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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I’m usually a fan of Dominic Sandbrook’s writing, but this essay fell flat for me. It reads like an essay in search of an ending.
The author covers the well-trodden ground of America’s ignominious withdrawal from Vietnam and its attempts to regain national pride in subsequent conflicts leading up to the middle east wars. I was waiting for him to discuss the Ukraine war. Is Biden still haunted by Vietnam after all these years, or is he motivated by his well known distrust of Russia? That might have been an interesting angle to pursue.
Instead, the author ends with an account of some particularly lame remarks by Donald Trump about his love life and the possibility of catching a disease. Then the author assures me I’ll never think of Apocalypse Now the same way again. Really? When I hear mention of “napalm in the morning” am I supposed to think of the burning feeling that comes with a dose of clap?
I was genuinely interested in this article at the beginning, but felt let down by what seemed like a weak attempt at a Trump hit piece by the end. I’ll be interested to read other people’s reactions to this essay.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

My reaction? Raking over ancient history hoping to find precise parallels for our modern obsessions. The lesson that I learnt from Vietnam (and other military adventures) is that war is always amazingly messy,crippingly expensive, and rarely truly victorious. Only fight in defence of vital interests. Just make sure that you know what they are.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“Raking over ancient history hoping to find precise parallels for our modern obsessions.”

Precisely, we never will, if only because the Ancients set standards we will never even equal let alone surpass.

A perfect case of “ Look on my works ye mighty and despair “.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

“Look on my works ye mighty and despair “
Your reference to that phrase, as intended by Ozymandias to strike awe, rather contrasts with Shelley’s, which reflects on the inevitably ignominious end for even those with the greatest achievements.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Thanks for highlighting that sharp contrast. The hubris of any hyper-individualized greatness is also shown in the number of enduring poetic, musical, and artistic works by Anonymous, an equalizing attribution which often reflects a creative origin of “Anonymous et alia”.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Do you by any chance live in Pseud’s Corner?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Do you by any chance live in Pseud’s Corner?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

NOT necessarily ignominious.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Thanks for highlighting that sharp contrast. The hubris of any hyper-individualized greatness is also shown in the number of enduring poetic, musical, and artistic works by Anonymous, an equalizing attribution which often reflects a creative origin of “Anonymous et alia”.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

NOT necessarily ignominious.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I have some antiquarian leanings but you’re taking it too far man! I suspect that if a re-animated Marcus Aurelius or his different equal called Nigel Peckington appeared before you that you’d tell him he couldn’t hold a candle to Marcus Aurelius.
Tough to be born a couple of millennia too late, but would you be good enough for them in all their vaunted greatness?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Probably not, but would YOU?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Haha. I don’t know. In some ways I’m not good enough for me right now, when I squint into real and figurative mirrors. But I don’t conjure a fantasy of some Golden or Silver Age that I imagine was ever so superior to the actual living age I’ve been consigned to, with all its reeking beauties and sublime agonies–which, in my historiographic hypothesis, have remained a fundamentally similar mixed bag for millennia.
Not anymore that is. As a lit-struck Anglophile of 18 or 19 I did idealize Dr. Johnson’s mid-18th century London. But now I’d rather be stuck in this nightmare, not least because it means I get to be alive for the time being.
I know you’re learned and realistic in the main, so you must have confronted some of the disease, brutality, and rampant superstition and ignorance of the ancient times you insistently lionize according to a subset of its extant highlights.
By the way I do think you’d be good (and bad) enough for Golden Age Athens, though you’d likely be known, in part, for a tendency to idealize Homeric and Mycenean times. Thanks for your good online sportsmanship.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Through no fault of my own I was born into a world of extreme privilege, not that I bothered to noticed until I was about ten!
As such the “world has been my oyster” and I am far happier living ‘now’ than at any other conceivable time in History.

However I think it is perfectly reasonable to explore how we progressed from Apes to where we are now, and by using comparative analysis make value judgments on the civilisations and societies that have preceded us.

As such I regard the Classical World as the absolute zenith of human achievement up to the advent of the Industrial Age. (It is still too early to say how that will end.)

Obviously I am NOT blind to the horrors of the past, but they accompany ever age in one form or another. What it far more important in the application of Logic to our ‘miserable’ condition, and in this sphere the Ancients are without equal, as I think you may agree?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Well said. Thanks for contextualizing and clarifying your point of view. In picking favorite eras I’m more of a Renaissance guy, but for our civilization–what stubborn bricks remain, acknowledged or not–the Classical World is the sine qua non, no question. (Judeo-Christian values also play a central role that you dispute as a force for good, I think, be we needn’t get back into that here).

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I have some sympathy for the Renaissance argument, after all the very name invokes the rebirth of Classical Civilisation.
Judeo-Christian values certainly brought some much needed compassion to the world, but ‘their’ insistence on Monotheism I have always found detrimental, and the complete antithesis of the Classical World and its preference for Polytheism.

After all if Christianity was as perfect as it sometimes claimed, surely it could have tolerated other opinions?

‘Sol Invictus Mithras’ was also very popular and seems to have coexisted quite happily with other cults, and so also ‘Baal’ and even those ‘nutters’ of Crocodilopolis in the Faiyum Oasis, who ‘worshiped’ the aforementioned reptile, and were happy to tolerate other religions/cults.

In fact the only impositions the Romans seem to have made were that all ‘religions’ were prohibited from making human sacrifice* and secondly demanding State cash!

Perhaps we should blame the Late Roman Civil Service for the ruthless implementation of monotheism, rather than the early Christian fathers. Either way it was the complete reversal of a thousand year tradition of religious toleration. It also now made ‘God’ yet another thing to fight for.

(* Hence the campaign against the Druids in Britannia, under Suetonius Paulinus, circa 60 AD.)

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Much needed compassion indeed. I also dislike the emphasis on the One True Path (according to what I suspect was a apocryphal saying of Jesus) and the “ruthless implementation” (aptly phrased) by people who “honor [him] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [him]”.
On the whole, I’m in such strong and surprising agreement with your remarks that instead of nitpicking disputatious fodder I’ll just say thanks for your time, and catch you on another board.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Much needed compassion indeed. I also dislike the emphasis on the One True Path (according to what I suspect was a apocryphal saying of Jesus) and the “ruthless implementation” (aptly phrased) by people who “honor [him] with their lips, but their hearts are far from [him]”.
On the whole, I’m in such strong and surprising agreement with your remarks that instead of nitpicking disputatious fodder I’ll just say thanks for your time, and catch you on another board.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I have some sympathy for the Renaissance argument, after all the very name invokes the rebirth of Classical Civilisation.
Judeo-Christian values certainly brought some much needed compassion to the world, but ‘their’ insistence on Monotheism I have always found detrimental, and the complete antithesis of the Classical World and its preference for Polytheism.

After all if Christianity was as perfect as it sometimes claimed, surely it could have tolerated other opinions?

‘Sol Invictus Mithras’ was also very popular and seems to have coexisted quite happily with other cults, and so also ‘Baal’ and even those ‘nutters’ of Crocodilopolis in the Faiyum Oasis, who ‘worshiped’ the aforementioned reptile, and were happy to tolerate other religions/cults.

In fact the only impositions the Romans seem to have made were that all ‘religions’ were prohibited from making human sacrifice* and secondly demanding State cash!

Perhaps we should blame the Late Roman Civil Service for the ruthless implementation of monotheism, rather than the early Christian fathers. Either way it was the complete reversal of a thousand year tradition of religious toleration. It also now made ‘God’ yet another thing to fight for.

(* Hence the campaign against the Druids in Britannia, under Suetonius Paulinus, circa 60 AD.)

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Well said. Thanks for contextualizing and clarifying your point of view. In picking favorite eras I’m more of a Renaissance guy, but for our civilization–what stubborn bricks remain, acknowledged or not–the Classical World is the sine qua non, no question. (Judeo-Christian values also play a central role that you dispute as a force for good, I think, be we needn’t get back into that here).

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Through no fault of my own I was born into a world of extreme privilege, not that I bothered to noticed until I was about ten!
As such the “world has been my oyster” and I am far happier living ‘now’ than at any other conceivable time in History.

However I think it is perfectly reasonable to explore how we progressed from Apes to where we are now, and by using comparative analysis make value judgments on the civilisations and societies that have preceded us.

As such I regard the Classical World as the absolute zenith of human achievement up to the advent of the Industrial Age. (It is still too early to say how that will end.)

Obviously I am NOT blind to the horrors of the past, but they accompany ever age in one form or another. What it far more important in the application of Logic to our ‘miserable’ condition, and in this sphere the Ancients are without equal, as I think you may agree?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

Haha. I don’t know. In some ways I’m not good enough for me right now, when I squint into real and figurative mirrors. But I don’t conjure a fantasy of some Golden or Silver Age that I imagine was ever so superior to the actual living age I’ve been consigned to, with all its reeking beauties and sublime agonies–which, in my historiographic hypothesis, have remained a fundamentally similar mixed bag for millennia.
Not anymore that is. As a lit-struck Anglophile of 18 or 19 I did idealize Dr. Johnson’s mid-18th century London. But now I’d rather be stuck in this nightmare, not least because it means I get to be alive for the time being.
I know you’re learned and realistic in the main, so you must have confronted some of the disease, brutality, and rampant superstition and ignorance of the ancient times you insistently lionize according to a subset of its extant highlights.
By the way I do think you’d be good (and bad) enough for Golden Age Athens, though you’d likely be known, in part, for a tendency to idealize Homeric and Mycenean times. Thanks for your good online sportsmanship.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Probably not, but would YOU?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

“Look on my works ye mighty and despair “
Your reference to that phrase, as intended by Ozymandias to strike awe, rather contrasts with Shelley’s, which reflects on the inevitably ignominious end for even those with the greatest achievements.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago

I have some antiquarian leanings but you’re taking it too far man! I suspect that if a re-animated Marcus Aurelius or his different equal called Nigel Peckington appeared before you that you’d tell him he couldn’t hold a candle to Marcus Aurelius.
Tough to be born a couple of millennia too late, but would you be good enough for them in all their vaunted greatness?

