip Ahoy said...

This thread is most elucidating.

bearbee said...

Kirk Parker said...

Cedarford,

"Likely no Afghanistan and the start of the radical Islamists..

You need to get out more. Certainly Afghanistan provided a big boost in credibility to a certain branch of Islamist, but you can't really think that's where they started, can you?

You might want to check out Qutb, Wahhab himself, or others going all the way back to Ibn Taymiyyah
.

Thanks for mentioning as I had my doubts about the validity the statement.. I thought the movement was underway in Turkey in the 1920's.

Sigivald said...

Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam.

Yeah, well, except that after he got booted out the North Vietnamese armies were quite effectively stopped for as long as Congress was willing to fund South Vietnam's air force.

So, it's not that the "strength of American soldiers" or "technology or logic" couldn't ... it's that his tactics couldn't. The war was, militarily, utterly winnable, and was won*.

(* I say won, because in 1973, when the US left, the North Vietnamese were unable to fight in South Vietnam and had been pushed entirely out of the country. They weren't able to push back effectively even without the US in South Vietnam until Congress threw South Vietnam to the wolves by cutting funding for their air force and removing all credibility behind US threats of retaliation for breaking the Paris Accords.

The Vietnam War was lost in Congress, not the battlefield.)

Cedarford said...

NKVD said...
Nixon could have pulled out of Viet Nam in '69 with the same results as he got in '74. All those lives lost on his watch were for nothing. Fuck Nixon. And Kissinger and the rest of those guys who mismanaged that war. Too many good people were lost for no particular reason.


Nope, because Nixon was working in strategic realities...far larger than NKVDs parachial focus.

Had we run like the French, or quit like the Belgians did at the sight of a German tank when Nixon took office - the Cold War would likely have ended on American weakness and fear of taking casualties in any amount.

No detente. No end to vast WMD arsenal buildups. No end to nerve gas and germ war in war. No volunteer Army. NATO dissolves.No China Pact. The Domino theory in Asia likely would have come true.

Nixon did what he had to do.

NKVD is still yet more testimony to the indulgence of the Boomers, their endless pissing and moaning. After '69, by mid -1971, Nixon drawdown lost less guys each year than we lost in a typical week in WWII or Korea.

Pity they had to die to help eventually defeat the Soviets, but all part of the Cold War threat...you couldn't separate Vietnam out as a "stand alone". Don't blame Nixon for confronting the reality of a dangerous Communist threat that managed in it's existence to kill more people than the Nazis did.

Alex said...

The American military loves George W. Bush, as witnessed by how many voted for in 2004! I challenge anyone to deny this.

Alex said...

BTW, how was Vietnam becoming Communist a threat to the USA, thousands of miles away separated by the vast Pacific Ocean and protected by the US Navy?

traditionalguy said...

Alex...It was no threat, except for a believed need to maintain the appearance that the USA would always fight when a Soviet Client state attacked its neighbors. Both Korea and Viet Nam were costly because they were wars requiring the goal to be a Draw. If we won on the ground, then the Communists in China and in Russia would escalate back including Thermo-nuclear forces. The best strategy was to ignore the VietNamese guerillas who already had a 35 year headstart on that war.

Jamey Hecht said...

At this hour of Mr. McNamara's death I direct your attention to an elegy for President Kennedy:
Limousine, Midnight Blue in which the following lines occur:

"Before you tapped him / for Defense, McNamara ran Ford Motor Co., / and if we"re lucky, he"s got more bold new ideas.:"

...as well as these lines:

"Ask not what the tolling bell can do for you, / ask what it matters in eternity. / Consider the dying stars, / how they bring unfinished business to a perfect end."

For 8 sample poems, each with its own little video, see the site above. Thank you.

bagoh20 said...

I see 3 possible scenarios in Vietnam:

1)Stay out - resulting in the usual communist purge costing at least 1 million lives, and resulting in another failed communist economy.

2) Fight hard and fast and win - less than 1 million killed reduced US casualties resulting in a free market democracy similar to South Korea or Taiwan.

3) Fight half-hearted and lose. High US casualties, a million die from war and then over a million from the purge and still get a failed communist state.

I respect our going, but I despise our losing. The decision to go to war should be done democratically, but fighting should be left to warriors. It should be swift and horrible so as never to be considered a game worth playing at.