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Ex soldier here. All wars end in defeat for someone, even the so called, ‘winners’. Families lose, the soldiers themselves lose, possibly the most. They go young and come back ancient, with the wonder of life kicked, and gouged out of them. Civilians lose when targetted and when their young die, or, if really unlucky, come back maimed in body and soul. Everyone loses. Perhaps the first to go should be the politicians and senior ranks. See if their enthusiasm wanes at all.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark Phillips
Stewart Cazier
Stewart Cazier
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

General Smedley Butler said much the same after an illustrious career, and also much about profiteering and the usurpation of principles to hide the usually much more base motives for conflict. Few listened and a generation later Vietnam happened.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Stewart Cazier

War has been the defining characteristic of humanity since humanity began, let alone after Vietnam.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Arguably the defining activity, but I would cite resilience and ingenuity as candidates for defining characteristic.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Arguably the defining activity, but I would cite resilience and ingenuity as candidates for defining characteristic.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  Stewart Cazier

War has been the defining characteristic of humanity since humanity began, let alone after Vietnam.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

Well said

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

As a Vietnam Era Veteran who served stateside during the war, watching the collapse in Afghanistan has been deja vue all over again. 

I have always thought that at least one general officer should have resigned over the ridiculous way civilian leadership ordered us to fight the Vietnam War, leaving all the ports in North Vietnam open. We waited until December, 1972, to launch 11 days of unrestricted bombing and air dropped mines to shut down all the ports. If we had done that in 1965 or 1968, the war would have been a lot less costly in lives and money. We might have won. 

Rules of engagement for Afghanistan were so idiotic that some general officer should have resigned in protest. The orders for the withdrawal in particular were a farce from a military point of view.

There is no accountability for failure in the general officer ranks of the US Military. The British famously executed failed Admiral John Byng in 1757, to, as Voltaire put it in “Candide,” encourage the other admirals. Britania ruled the waves for about 180 years after the execution. In the US, a general officer’s failure on the battlefield or in weapons procurement should, at the very least, lead to immediate retirement after a reduction in grade, at the lower grade. The president should see this done as Commander in Chief.  If not, the Senate can refuse to confirm retirement as a 3 or 4 star flag officer.

Right now, morale is low. Nobody respects senior leadership, because they take no responsibility for failure. This has to change.

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago

But the failure goes all the way to the top. Bush started the Iraq war before Afghaniston was finished. Rumsfeld insisted on a “light” footprint despite advice from the generals that more troops were needed. Don’t blame the military the mistakes of the civilian leadreship. The same thing happened in Vietnam.

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago

But the failure goes all the way to the top. Bush started the Iraq war before Afghaniston was finished. Rumsfeld insisted on a “light” footprint despite advice from the generals that more troops were needed. Don’t blame the military the mistakes of the civilian leadreship. The same thing happened in Vietnam.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

By that logic, no “foreign” wars should ever be fought, and Europe, if not the entire world, would now be known as Greater Germania, or provinces of the Third Reich.
War is suffering, yes. War is cruel and pitiless, yes. It’s also sometimes necessary to avoid worse fates than armed conflict, which are brutal, totalitarian dictatorships.
And sometimes, those subjected to the terror and violence of combat forget, albeit in their very real suffering, that certain matters can only be settled by the military, which is the sole reason for the military’s existence.
The South Vietnamese had a very weak, often cruel, and generally unstable government. That is entirely true.
But they were nowhere near as vicious as the Northern Communists, erstwhile allies of both Chairman Mao (easily history’s greatest mass murderer), Stalin himself, and the abattoir socialists of the Khymer Rouge.
Leftist Democrats, as the article states, broke out the bunting and cheered in glee as the North (whom they generally excused, as fellow leftists) executed tens of thousands of Vietnamese.
Alternatively, South Vietnam could’ve been garrisoned and kept intact as a more or less free market, western friendly country, much as South Korea was. Or as Ukraine is kept sovereign, today. South Vietnam had several noteworthy commanders, more than a few competent combat units, and enough support among the Catholic, western-friendly segments of the populace to survive, albeit with foreign aid and arms.
Democrats chose instead to withdraw all support for a people who often fought valiantly alongside our own troops, ostensibly so that we would then have more money for those in America who are unable, or more likely unwilling, to support themselves.
But the well-documented failures and general miseries of the “Great Society” is another set of topics that progressive Democrats today ignore, excuse, or misremember.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

All true. But it’s been true forever…as far back as you choose to go, it’s been true.
War is what moves the world. I suspect it always will. The fact that it leaves the ‘naked and the dead’…the “eyeless, boneless, chickenless egg…left with a bowl to beg” in its wake rarely affects the decisions made by the powers-that-be to send Johnny back to war again.
And War, as much as we might despise it, works. It is, in many ways, the shortest distance between two points, those points being: the Thing I Want and What I Have
In the absence of civilization (and, between contending nations, and contrary ideologies there’s very little of that) life remains very Hobbesian: short, nasty, and brutish (a fact easy to forget in our air conditioned, wifi lives). And in such a raw and hungry place, it’s easy to convince yourself (your nation) that not only could you use those oil fields, those port cities, that territory, those treasuries…but you deserve them! In some sort of twisted historical sense, it’s too easy to convince the War Council that the Sudetanland really is and should be German. And equally it’s to easy to convince yourself that such a small and almost nameless thing is but a small price to pay for ‘peace in our time’. And so it goes; 7 years later we mourn 80M dead.
But — we also celebrate a re-emergent world, absent the particular tyrannies which threatened it. Was it worth it?

M Harries
M Harries
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

Chamberlain and Europe were in no position to oppose Hitler going into the Sudatenland. There was a chance Hitler might have stopped there. Had Britain sent in the BEF to defend the Sudatenland, firstly many living there would have opposed them; and secondly, it would have been easy to portray the British as those who instigated war. The British/Euro victim card was useful in shoring up support for opposing Hitler’s regime. And it is quite likely that what ensued would have only been the same as what happened after Chamberlain’s ‘Peace in our time’ promise from Hitler. Wasn’t the promise simply a ‘we’re not ready yet’ tool for the British to buy time to build up their own war machine?

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  M Harries

Agreed.
But I believe there’s also a significant possibility that much of Hitler’s ‘bullying’ was sheer, empty (albeit successful) bravado, with the German military still significantly unsure (and themselves unprepared) for a major European conflict at the time of Munich. One year later, when the Blitzkrieg rolled into Poland, the Allies were overmatched.
‘What If’ is all just speculation; interesting, nonetheless.
The point, of course, is that War is, or can be, a very effective ‘continuation of policy by other means’. Bloody and filled with human tragedy, yes….but as history demonstrates over and over again, it works (not always, and not necessarily in the way those who started the war intended). The post-war world is usually significantly different from the pre-war, reflecting, as it does, the power-shifts that drove the war’s outcome.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  M Harries

Agreed.
But I believe there’s also a significant possibility that much of Hitler’s ‘bullying’ was sheer, empty (albeit successful) bravado, with the German military still significantly unsure (and themselves unprepared) for a major European conflict at the time of Munich. One year later, when the Blitzkrieg rolled into Poland, the Allies were overmatched.
‘What If’ is all just speculation; interesting, nonetheless.
The point, of course, is that War is, or can be, a very effective ‘continuation of policy by other means’. Bloody and filled with human tragedy, yes….but as history demonstrates over and over again, it works (not always, and not necessarily in the way those who started the war intended). The post-war world is usually significantly different from the pre-war, reflecting, as it does, the power-shifts that drove the war’s outcome.

M Harries
M Harries
1 year ago
Reply to  B Davis

Chamberlain and Europe were in no position to oppose Hitler going into the Sudatenland. There was a chance Hitler might have stopped there. Had Britain sent in the BEF to defend the Sudatenland, firstly many living there would have opposed them; and secondly, it would have been easy to portray the British as those who instigated war. The British/Euro victim card was useful in shoring up support for opposing Hitler’s regime. And it is quite likely that what ensued would have only been the same as what happened after Chamberlain’s ‘Peace in our time’ promise from Hitler. Wasn’t the promise simply a ‘we’re not ready yet’ tool for the British to buy time to build up their own war machine?

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

But surely sometimes you need to fight whatever subsequent cost?
Unless you believe that surrender and subjugation is a better outcome?
Clearly depends on whether war outcome is existential or not.
So ww2 was but Vietnam was not as we see it now.
Back then it was not obvious.
I remember living under communism and chearing American moon landings and American side in Vietnam.
I felt sorry for Vietnamese people but from selfish perspective any defeat for communism was great news.

Stewart Cazier
Stewart Cazier
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

General Smedley Butler said much the same after an illustrious career, and also much about profiteering and the usurpation of principles to hide the usually much more base motives for conflict. Few listened and a generation later Vietnam happened.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

Well said

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

As a Vietnam Era Veteran who served stateside during the war, watching the collapse in Afghanistan has been deja vue all over again. 

I have always thought that at least one general officer should have resigned over the ridiculous way civilian leadership ordered us to fight the Vietnam War, leaving all the ports in North Vietnam open. We waited until December, 1972, to launch 11 days of unrestricted bombing and air dropped mines to shut down all the ports. If we had done that in 1965 or 1968, the war would have been a lot less costly in lives and money. We might have won. 

Rules of engagement for Afghanistan were so idiotic that some general officer should have resigned in protest. The orders for the withdrawal in particular were a farce from a military point of view.

There is no accountability for failure in the general officer ranks of the US Military. The British famously executed failed Admiral John Byng in 1757, to, as Voltaire put it in “Candide,” encourage the other admirals. Britania ruled the waves for about 180 years after the execution. In the US, a general officer’s failure on the battlefield or in weapons procurement should, at the very least, lead to immediate retirement after a reduction in grade, at the lower grade. The president should see this done as Commander in Chief.  If not, the Senate can refuse to confirm retirement as a 3 or 4 star flag officer.

Right now, morale is low. Nobody respects senior leadership, because they take no responsibility for failure. This has to change.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

By that logic, no “foreign” wars should ever be fought, and Europe, if not the entire world, would now be known as Greater Germania, or provinces of the Third Reich.
War is suffering, yes. War is cruel and pitiless, yes. It’s also sometimes necessary to avoid worse fates than armed conflict, which are brutal, totalitarian dictatorships.
And sometimes, those subjected to the terror and violence of combat forget, albeit in their very real suffering, that certain matters can only be settled by the military, which is the sole reason for the military’s existence.
The South Vietnamese had a very weak, often cruel, and generally unstable government. That is entirely true.
But they were nowhere near as vicious as the Northern Communists, erstwhile allies of both Chairman Mao (easily history’s greatest mass murderer), Stalin himself, and the abattoir socialists of the Khymer Rouge.
Leftist Democrats, as the article states, broke out the bunting and cheered in glee as the North (whom they generally excused, as fellow leftists) executed tens of thousands of Vietnamese.
Alternatively, South Vietnam could’ve been garrisoned and kept intact as a more or less free market, western friendly country, much as South Korea was. Or as Ukraine is kept sovereign, today. South Vietnam had several noteworthy commanders, more than a few competent combat units, and enough support among the Catholic, western-friendly segments of the populace to survive, albeit with foreign aid and arms.
Democrats chose instead to withdraw all support for a people who often fought valiantly alongside our own troops, ostensibly so that we would then have more money for those in America who are unable, or more likely unwilling, to support themselves.
But the well-documented failures and general miseries of the “Great Society” is another set of topics that progressive Democrats today ignore, excuse, or misremember.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

All true. But it’s been true forever…as far back as you choose to go, it’s been true.
War is what moves the world. I suspect it always will. The fact that it leaves the ‘naked and the dead’…the “eyeless, boneless, chickenless egg…left with a bowl to beg” in its wake rarely affects the decisions made by the powers-that-be to send Johnny back to war again.
And War, as much as we might despise it, works. It is, in many ways, the shortest distance between two points, those points being: the Thing I Want and What I Have
In the absence of civilization (and, between contending nations, and contrary ideologies there’s very little of that) life remains very Hobbesian: short, nasty, and brutish (a fact easy to forget in our air conditioned, wifi lives). And in such a raw and hungry place, it’s easy to convince yourself (your nation) that not only could you use those oil fields, those port cities, that territory, those treasuries…but you deserve them! In some sort of twisted historical sense, it’s too easy to convince the War Council that the Sudetanland really is and should be German. And equally it’s to easy to convince yourself that such a small and almost nameless thing is but a small price to pay for ‘peace in our time’. And so it goes; 7 years later we mourn 80M dead.
But — we also celebrate a re-emergent world, absent the particular tyrannies which threatened it. Was it worth it?

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark Phillips

But surely sometimes you need to fight whatever subsequent cost?
Unless you believe that surrender and subjugation is a better outcome?
Clearly depends on whether war outcome is existential or not.
So ww2 was but Vietnam was not as we see it now.
Back then it was not obvious.
I remember living under communism and chearing American moon landings and American side in Vietnam.
I felt sorry for Vietnamese people but from selfish perspective any defeat for communism was great news.

0 0
0 0
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Agreed. But as to the question of “vital interests” and knowing what they are, well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Who defines? Who decides?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

While I don’t think Sandbrook’s case is very well or usefully made in this article: He suggests a partial, not a precise parallel, and a lingering cultural-political impact that is only “ancient history” in the slangiest sense that could also be used for something that happened last month.
Many of today’s major-though-aging politicos (not to mention other boomers, and quite a few surviving homeless vets) such as Biden, Trump, Sanders, and Romney, were shaped by the Vietnam War and its enduring ripples, whether they were radicals, dodgers, establishment tip-toers, or pro-war counter-protesters–match the descriptions to the names at your own discretion.
Valid general point about easy or strained parallels, but no raking over or way-back obsessiveness is needed with Vietnam.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

My beef with Sanbrook is that he forgets to use precursors for politicians he agrees with, but always remembers them for Republicans. In the spirit of equality, for example, he could have said, Trump, the only recent president who didn’t entangle the US in a foreign war, or the doddering, lifetime of lying Biden.

Last edited 1 year ago by Warren Trees
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

That’s fair. I tend to get annoyed by inconsistency more when it comes from the side of an issue I lean away from (most do), but I try to resist one-sidedness, and to value fairmindedness that comes from any sane point of view. Sandbrook reaches almost no one who doesn’t already agree with him by closing with a few cheap shots and a what I thought was a pretty stale attempt at wit. Elsewhere in the same article, he demonstrates an ability to do better.
I do think that Trump was and is a more thoroughgoing and vicious sort of liar than Biden is (doddering or at least “mediocre at his peak”, I’ll grant for sure) but I hope that doesn’t have to explode our common ground here.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

That’s fair. I tend to get annoyed by inconsistency more when it comes from the side of an issue I lean away from (most do), but I try to resist one-sidedness, and to value fairmindedness that comes from any sane point of view. Sandbrook reaches almost no one who doesn’t already agree with him by closing with a few cheap shots and a what I thought was a pretty stale attempt at wit. Elsewhere in the same article, he demonstrates an ability to do better.
I do think that Trump was and is a more thoroughgoing and vicious sort of liar than Biden is (doddering or at least “mediocre at his peak”, I’ll grant for sure) but I hope that doesn’t have to explode our common ground here.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

One obvious problem with this article is mentioning Trump as draft dogger but ignoring Clinton and Bush junior.
Whatever you might say about Trump, he didn’t start any wars.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

My beef with Sanbrook is that he forgets to use precursors for politicians he agrees with, but always remembers them for Republicans. In the spirit of equality, for example, he could have said, Trump, the only recent president who didn’t entangle the US in a foreign war, or the doddering, lifetime of lying Biden.

Last edited 1 year ago by Warren Trees
Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

One obvious problem with this article is mentioning Trump as draft dogger but ignoring Clinton and Bush junior.
Whatever you might say about Trump, he didn’t start any wars.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

“Raking over ancient history hoping to find precise parallels for our modern obsessions.”

Precisely, we never will, if only because the Ancients set standards we will never even equal let alone surpass.

A perfect case of “ Look on my works ye mighty and despair “.

Mark Phillips
Mark Phillips
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Ex soldier here. All wars end in defeat for someone, even the so called, ‘winners’. Families lose, the soldiers themselves lose, possibly the most. They go young and come back ancient, with the wonder of life kicked, and gouged out of them. Civilians lose when targetted and when their young die, or, if really unlucky, come back maimed in body and soul. Everyone loses. Perhaps the first to go should be the politicians and senior ranks. See if their enthusiasm wanes at all.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark Phillips
0 0
0 0
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Agreed. But as to the question of “vital interests” and knowing what they are, well, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Who defines? Who decides?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

While I don’t think Sandbrook’s case is very well or usefully made in this article: He suggests a partial, not a precise parallel, and a lingering cultural-political impact that is only “ancient history” in the slangiest sense that could also be used for something that happened last month.
Many of today’s major-though-aging politicos (not to mention other boomers, and quite a few surviving homeless vets) such as Biden, Trump, Sanders, and Romney, were shaped by the Vietnam War and its enduring ripples, whether they were radicals, dodgers, establishment tip-toers, or pro-war counter-protesters–match the descriptions to the names at your own discretion.
Valid general point about easy or strained parallels, but no raking over or way-back obsessiveness is needed with Vietnam.

Last edited 1 year ago by AJ Mac
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You’re not wrong.

As Weekend Essays go, it’s going to be a long weekend.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I felt the same about the ending – I certainly expected Sandbrook to tie in somehow the irony that progeny of the anti vietnam war advocates are now the war hawks and vice versa for the 60s love-it-or-leave-it crowd.
I did get a chuckle with Trumps own personal war trials – I hadn’t heard about his struggle.

Last edited 1 year ago by Michael Coleman
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

There’s no indication at all that Ukraine needs US troops to defend it. Ukrainians have absorbed new weapons quickly and are using them effectively. US aid will be limited to arms, ammo and training. There’s no potential for a Vietnam style quagmire. US troops were required in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq because all of them lacked troops able to use modern weapons effectively and the will to win. Ukraine doesn’t have that problem.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 year ago

American troops are already in Ukraine.
This is, however, a good thing, as it discourages Putin from further territorial ambitions, not to mention the PRC from the shores of Taiwan.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

American troops as ‘advisors’ are in the Ukraine but not officially fighting. That said, it’s highly unlikely that their presence is deterring anything that Putin or Xi might do.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago

American troops as ‘advisors’ are in the Ukraine but not officially fighting. That said, it’s highly unlikely that their presence is deterring anything that Putin or Xi might do.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
1 year ago

American troops are already in Ukraine.
This is, however, a good thing, as it discourages Putin from further territorial ambitions, not to mention the PRC from the shores of Taiwan.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

There’s no indication at all that Ukraine needs US troops to defend it. Ukrainians have absorbed new weapons quickly and are using them effectively. US aid will be limited to arms, ammo and training. There’s no potential for a Vietnam style quagmire. US troops were required in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq because all of them lacked troops able to use modern weapons effectively and the will to win. Ukraine doesn’t have that problem.

R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I, to, was waiting for Sandbrook to transition to a comparison of Ukraine and Vietnam, and the contemporary leaders who came of age in the Vietnam era.

Sadly his article was a pretext for taking a swipe at Donald Trump who, coincidentally or not, is a potential candidate for the office of President in 2024.

Hmmmm … probably just a coincidence.

Last edited 1 year ago by R Kays
0 0
0 0
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

Until the author identified the draft evader as Don Trump, I initially thought he was referring to the man who was famously nicknamed “Slick Willie.”

Last edited 1 year ago by 0 0
0 0
0 0
1 year ago
Reply to  R Kays

Until the author identified the draft evader as Don Trump, I initially thought he was referring to the man who was famously nicknamed “Slick Willie.”

Last edited 1 year ago by 0 0
Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Meh, I thought the ending was mildly entertaining.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Trump comments were hilarious. Perhaps you’re upset because your big orange frat-boy has been tarnished?  

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

No more tarnished than the addled, plagiarist, lying current President Biden.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

No more tarnished than the addled, plagiarist, lying current President Biden.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

As a former US Air Force Systems Analyst Officer (1972-1976), the part of Vietnam that I remember best is that in 11 days of unrestricted bombing and air dropped mines, Operation Linebacker II put all of North Vietnam’s ports out of business. This cut off all supplies, because the Red Chinese skimmed 90% plus of what was shipped overland. If Linebacker II had been launched in 1965, or even 1968, instead of December, 1972, it would have saved a lot of lives and made Counter Insurgency (COIN) a lot more effective, a lot earlier.

We lost in Vietnam because between 1973 and 1975 Congress cut aid to South Vietnam by 75% and outlawed US air strikes anywhere in Southeast Asia. Congress and the American people lost patience with the Vietnam War. If we had bombed in 1965 and kept bombing, we would not have had Congress outlaw air strikes after we had won in 1967 or 1968.

The lesson of Vietnam and later US failures isn’t that there’s no military solution to political problems. The lesson is that our military strategy and tactics for fighting these wars didn’t work. Allowing guerrillas a source of abundant financing and supply, allowing guerrillas sanctuary in other countries and imposing restrictive rules of engagement artificially limits the application of American military power.

Recently, we have watched ISIS go from strong to dead because we eliminated their source of income, oil sales, by bombing their tanker trucks, oil fields and oil handling facilities. I don’t mean to make light of the combat efforts it took to eliminate ISIS, but I do want to point out that ISIS was far less formidable broke than they were when they were rich. Eliminating their financial resources made them far easier to defeat.