If you simply imagine history so that we win in Vietnam, it becomes clear how important that goal was. Most of the negatives of Vietnam are avoided by a fast hard fight that wins. It is unfathomable that this was not possible by the U.S. at that time militarily.

Imagine Iraq today if we had withdrawn troops in 2007. The negatives from that are astounding compared to what Obama is lucky enough to be faced with today. Afghanistan would be unwinable, and the calls for democracy that we are seeing and will see more of in the M.E. would never have happened. Not to mention the horror in Iraq that would have occurred and be ongoing today.

We ignore our blessings like kids unwrapping Christmas gifts and asking what's next

dick said...

Alex,

Because a large part of our security was based on our word being worth believing in. If our word was no good, then why would anyone believe in what we said we would do and why would anyone depend on our being faithful. Without that then our markets would disappear, our threat to keep the peace anywhere in the world would be gone, our allies could not depend on our backing them up, and our enemies could treat us as a paper tiger. Remember 9/11? That was because our word was thought of as being that of a paper tiger so Al Qaeda thought they could attack with impunity.

LutherM said...

In the April 12, 1995, New York TIMES editorial, Howell Raines wrote, " Mr. McNamara must not escape the lasting moral condemnation of his countrymen." Raines cited " wasting lives atrociously", that " these were men who in the full hubristic glow of their power would not listen to logical warning or ethical appeal."
For today;
Robert McNamara is dead - De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

Howell Raines still lives.

The TIMES re-published that editorial today on its web site. I would feel better about that condemnation if the TIMES had equally condemned LBJ - ever.

Perhaps it is instructive to examine the actions of Howell Raines in the Jason Blair series of N Y TIMES printed falsehoods. Repeatedly warned by others, Raines pushed the plagiaristic career of Jason Blair, when even a pre-hiring check of credentials would have exposed the lie of having graduated from The University of Maryland. You might say that Howell Raines, a proponent of affirmative action and diversity at any cost, basked in his own " full hubristic glow ... would not listen to logical warning or ethical appeal."

The character flaws are similar - but Raines will never realize it.

Richard Fagin said...

"Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic, or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam and their South Vietnamese allies, the Vietcong."

After 40 years can we please stop peddling that utter falsehood. We could and did stop the North Vietnamese army and the Vietcong dead in their tracks in 1968. Tet was a battlefield disaster for the NVA. The 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi brought them crawling back to the negotiating table. By the time the troops came home Creighton Abrams had essentially won the guerilla war. Then we just left the poor South Vietnamese on their own to get overrun when it was clear we'd lost the will to invervene again.

The only things that failed in Vietnam were American political will, and Sec. McNamara's belief that you could manage an army rather lead it.

Ralph L said...

One of my dad's friends, who retired a Marine LtGen, held the charts when the Joint Chiefs briefed LBJ on their strategy to take the war to the North in 65. LBJ ripped them a new one. He was too afraid that China would intervene as they had in Korea. He just wanted to not lose, as opposed to winning.

Westmoreland's strategy was a lot like Abizaid's in Iraq, his more successful successor Abrams' was a lot like Petraeus'.

TmjUtah said...

Good.

Chase said...

While not an expert and not willing to debate it it here, I have read over 360 books on all angles of political history on the "Vietnam Conflict". I have done so reading alongside thousands of news accounts on the Vietnam Conflict. It began as a hobby in 1983. I wanted to know why the Untied States really screwed up this one, and I had never believed in it that war. But all my reading and additionally, talks with some 3 dozen veterans leads me to believe this:

The United States could have won militarily in Vietnam by late 1972 if it had wanted to, and at the cost of at least 25% less American lives and casualties than were actually lost because of the loss of political will.

The Vietnamese knew that they could not beat us militarily - they said so several times officially. They knew they just had to break the will of the American people.

How sad for both the Vietnamese and the Americans who fought there. How shameful for the anti-war Americans (me among them) who placed selfish politics over the lives of the Vietnamese and American troops, and over the honor of the United States. Our intstitutions - among them the media led by one self-hating Jew anti-war Sulzberger - have suffered for the selfishness of that time and done damage to this nation from which we will probably never fully recover.

That's my 2 cents.