Which brings us to Afghanistan. The Taliban ran on opium sales. Everybody knows it. To eliminate the Taliban, we would have needed to eliminate their opium sales. When we chose not to do it, we chose to lose. We compounded the problem by allowing the Taliban to use Pakistan as a sanctuary. Restrictive rules of engagement, as in Vietnam, didn’t help either.

There was a military solution in Afghanistan for the Taliban, just like there was a military solution for the North Vietnamese Army in Vietnam. Few believe the Communists could have won an election in South Vietnam without intimidation, and few believe the Taliban could win an Afghan election without intimidation.

In the future, if we’re not willing to cut off guerrilla’s main supply source, we shoudn’t try to defeat them. If we aren’t going to even try to win, we shouldn’t play. Military leadership owes the American people a resignation and an explanation if they are ordered to wage a half a$$ed guerrilla war we can’t win. Two episodes of the Fall of Saigon, even if one is in Kabul over 40 years later, is two too many.

I also remember that the left’s reaction to Communists killing 2 million Cambodians and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Laotians, after US involvement in the war was over, was to claim there was “no bloodbath.” The aftermath bloodbath of the Vietnam War shows it was a just war for the US, and shows that the “give peace a chance” crowd denies that they obviously have a lot of blood on their hands.

Last edited 1 year ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Gosh – ‘we would have won in Vietnam if we had poured in more resources’. How delusional can you get? How many more than 2 million Vietnamese would you have had to kill, and countless more maimed, physically and mentally? Kill everyone and create a wasteland and call it victory! Come back General Westmoreland all is forgiven. It’s as if you hadn’t read those many memoirs of US soldiers (and others – eg Michael Herr’s Despatches) with their bleak tales of failure for 10 years or more. And the Pentagon Papers with their analysis as early as 1966 (?) showed that the US had no chance of ‘victory’ in Vietnam. The Vietnamese had had enough after a century of colonialism – a lesson that Russia would have been wise to take on in Ukraine.

Pol Pot was no communist, that was just a convenient label – he was a psychopath. And the Killing Fields would never have happened if the US had kept out of Vietnam. Don’t blame the ‘left’ for ignoring Pol Pot, it was the whole US establishment with their heads in the sand.

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

I don’t understand. Pol Pot said he was a Communist, his leadership cadre thought themselves agents of a Marxist ideal (instituting a more extreme version of Mao’s policy of sending achievers to work as peasants).
I don’t disagree that Pol Pot was a psychopath, but only in the sense that he believed that people are disposable in the quest for the ideal state. Mao, Stalin, and the true believers effecting their policies were the same, but killed many more. Are all of them not of “the left”?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

I am arguing for less resources applied differently. The US was and is an air power. Putting 500,000 ground troops in Vietnam, without bombing the ports in the North was military malpractice.

The part of strategy in guerrilla war that the US has forgotten is that without supplies, guerrillas die. Guerrillas don’t have the luxury of growing food or manufacturing ammunition for themselves. They’re on the run. Rangers in the American Colonies originally got their name because they ranged through Indian territory and attacked Indian farming villages, which were the base of Indian supplies. The US beat the Plains Indians by almost exterminating the American buffalo, which the Plains Indians used for food, clothing and shelter. Hunting the American buffalo to extinction was an intentional strategy originally proposed by General William T. Sherman. It was carried out ruthlessly, and it worked exactly as planned. The Plains Indians moved onto reservations because they had nothing to eat.

The Linebacker II bombings were successful. The North Vietnamese signed the 1973 Paris Peace Accords in January, less than a month after the bombing. It took the North until 1975 to repair the damage and build up enough supplies to launch their final attack. If the US had been bombing ports, instead of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the bombing would have been more effective in cutting supplies and require less air assets. Remember, Linebacker II only lasted 11 days.

Last edited 1 year ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
1 year ago

Agree on the importance of logistics, adding that the extermination campaing against the buffaloes was an abominable genocide.
You are perhaps missing more than a point concerning Vietnam: the border with China would have kept opened even if ports were bombed. Two, US policy was not about wining the war but keeping the military industry going after WWII and Korea. Earning profit is often more important than winning a war.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The Chinese were skimming up to 90% of the Russian supplies intended for North Vietnam.

In case you didn’t notice, American buffalo are animals, not people. Slaughtering animals isn’t genocide.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The Chinese were skimming up to 90% of the Russian supplies intended for North Vietnam.

In case you didn’t notice, American buffalo are animals, not people. Slaughtering animals isn’t genocide.

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
1 year ago

Agree on the importance of logistics, adding that the extermination campaing against the buffaloes was an abominable genocide.
You are perhaps missing more than a point concerning Vietnam: the border with China would have kept opened even if ports were bombed. Two, US policy was not about wining the war but keeping the military industry going after WWII and Korea. Earning profit is often more important than winning a war.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Yes you are one of the deluded lefties who believe that communism is great but was never implemented properly.
I meet them often in London.
When asked why there are here and not in North Korea or even Cuba, they foam at the mouth call me fa***st and walk away.

james goater
james goater
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I had exactly that experience yesterday, at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. It will ever be thus!

james goater
james goater
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I had exactly that experience yesterday, at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park. It will ever be thus!

Andrew Holmes
Andrew Holmes
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

I don’t understand. Pol Pot said he was a Communist, his leadership cadre thought themselves agents of a Marxist ideal (instituting a more extreme version of Mao’s policy of sending achievers to work as peasants).
I don’t disagree that Pol Pot was a psychopath, but only in the sense that he believed that people are disposable in the quest for the ideal state. Mao, Stalin, and the true believers effecting their policies were the same, but killed many more. Are all of them not of “the left”?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

I am arguing for less resources applied differently. The US was and is an air power. Putting 500,000 ground troops in Vietnam, without bombing the ports in the North was military malpractice.

The part of strategy in guerrilla war that the US has forgotten is that without supplies, guerrillas die. Guerrillas don’t have the luxury of growing food or manufacturing ammunition for themselves. They’re on the run. Rangers in the American Colonies originally got their name because they ranged through Indian territory and attacked Indian farming villages, which were the base of Indian supplies. The US beat the Plains Indians by almost exterminating the American buffalo, which the Plains Indians used for food, clothing and shelter. Hunting the American buffalo to extinction was an intentional strategy originally proposed by General William T. Sherman. It was carried out ruthlessly, and it worked exactly as planned. The Plains Indians moved onto reservations because they had nothing to eat.

The Linebacker II bombings were successful. The North Vietnamese signed the 1973 Paris Peace Accords in January, less than a month after the bombing. It took the North until 1975 to repair the damage and build up enough supplies to launch their final attack. If the US had been bombing ports, instead of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the bombing would have been more effective in cutting supplies and require less air assets. Remember, Linebacker II only lasted 11 days.

Last edited 1 year ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Yes you are one of the deluded lefties who believe that communism is great but was never implemented properly.
I meet them often in London.
When asked why there are here and not in North Korea or even Cuba, they foam at the mouth call me fa***st and walk away.

Bruce Edgar
Bruce Edgar
1 year ago

The Viet Nam war was both tragic and stupid. Those who truly learned that lesson adopted the slogan “Never Again.” Unfortunately, the worst outcome of resistance to the war was the elimination of the draft–which opened the way for the mercenary armies which are motivated by pay, not necessarily by good sense. Our war making activities have continued apace since those times. None of these conflicts have benefited us nor the people whom we abused by our hubris, greed and ignorance.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Edgar

Please explain how defeating ISIS was hubris on our part and an abuse of the people ruled by ISIS. Please explain how Afghanistan is much better off starving under the Taliban than it was under allied control.

I will admit that our strategies were often poor, but I don’t think your characterization of our motives are anywhere near accurate. The people we fight are definitely evil.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Edgar

Vast generalities there, my friend, and ultimately misleading.
What was the “lesson of Vietnam”? Was there one? Or were there many…and many of those conflicting…especially for those considered ‘our best & brightest’ who tried to sort them?
As for “Never Again” — a pointless slogan if ever there was one — never again what? Engage in a land war in Asia (as Vizzini, in “Princess Bride” put it)? Never again go to Vietnam? Don’t do things halfway? Know how you’re getting out before you get in? Air war has its limits? Understand your enemies?
Every war is as different as the world in which each war occurs. No one steps into the same river twice. It’s dangerous to believe that Afghanistan was a mirror of Vietnam, even though, from a great distance they look grossly similar.
As for whether any of the military involvements over the last 50 years have ‘benefited us’? How do you know? How is that measured? Which anklebone is connected to what kneebone to what thighbone to convince any of us that “X” truly caused …5 years later….20 years later…. 30 years later some “Y” which can be described as either a good or bad thing? All we really know for sure is that the world changes in response to everything everyone does or does not do…and it changes in unpredictable ways (though hindsight inevitably makes everything seem obvious). And measuring the benefit or cost of any given thing over time when a 1000 other variables impact outcomes?? Almost impossible.
And the “people we abused by our hubris, greed, and ignorance” — heck, that’s the way of the world. If you’re one of the half-million people living in Kandahar I would imagine you’ve been abused by hubris, greed, and ignorance for centuries (much of it your own). Swept by countless conflicts, rebellions, tribal killings, and drug wars. Hubris, greed, and ignorance are probably a way of life. And the impact of the attempted ‘westernization’ of Afghanistan? In 1950 the Afghanistan death rate/1000 was about 37; today it’s about 12.3 (depending upon which chart you examine). How much of that decline was driven by Western ‘hubris, greed, and ignorance’? Who’s to say? Nor is death rate necessarily a measure of an improving life. (Libya’s death rate, supposedly is 3.45. Do we want to live in Libya, even given the fact that the American deathrate is 8.3? And Britain’s 9.0?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Edgar

Please explain how defeating ISIS was hubris on our part and an abuse of the people ruled by ISIS. Please explain how Afghanistan is much better off starving under the Taliban than it was under allied control.

I will admit that our strategies were often poor, but I don’t think your characterization of our motives are anywhere near accurate. The people we fight are definitely evil.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruce Edgar

Vast generalities there, my friend, and ultimately misleading.
What was the “lesson of Vietnam”? Was there one? Or were there many…and many of those conflicting…especially for those considered ‘our best & brightest’ who tried to sort them?
As for “Never Again” — a pointless slogan if ever there was one — never again what? Engage in a land war in Asia (as Vizzini, in “Princess Bride” put it)? Never again go to Vietnam? Don’t do things halfway? Know how you’re getting out before you get in? Air war has its limits? Understand your enemies?
Every war is as different as the world in which each war occurs. No one steps into the same river twice. It’s dangerous to believe that Afghanistan was a mirror of Vietnam, even though, from a great distance they look grossly similar.
As for whether any of the military involvements over the last 50 years have ‘benefited us’? How do you know? How is that measured? Which anklebone is connected to what kneebone to what thighbone to convince any of us that “X” truly caused …5 years later….20 years later…. 30 years later some “Y” which can be described as either a good or bad thing? All we really know for sure is that the world changes in response to everything everyone does or does not do…and it changes in unpredictable ways (though hindsight inevitably makes everything seem obvious). And measuring the benefit or cost of any given thing over time when a 1000 other variables impact outcomes?? Almost impossible.
And the “people we abused by our hubris, greed, and ignorance” — heck, that’s the way of the world. If you’re one of the half-million people living in Kandahar I would imagine you’ve been abused by hubris, greed, and ignorance for centuries (much of it your own). Swept by countless conflicts, rebellions, tribal killings, and drug wars. Hubris, greed, and ignorance are probably a way of life. And the impact of the attempted ‘westernization’ of Afghanistan? In 1950 the Afghanistan death rate/1000 was about 37; today it’s about 12.3 (depending upon which chart you examine). How much of that decline was driven by Western ‘hubris, greed, and ignorance’? Who’s to say? Nor is death rate necessarily a measure of an improving life. (Libya’s death rate, supposedly is 3.45. Do we want to live in Libya, even given the fact that the American deathrate is 8.3? And Britain’s 9.0?

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago

I recall the left also claimed the genocide in Cambodia was due to U.S. bombing traumatizing the country. What BS.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago

Brilliant post.
However, I think you underestimate problems of facing the enemy which resorts to mass killings of its enemies while your own side is subject to various constraints.
So, as an example, Vietcong was ruthlessly killing all people who had any, even just economic, engagement with South Vietnamese regime.
So any attempt to create functioning South Vietnamese economy was bound to fail.
You would need to commit many more troops to invade North Vietnam and defeat it.
What would be Chinese and Russian response?
So USA leaders chose “half pregnant” response, which never works.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

Gosh – ‘we would have won in Vietnam if we had poured in more resources’. How delusional can you get? How many more than 2 million Vietnamese would you have had to kill, and countless more maimed, physically and mentally? Kill everyone and create a wasteland and call it victory! Come back General Westmoreland all is forgiven. It’s as if you hadn’t read those many memoirs of US soldiers (and others – eg Michael Herr’s Despatches) with their bleak tales of failure for 10 years or more. And the Pentagon Papers with their analysis as early as 1966 (?) showed that the US had no chance of ‘victory’ in Vietnam. The Vietnamese had had enough after a century of colonialism – a lesson that Russia would have been wise to take on in Ukraine.

Pol Pot was no communist, that was just a convenient label – he was a psychopath. And the Killing Fields would never have happened if the US had kept out of Vietnam. Don’t blame the ‘left’ for ignoring Pol Pot, it was the whole US establishment with their heads in the sand.

Bruce Edgar
Bruce Edgar
1 year ago

The Viet Nam war was both tragic and stupid. Those who truly learned that lesson adopted the slogan “Never Again.” Unfortunately, the worst outcome of resistance to the war was the elimination of the draft–which opened the way for the mercenary armies which are motivated by pay, not necessarily by good sense. Our war making activities have continued apace since those times. None of these conflicts have benefited us nor the people whom we abused by our hubris, greed and ignorance.

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago

I recall the left also claimed the genocide in Cambodia was due to U.S. bombing traumatizing the country. What BS.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago

Brilliant post.
However, I think you underestimate problems of facing the enemy which resorts to mass killings of its enemies while your own side is subject to various constraints.
So, as an example, Vietcong was ruthlessly killing all people who had any, even just economic, engagement with South Vietnamese regime.
So any attempt to create functioning South Vietnamese economy was bound to fail.
You would need to commit many more troops to invade North Vietnam and defeat it.
What would be Chinese and Russian response?
So USA leaders chose “half pregnant” response, which never works.

Gregory Prang
Gregory Prang
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A good ending might have been how Viet Nam was a lever for the larger worldwide revolutionary causes of the 1960s. The consequences of the legislation and social change enabled by the stresses of Viet Nam far outweigh even the very significant direct effects. The emotions around Viet Nam were fully leveraged by agents of change with a wider agenda.
I would argue COVID was also such a leverageable and leveraged event. The Gulf War and War on Terror, not so much, because we were not seeing daily American death tolls and running scared.
These botched, out-of-control crises are what has lasting effects on the society and culture most of all.

Wonder Walker
Wonder Walker
1 year ago
Reply to  Gregory Prang

Interesting points. I differ on The War on Terror, which as far as I can see was one of the most calculated, highly leveraged and disastrous events in the last fifty years. So persistent that we are still required to take our shoes off before getting on an international air flight 22 years later, just to keep on sustaining the tired old narrative.
I see The War on Terror as the tipping point when the US empire lost it’s nerve. An empire in its full power does not need to resort to hysteria to carry its population. It just acts because it can.

Wonder Walker
Wonder Walker
1 year ago
Reply to  Gregory Prang

Interesting points. I differ on The War on Terror, which as far as I can see was one of the most calculated, highly leveraged and disastrous events in the last fifty years. So persistent that we are still required to take our shoes off before getting on an international air flight 22 years later, just to keep on sustaining the tired old narrative.
I see The War on Terror as the tipping point when the US empire lost it’s nerve. An empire in its full power does not need to resort to hysteria to carry its population. It just acts because it can.

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Indeed. It would probably be more interesting to see how many times Western politicians have focused on military interventions and prolonged the war as they are doing in Ukraine or have recently done in Afghanistan. Winning a war or making peace do not seem to be the main goals.
Renewing arm stocks and granting progits for the miltary industry are the main priorities for a market-oriented oligopolistic minds. Most people do not see the connection between the growing budget deficits and external debt, the concentration of wealth and the military lobby.
Biden follows the same militaristic mentality. He comes from Delaware, a main provider of shell companies both for legitimate business and crooks of all kinds. His staff is military-oriented. As a senator, he voted to abandon South Vietnam as he completely abandoned Afghanistan. Even if it is true that it was Trump who approved the Afghan exit, Biden delayed it to give more time to the Taliban to get ready, chose the most favourable time of the year for the Taliban to move quick, and let behind an arsenal to be quickly seized by the enemy. As a strategist, he could have hardly done it better in favour of the Taliban and worse to help all the Afghans that helped the Western forces to leave the country on time.
As soon as the US left Afghanistan, Russia invaded Ukraine. Guess that the US military did not expect that?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree. The current culture war is not an echo of the counter-culture opposition to the Vietnam war but instead a distraction from the USA’s military adventures. The only elected politicians questioning the US commitment to Ukraine are libertarian Republicans.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Exactly right.
But is Biden still haunted by Vietnam? Not in the least. I suspect the only thing that haunts him is maybe the oatmeal he had for breakfast this morning.
We might ask if his foreign policy advisors are so haunted…but again I’d say most probably not. Haunt is entirely the wrong word. Are we ‘haunted’ by the angry discussion we had with our girlfriend — what was her name? — 50 years ago? Nah. How neurotic would we have to be to still be ‘haunted’, meaning disturbingly obsessed by 50 year old conversations…or wars hardly anyone’s fathers fought? But have we learned something from the Way Back When? Has it shaped our policy discussions and driven various strategic approaches to the question of cross-hemispheric interventions (or becoming involved with redheads?) across the intervening decades? Sure.
But everything does doesn’t it?
And yes, how I see Apocalypse Now …how I hear Morrison sing, “This is the end” as the fires burn, and the yellow smoke rises, and the helicopters whop-whop-whop their way across the treeline… no, how I see and feel and understand all that is not affected in the least (What’s smaller than least?) by Sandbrook’s Trump.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes, I love Dominic writing as well and it was not his finest effort.
However image of Trump checking out Kamala Harris plumbing after his election win next year will stay with me for ever.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

My reaction? Raking over ancient history hoping to find precise parallels for our modern obsessions. The lesson that I learnt from Vietnam (and other military adventures) is that war is always amazingly messy,crippingly expensive, and rarely truly victorious. Only fight in defence of vital interests. Just make sure that you know what they are.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You’re not wrong.

As Weekend Essays go, it’s going to be a long weekend.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I felt the same about the ending – I certainly expected Sandbrook to tie in somehow the irony that progeny of the anti vietnam war advocates are now the war hawks and vice versa for the 60s love-it-or-leave-it crowd.
I did get a chuckle with Trumps own personal war trials – I hadn’t heard about his struggle.

Last edited 1 year ago by Michael Coleman
R Kays
R Kays
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I, to, was waiting for Sandbrook to transition to a comparison of Ukraine and Vietnam, and the contemporary leaders who came of age in the Vietnam era.

Sadly his article was a pretext for taking a swipe at Donald Trump who, coincidentally or not, is a potential candidate for the office of President in 2024.

Hmmmm … probably just a coincidence.

Last edited 1 year ago by R Kays
Russ W
Russ W
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Meh, I thought the ending was mildly entertaining.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Trump comments were hilarious. Perhaps you’re upset because your big orange frat-boy has been tarnished?  

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

As a former US Air Force Systems Analyst Officer (1972-1976), the part of Vietnam that I remember best is that in 11 days of unrestricted bombing and air dropped mines, Operation Linebacker II put all of North Vietnam’s ports out of business. This cut off all supplies, because the Red Chinese skimmed 90% plus of what was shipped overland. If Linebacker II had been launched in 1965, or even 1968, instead of December, 1972, it would have saved a lot of lives and made Counter Insurgency (COIN) a lot more effective, a lot earlier.

We lost in Vietnam because between 1973 and 1975 Congress cut aid to South Vietnam by 75% and outlawed US air strikes anywhere in Southeast Asia. Congress and the American people lost patience with the Vietnam War. If we had bombed in 1965 and kept bombing, we would not have had Congress outlaw air strikes after we had won in 1967 or 1968.

The lesson of Vietnam and later US failures isn’t that there’s no military solution to political problems. The lesson is that our military strategy and tactics for fighting these wars didn’t work. Allowing guerrillas a source of abundant financing and supply, allowing guerrillas sanctuary in other countries and imposing restrictive rules of engagement artificially limits the application of American military power.

Recently, we have watched ISIS go from strong to dead because we eliminated their source of income, oil sales, by bombing their tanker trucks, oil fields and oil handling facilities. I don’t mean to make light of the combat efforts it took to eliminate ISIS, but I do want to point out that ISIS was far less formidable broke than they were when they were rich. Eliminating their financial resources made them far easier to defeat.

Which brings us to Afghanistan. The Taliban ran on opium sales. Everybody knows it. To eliminate the Taliban, we would have needed to eliminate their opium sales. When we chose not to do it, we chose to lose. We compounded the problem by allowing the Taliban to use Pakistan as a sanctuary. Restrictive rules of engagement, as in Vietnam, didn’t help either.

There was a military solution in Afghanistan for the Taliban, just like there was a military solution for the North Vietnamese Army in Vietnam. Few believe the Communists could have won an election in South Vietnam without intimidation, and few believe the Taliban could win an Afghan election without intimidation.

In the future, if we’re not willing to cut off guerrilla’s main supply source, we shoudn’t try to defeat them. If we aren’t going to even try to win, we shouldn’t play. Military leadership owes the American people a resignation and an explanation if they are ordered to wage a half a$$ed guerrilla war we can’t win. Two episodes of the Fall of Saigon, even if one is in Kabul over 40 years later, is two too many.

I also remember that the left’s reaction to Communists killing 2 million Cambodians and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Laotians, after US involvement in the war was over, was to claim there was “no bloodbath.” The aftermath bloodbath of the Vietnam War shows it was a just war for the US, and shows that the “give peace a chance” crowd denies that they obviously have a lot of blood on their hands.

Last edited 1 year ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Gregory Prang
Gregory Prang
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

A good ending might have been how Viet Nam was a lever for the larger worldwide revolutionary causes of the 1960s. The consequences of the legislation and social change enabled by the stresses of Viet Nam far outweigh even the very significant direct effects. The emotions around Viet Nam were fully leveraged by agents of change with a wider agenda.
I would argue COVID was also such a leverageable and leveraged event. The Gulf War and War on Terror, not so much, because we were not seeing daily American death tolls and running scared.
These botched, out-of-control crises are what has lasting effects on the society and culture most of all.

Greta Hirschman
Greta Hirschman
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Indeed. It would probably be more interesting to see how many times Western politicians have focused on military interventions and prolonged the war as they are doing in Ukraine or have recently done in Afghanistan. Winning a war or making peace do not seem to be the main goals.
Renewing arm stocks and granting progits for the miltary industry are the main priorities for a market-oriented oligopolistic minds. Most people do not see the connection between the growing budget deficits and external debt, the concentration of wealth and the military lobby.
Biden follows the same militaristic mentality. He comes from Delaware, a main provider of shell companies both for legitimate business and crooks of all kinds. His staff is military-oriented. As a senator, he voted to abandon South Vietnam as he completely abandoned Afghanistan. Even if it is true that it was Trump who approved the Afghan exit, Biden delayed it to give more time to the Taliban to get ready, chose the most favourable time of the year for the Taliban to move quick, and let behind an arsenal to be quickly seized by the enemy. As a strategist, he could have hardly done it better in favour of the Taliban and worse to help all the Afghans that helped the Western forces to leave the country on time.
As soon as the US left Afghanistan, Russia invaded Ukraine. Guess that the US military did not expect that?

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree. The current culture war is not an echo of the counter-culture opposition to the Vietnam war but instead a distraction from the USA’s military adventures. The only elected politicians questioning the US commitment to Ukraine are libertarian Republicans.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Exactly right.
But is Biden still haunted by Vietnam? Not in the least. I suspect the only thing that haunts him is maybe the oatmeal he had for breakfast this morning.
We might ask if his foreign policy advisors are so haunted…but again I’d say most probably not. Haunt is entirely the wrong word. Are we ‘haunted’ by the angry discussion we had with our girlfriend — what was her name? — 50 years ago? Nah. How neurotic would we have to be to still be ‘haunted’, meaning disturbingly obsessed by 50 year old conversations…or wars hardly anyone’s fathers fought? But have we learned something from the Way Back When? Has it shaped our policy discussions and driven various strategic approaches to the question of cross-hemispheric interventions (or becoming involved with redheads?) across the intervening decades? Sure.
But everything does doesn’t it?
And yes, how I see Apocalypse Now …how I hear Morrison sing, “This is the end” as the fires burn, and the yellow smoke rises, and the helicopters whop-whop-whop their way across the treeline… no, how I see and feel and understand all that is not affected in the least (What’s smaller than least?) by Sandbrook’s Trump.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yes, I love Dominic writing as well and it was not his finest effort.
However image of Trump checking out Kamala Harris plumbing after his election win next year will stay with me for ever.

J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

I’m usually a fan of Dominic Sandbrook’s writing, but this essay fell flat for me. It reads like an essay in search of an ending.
The author covers the well-trodden ground of America’s ignominious withdrawal from Vietnam and its attempts to regain national pride in subsequent conflicts leading up to the middle east wars. I was waiting for him to discuss the Ukraine war. Is Biden still haunted by Vietnam after all these years, or is he motivated by his well known distrust of Russia? That might have been an interesting angle to pursue.
Instead, the author ends with an account of some particularly lame remarks by Donald Trump about his love life and the possibility of catching a disease. Then the author assures me I’ll never think of Apocalypse Now the same way again. Really? When I hear mention of “napalm in the morning” am I supposed to think of the burning feeling that comes with a dose of clap?
I was genuinely interested in this article at the beginning, but felt let down by what seemed like a weak attempt at a Trump hit piece by the end. I’ll be interested to read other people’s reactions to this essay.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

Good article for the most part. I am not sure what the Trump part had to do with anything. The biggest issue for me is Sandbrook seems to imply the Vietnam War has such as large impact on the modern American psyche, but barely even mentions The War on Terror. I remember growing up it was the First Gulf War where the public’s impressions of the military started to really turn around. Then after 9/11 and Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya it went down the toilet. I have known quite a few Vietnam veterans and War on Terror veterans. The hatred and distrust they have towards the American government is almost uncanny in its similarity.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Your point about the First Gulf War is correct. Although some with memories of Vietnam saw it through an exclusive lens of threatened oil supplies, the panoply of military input from other nations gave the push – backed by the UN – to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait the impression in the public mind of being a just war.

Was it an historic mistake not to push all the way to Baghdad in 1991, ending with regime change? The George Bush Senior decision not to do so, having accomplished the original justified plan, may well have been a result of the Vietnam hangover, but with consequences down the line for his son. That Sandbrook neglects this aspect of more recent US policy is a glaring omission.

One also wonders if the Tories hadn’t replaced Margaret Thatcher in late 1990 with the lack of backbone that was John Major whether she’d have persuaded Bush to make the final push, which by the point of its abrupt ending had become a virtual open goal.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Matt Hindman

Your point about the First Gulf War is correct. Although some with memories of Vietnam saw it through an exclusive lens of threatened oil supplies, the panoply of military input from other nations gave the push – backed by the UN – to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait the impression in the public mind of being a just war.

Was it an historic mistake not to push all the way to Baghdad in 1991, ending with regime change? The George Bush Senior decision not to do so, having accomplished the original justified plan, may well have been a result of the Vietnam hangover, but with consequences down the line for his son. That Sandbrook neglects this aspect of more recent US policy is a glaring omission.

One also wonders if the Tories hadn’t replaced Margaret Thatcher in late 1990 with the lack of backbone that was John Major whether she’d have persuaded Bush to make the final push, which by the point of its abrupt ending had become a virtual open goal.

Last edited 1 year ago by Steve Murray
Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
1 year ago

Good article for the most part. I am not sure what the Trump part had to do with anything. The biggest issue for me is Sandbrook seems to imply the Vietnam War has such as large impact on the modern American psyche, but barely even mentions The War on Terror. I remember growing up it was the First Gulf War where the public’s impressions of the military started to really turn around. Then after 9/11 and Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya it went down the toilet. I have known quite a few Vietnam veterans and War on Terror veterans. The hatred and distrust they have towards the American government is almost uncanny in its similarity.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

Odd to write about this subject without noting that Nixon/Kissinger sabotaged the Paris peace talks in 1968 for electoral advantage, thereby prolonging the war for 4 years. Hitchens sets it out in detail in his Kissinger book.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Perhaps it is time to send Kissinger to Nuremberg?

After all a woman of 97 was convicted the other day of being in the SS Typing Pool in 1944.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

Perhaps it is time to send Kissinger to Nuremberg?

After all a woman of 97 was convicted the other day of being in the SS Typing Pool in 1944.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

Odd to write about this subject without noting that Nixon/Kissinger sabotaged the Paris peace talks in 1968 for electoral advantage, thereby prolonging the war for 4 years. Hitchens sets it out in detail in his Kissinger book.

Iris C
Iris C
1 year ago

The parallel with the American disaster and humiliation in Vietnam is Afghanistan.
The French had tried to subdue Vietnam and had not succeeded. Unfortunately the American government ignored this historical fact.
The Russians had tried to subdue Afghanistan and had not succeeded. Ditto. Also the British were only able to conquer Kabul and the surrounding area during colonial days. The rest of the country fought back and the disastrous deaths in the north-west passage stopped any further attempt.
Americans only learn American history and our politicians have been brought up without British and European history as a separate subject. It is now part of Modern Studies and the history taught is mostly social.
I would suggest that this lack of historical knowledge has largely contributed to the wars this century.. .

Last edited 1 year ago by Iris C
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris C

I was thinking along those lines also. Vietnam was the last event I felt such strong national humiliation and shame as our pullout of Afghanistan felt to me. And because I was barely old enough at the time, I didnt feel that until decades later.

L Walker
L Walker
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris C

I seem to remember the Brits had a little bit of a problem in Afghanistan in the 19th century, also overlooked by us Americans.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  L Walker

It was a delicious irony in the modernized Sherlock Holmes TV Series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman that Sherlock could still say to Dr. Watson, “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.”

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  L Walker

It was a delicious irony in the modernized Sherlock Holmes TV Series with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman that Sherlock could still say to Dr. Watson, “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.”

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris C

When I saw those Afghani’s falling from the undercarriage of the transport plane as it took off from Baghram it reminded me of something.
Then I remembered; the last helicopter off the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon.

Last edited 1 year ago by D Glover
Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris C

I was thinking along those lines also. Vietnam was the last event I felt such strong national humiliation and shame as our pullout of Afghanistan felt to me. And because I was barely old enough at the time, I didnt feel that until decades later.

L Walker
L Walker
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris C

I seem to remember the Brits had a little bit of a problem in Afghanistan in the 19th century, also overlooked by us Americans.

D Glover
D Glover
1 year ago
Reply to  Iris C

When I saw those Afghani’s falling from the undercarriage of the transport plane as it took off from Baghram it reminded me of something.
Then I remembered; the last helicopter off the roof of the US Embassy in Saigon.

Last edited 1 year ago by D Glover
Iris C
Iris C
1 year ago

The parallel with the American disaster and humiliation in Vietnam is Afghanistan.
The French had tried to subdue Vietnam and had not succeeded. Unfortunately the American government ignored this historical fact.
The Russians had tried to subdue Afghanistan and had not succeeded. Ditto. Also the British were only able to conquer Kabul and the surrounding area during colonial days. The rest of the country fought back and the disastrous deaths in the north-west passage stopped any further attempt.
Americans only learn American history and our politicians have been brought up without British and European history as a separate subject. It is now part of Modern Studies and the history taught is mostly social.
I would suggest that this lack of historical knowledge has largely contributed to the wars this century.. .

Last edited 1 year ago by Iris C
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

The lesson, if one is to be learned, is how many people pushed or were taken in by the propaganda. I was in summer camp at the height of the the war. Our teenaged counselors taught us those Joan Baez and Pete Seeger protest songs. Little did we know that war is profit, and few of them – Vietnam in particular – are waged for noble reasons. The conflict in Ukraine is a perfect example: a worldwide social media sympathy campaign; celebrities flying into a purported war-torn region for photo ops; the wee comedian-turned-president-turned-grifting despot and his wife in Vogue; Congress making a spectacle of itself (as usual) with its ludicrous American/Ukrainian flag amalgam, and billions of tax payer dollars flowing in for a good washing . . . it’s all so grotesque.
I think we’d be better off if we woke up to the fact that “Wag the Dog” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120885/ is how sh*t really works and respond accordingly, including ignoring articles like this one.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Thank you for reminding me of “Wag the Dog”.
It reminds me somewhat of the ludicrous response to the so-called Capitol Hill Riot of the 6th of January 2021 last.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Exactly.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Exactly.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

OK, you’re on a high horse, with a clothes-peg on your nose! All wars are bad blah blah, you’re all too naïve to see that, and I’m more prescient than you. 
The problem with your lofty position is that it’s a suppression of nuance.
All wars are bad, and the profit motive is ever-present, of course – but some wars are worse than others. And of course, conversely. 
Pushing the dial all the way to one side for all of them is a cop-out and a way to live with a fence wedged permanently up one’s fundament.   
For instance, WW1, much sentimentalised by Western governments, was largely about oil. Pope Benedict XV described WW1 as “pointless carnage”. This isn’t entirely correct. Pointless from the standpoint of the brave ordinary men who died in their thousands of course, but far from pointless from the perspective of the elite. Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary of the British War Cabinet, in a letter to Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, noted that “control of these [Mesopotamian] oil supplies” was a “first-class war aim”. And as Lloyd George later noted, Britain came out of the war with “a nice fat profit”. We’ve all heard the usual PR flannel about “poor little Belgium” – the same Belgium that, even after 1908, was still responsible for running a vicious colonial regime in the Congo. Despite the “cause of Belgium”, it’s revealing to note that some of the first British troops deployed in WW1 were sent, not to Belgium, but to Basra, in modern-day Iraq. Of course, shortly before WW1, the British Navy had switched from using coal to oil (partly for engineering advantages, partly out of Churchill’s wish to outmanoeuvre domestic mining unions). Go figure.
I’m not sure that support for Ukraine can so readily be dismissed as naivety.   
Standing on the side-lines scoffing may make you feel good about yourself, but’s it’s a luxury position.
If you do not support the West’s (limited) assistance to the Ukrainians, what is your solution? Let Putin’s boys run amok? And watch the dominos fall in Taiwan and elsewhere?
Putin is an appalling little thug:
https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/killer-in-the-kremlin-new-book-explores-vladimir-putins-bloody-reign/
And Putin invaded.
If you take the view that all war is a front for back-stage financial Guinness, then you’re veering close to the hard right / hard left pro-Putin notion that NATO bears significant responsibility for “provoking” Putin.
That “plague on all their houses” approach is the referee who dishes out 2 red cards, regardless of who started the fracas.  
It is a patronising take on the Ukraine conflict, and also a gullible one. NATO was no threat to Russia:
“In 1991, NATO forces had more than 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons. Today NATO has about 100, all of them gravity bombs that would take many hours, if not days, to be fitted into aircraft. Although the Kremlin promised in 1991 to make similar cuts, it never did. Today Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, a great many of them recently modernized and carried by cruise missiles.
The reductions in NATO’s conventional forces since the end of the Cold War have been even more dramatic. In 1990, the United States had about 5,000 tanks based in Germany. Today it has none. The last 22 American tanks were withdrawn from Germany in 2013. The German army had more than 7,000 tanks at the end of the Cold War; today it has about 225—hardly a fearsome invading force. (Russia has already lost perhaps 10 times that number of tanks in Ukraine.) Although the Baltic States are members of NATO, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia pose even less of a threat to Russia. Their armies don’t possess a single tank.
NATO countries have not been secretly plotting for decades to invade and destroy Russia. On the contrary, they have provided Russia with trillions of dollars in direct investment, technology transfers, and payments for oil, gas, and other natural resources. Thanks mainly to expanded trade with the West, Russia now has a large middle class for the first time in its history, and average monthly income has increased since 1992 from about $25 to $1,206. But Kremlin policies have also created in Russia the world’s most unequal economy, with some 500 oligarchs controlling more wealth than the total assets of about 99 percent of the adult population there. Russia’s renewed imperial ambitions and glorification of nuclear weapons are useful to the Kremlin as a distraction from persistent economic hardships. According to a 2018 study by Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service, about one-fifth of the nation’s households still lack indoor plumbing. About one-quarter don’t have indoor toilets. In rural areas of Russia, things are even worse: Perhaps two-thirds of the households lack indoor toilets and about half still must use outhouses.”
From: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/01/russias-invasion-ukraine-war-nuclear-weapon-nato/672727/
I opposed the West’s obvious misadventure in Iraq, but in this case the West is the ethical actor, and I do not give a fig if Western armaments companies make some money out of it.
The West did not cause Putin’s war. If private sector weapons manufacturers make some profit out of assisting the Ukrainians kick some Putin rapist-rabble ass (see my blog on Russia’s rape machine: https://ayenaw.com/2022/04/25/russias-rape-machine/ ), so what?
There is little point in negotiating with Russians until you have your foot on their throat. 
In the late 1940’s, Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist and sociologist, predicted that the Americans and the British would make a mess of their diplomacy with the Russians, because they would assume that Russians are gentlemen, and that they would not make agreements which they would have no intention of carrying out.
“What you can’t believe,” Myrdal said, “is what every Swede knows in his bones. The Russian culture is not a gentleman culture.”
Writing in 1985, the late Eugene V. Rostow, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States and Dean of Yale Law School, noted that:
“The Soviet Union … is embarked on a policy of indefinite expansion fuelled by the practice of open aggression … And as a practical matter, the refusal to confront the profound differences between the foreign policies of the United States and the Soviet Union leads to all sorts of error and naivete in the formulation of Western policies … The Soviet Union is in the imperial mood of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as a distinguished British historian has remarked – the imperial mood which the peoples and governments of the West have long since given up with relief. And the Soviet thrust for empire now threatens the state system which has evolved through trial and error since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.”
Article here: why-is-it-so-hard-to-negotiate-with-the-russians_DOWNLOAD
Tsars, Soviets, Putins – the lipstick changes from time to time, but the underlying reality is unaltered. For ideological reasons, liberal and left-wing Westerners have always glossed over the fact that the USSR was a “union” in much the same way the UK became a “union” – that is, a powerful country imposing “union” on its smaller neighbours, be they Celtic or Asian, respectively. Vis a vis the world outside its borders, Russia is the same imperial aggressor that it always has been. Until the West accepts this fundamental point about Russia, then this well-intentioned foolishness will continue.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

“you’re all too naïve to see that, and I’m more prescient than you”!

Self praise is NO recommendation, as I am sure you are well aware? Otherwise an interesting if muddled and long-winded polemic.

However Lloyd George, as always, was lying when he said we came out of WWI “ with a nice fat profit” as you quote. We didn’t, we came out of WWI with huge debts to the USA, which were only (inadvertently) alleviated by President Herbert Hoover in 1931.

As to Russia I have always been puzzled why we used to refer to the Germans as “The Hun”, when quite obviously the Russians are a far closer match. You only have to inspect the physiognomy of both see that the Russians are the real heirs to Attila, Genghis and Tamerlane. Even Mr Putin, despite plastic surgery (no doubt) carries the fatal mark.

ps. No doubt that -1 is you McCusker whinging about been called out as a braggart?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Surely Frank’s opening remark wasn’t directed at himself, but at those he was disagreeing with?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Then he should be more careful with his syntax as I took it the other way, particularly so having waded through that circa 1,700 word rant.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Then he should be more careful with his syntax as I took it the other way, particularly so having waded through that circa 1,700 word rant.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago

Surely Frank’s opening remark wasn’t directed at himself, but at those he was disagreeing with?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

“you’re all too naïve to see that, and I’m more prescient than you”!

Self praise is NO recommendation, as I am sure you are well aware? Otherwise an interesting if muddled and long-winded polemic.

However Lloyd George, as always, was lying when he said we came out of WWI “ with a nice fat profit” as you quote. We didn’t, we came out of WWI with huge debts to the USA, which were only (inadvertently) alleviated by President Herbert Hoover in 1931.

As to Russia I have always been puzzled why we used to refer to the Germans as “The Hun”, when quite obviously the Russians are a far closer match. You only have to inspect the physiognomy of both see that the Russians are the real heirs to Attila, Genghis and Tamerlane. Even Mr Putin, despite plastic surgery (no doubt) carries the fatal mark.

ps. No doubt that -1 is you McCusker whinging about been called out as a braggart?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The US fought the Vietnam War to stop a bloodbath. After US involvement in the war ended, the Communist Khmer Rouge killed about 2 million unarmed men, women and children. Other Communists killed several hundred thousand Vietnamese and Laotians. In addition, roughly 200,000-400,000 people died in boats trying to escape from Vietnam after the war. About 800,000 boat people escaped successfully. Such a large emigration from Vietnam is unique in history.

By ignoring the results of the “give peace a chance” end of the war, you’re complicit in the resulting bloodbath, and pushing for repeats. Peace, love and slaughter. Out.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

The US created that bloodbath with their war in Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge would not have existed.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Your statement ignores the history (herstory?) of all Communist movements. They seem to be a wee bit genocidal. Stalin and Mao both killed millions. Compared to them, Pol Pot was small potatoes.

Please explain how Prince Sihanouk could have resisted a Pol Pot takeover in the absence of a Vietnam War. Are you saying Pol Pot wouldn’t have killed all those people once he took power if the US hadn’t invaded rural Cambodia? That’s ridiculous. The killing was central to Pol Pot’s ideology.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Your statement ignores the history (herstory?) of all Communist movements. They seem to be a wee bit genocidal. Stalin and Mao both killed millions. Compared to them, Pol Pot was small potatoes.

Please explain how Prince Sihanouk could have resisted a Pol Pot takeover in the absence of a Vietnam War. Are you saying Pol Pot wouldn’t have killed all those people once he took power if the US hadn’t invaded rural Cambodia? That’s ridiculous. The killing was central to Pol Pot’s ideology.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago

The US created that bloodbath with their war in Vietnam. The Khmer Rouge would not have existed.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

As always it’s a close contest between and among which particular propaganda takes one in. Baez and Seeger doing exactly the same thing McNamara and Company were doing, albeit for different reasons, pushing different causes.
Summer camp sing-alongs, as delightful as they can be are indeed the tools used to mold and persuade — fragile, eggshell minds (as Morrison might have put it) — just as much as the NYTimes news stories and the Domino Theories, and the lectures on Real Politik, and Saigon democracy are used to push the decision-makers. Just ask Goebbels and the Hitler Jugend and Daniel Ellsberg.
Almost everything almost always is profit driven, of course. I suspect Joan loved her Royalties and Concert Tours as much or more than Pete and Bob and all the rest. Or said more fundamentally, almost everything is driven by the urge to acquire more, to be more, to have more.
Everything always is also equally ideologically driven, chockfull of noble motives and lofty sentiments: each cadre letting their particular freak flag fly (be it peace signs or hard hats or Liberté, égalité, fraternité).
The strange thing is, all of these contradictory things are true, simltaneously.
Human motivations are multi-layered things.
So, yes, many very smart people believed in the Domino Theory…many believed our best national interests were being served. And yes, many believed it was exactly the wrong thing to do (though really not all that many in 1961 when Kennedy began sending advisers and later in ’62 when the Strategic Hamlet Program was begun) .
Most of the tens of thousands protesting the War (ten years after it began) didn’t really know much of anything about what they were protesting. Still, it was cool to protest; cool to march and wear black armbands and chant slogans while hanging out with good looking hippie chicks who were busy burning their bras and preaching free love. What’s not to like?
It’s grotesque, sure — but it’s always been grotesque. And at the end we still face the multi-layered question: should we or should we not support the Zelensky, and if we do — to what extent?
Lennon would say, from his mansion on the Upper West Side, “give peace a chance”. But what does that mean and how does it relate to the question on the ground: Should we or should we not send first-line battle tanks to the Ukrainian front to engage with the Russian Military despite Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling?
And if we don’t, does that mean more Ukrainians die?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Thank you for reminding me of “Wag the Dog”.
It reminds me somewhat of the ludicrous response to the so-called Capitol Hill Riot of the 6th of January 2021 last.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

OK, you’re on a high horse, with a clothes-peg on your nose! All wars are bad blah blah, you’re all too naïve to see that, and I’m more prescient than you. 
The problem with your lofty position is that it’s a suppression of nuance.
All wars are bad, and the profit motive is ever-present, of course – but some wars are worse than others. And of course, conversely. 
Pushing the dial all the way to one side for all of them is a cop-out and a way to live with a fence wedged permanently up one’s fundament.   
For instance, WW1, much sentimentalised by Western governments, was largely about oil. Pope Benedict XV described WW1 as “pointless carnage”. This isn’t entirely correct. Pointless from the standpoint of the brave ordinary men who died in their thousands of course, but far from pointless from the perspective of the elite. Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary of the British War Cabinet, in a letter to Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, noted that “control of these [Mesopotamian] oil supplies” was a “first-class war aim”. And as Lloyd George later noted, Britain came out of the war with “a nice fat profit”. We’ve all heard the usual PR flannel about “poor little Belgium” – the same Belgium that, even after 1908, was still responsible for running a vicious colonial regime in the Congo. Despite the “cause of Belgium”, it’s revealing to note that some of the first British troops deployed in WW1 were sent, not to Belgium, but to Basra, in modern-day Iraq. Of course, shortly before WW1, the British Navy had switched from using coal to oil (partly for engineering advantages, partly out of Churchill’s wish to outmanoeuvre domestic mining unions). Go figure.
I’m not sure that support for Ukraine can so readily be dismissed as naivety.   
Standing on the side-lines scoffing may make you feel good about yourself, but’s it’s a luxury position.
If you do not support the West’s (limited) assistance to the Ukrainians, what is your solution? Let Putin’s boys run amok? And watch the dominos fall in Taiwan and elsewhere?
Putin is an appalling little thug:
https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/ukrainealert/killer-in-the-kremlin-new-book-explores-vladimir-putins-bloody-reign/
And Putin invaded.
If you take the view that all war is a front for back-stage financial Guinness, then you’re veering close to the hard right / hard left pro-Putin notion that NATO bears significant responsibility for “provoking” Putin.
That “plague on all their houses” approach is the referee who dishes out 2 red cards, regardless of who started the fracas.  
It is a patronising take on the Ukraine conflict, and also a gullible one. NATO was no threat to Russia:
“In 1991, NATO forces had more than 3,000 tactical nuclear weapons. Today NATO has about 100, all of them gravity bombs that would take many hours, if not days, to be fitted into aircraft. Although the Kremlin promised in 1991 to make similar cuts, it never did. Today Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons, a great many of them recently modernized and carried by cruise missiles.
The reductions in NATO’s conventional forces since the end of the Cold War have been even more dramatic. In 1990, the United States had about 5,000 tanks based in Germany. Today it has none. The last 22 American tanks were withdrawn from Germany in 2013. The German army had more than 7,000 tanks at the end of the Cold War; today it has about 225—hardly a fearsome invading force. (Russia has already lost perhaps 10 times that number of tanks in Ukraine.) Although the Baltic States are members of NATO, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia pose even less of a threat to Russia. Their armies don’t possess a single tank.
NATO countries have not been secretly plotting for decades to invade and destroy Russia. On the contrary, they have provided Russia with trillions of dollars in direct investment, technology transfers, and payments for oil, gas, and other natural resources. Thanks mainly to expanded trade with the West, Russia now has a large middle class for the first time in its history, and average monthly income has increased since 1992 from about $25 to $1,206. But Kremlin policies have also created in Russia the world’s most unequal economy, with some 500 oligarchs controlling more wealth than the total assets of about 99 percent of the adult population there. Russia’s renewed imperial ambitions and glorification of nuclear weapons are useful to the Kremlin as a distraction from persistent economic hardships. According to a 2018 study by Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service, about one-fifth of the nation’s households still lack indoor plumbing. About one-quarter don’t have indoor toilets. In rural areas of Russia, things are even worse: Perhaps two-thirds of the households lack indoor toilets and about half still must use outhouses.”
From: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/01/russias-invasion-ukraine-war-nuclear-weapon-nato/672727/
I opposed the West’s obvious misadventure in Iraq, but in this case the West is the ethical actor, and I do not give a fig if Western armaments companies make some money out of it.
The West did not cause Putin’s war. If private sector weapons manufacturers make some profit out of assisting the Ukrainians kick some Putin rapist-rabble ass (see my blog on Russia’s rape machine: https://ayenaw.com/2022/04/25/russias-rape-machine/ ), so what?
There is little point in negotiating with Russians until you have your foot on their throat. 
In the late 1940’s, Gunnar Myrdal, the Swedish economist and sociologist, predicted that the Americans and the British would make a mess of their diplomacy with the Russians, because they would assume that Russians are gentlemen, and that they would not make agreements which they would have no intention of carrying out.
“What you can’t believe,” Myrdal said, “is what every Swede knows in his bones. The Russian culture is not a gentleman culture.”
Writing in 1985, the late Eugene V. Rostow, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs of the United States and Dean of Yale Law School, noted that:
“The Soviet Union … is embarked on a policy of indefinite expansion fuelled by the practice of open aggression … And as a practical matter, the refusal to confront the profound differences between the foreign policies of the United States and the Soviet Union leads to all sorts of error and naivete in the formulation of Western policies … The Soviet Union is in the imperial mood of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as a distinguished British historian has remarked – the imperial mood which the peoples and governments of the West have long since given up with relief. And the Soviet thrust for empire now threatens the state system which has evolved through trial and error since the end of the Napoleonic Wars.”
Article here: why-is-it-so-hard-to-negotiate-with-the-russians_DOWNLOAD
Tsars, Soviets, Putins – the lipstick changes from time to time, but the underlying reality is unaltered. For ideological reasons, liberal and left-wing Westerners have always glossed over the fact that the USSR was a “union” in much the same way the UK became a “union” – that is, a powerful country imposing “union” on its smaller neighbours, be they Celtic or Asian, respectively. Vis a vis the world outside its borders, Russia is the same imperial aggressor that it always has been. Until the West accepts this fundamental point about Russia, then this well-intentioned foolishness will continue.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The US fought the Vietnam War to stop a bloodbath. After US involvement in the war ended, the Communist Khmer Rouge killed about 2 million unarmed men, women and children. Other Communists killed several hundred thousand Vietnamese and Laotians. In addition, roughly 200,000-400,000 people died in boats trying to escape from Vietnam after the war. About 800,000 boat people escaped successfully. Such a large emigration from Vietnam is unique in history.

By ignoring the results of the “give peace a chance” end of the war, you’re complicit in the resulting bloodbath, and pushing for repeats. Peace, love and slaughter. Out.

B Davis
B Davis
1 year ago

As always it’s a close contest between and among which particular propaganda takes one in. Baez and Seeger doing exactly the same thing McNamara and Company were doing, albeit for different reasons, pushing different causes.
Summer camp sing-alongs, as delightful as they can be are indeed the tools used to mold and persuade — fragile, eggshell minds (as Morrison might have put it) — just as much as the NYTimes news stories and the Domino Theories, and the lectures on Real Politik, and Saigon democracy are used to push the decision-makers. Just ask Goebbels and the Hitler Jugend and Daniel Ellsberg.
Almost everything almost always is profit driven, of course. I suspect Joan loved her Royalties and Concert Tours as much or more than Pete and Bob and all the rest. Or said more fundamentally, almost everything is driven by the urge to acquire more, to be more, to have more.
Everything always is also equally ideologically driven, chockfull of noble motives and lofty sentiments: each cadre letting their particular freak flag fly (be it peace signs or hard hats or Liberté, égalité, fraternité).
The strange thing is, all of these contradictory things are true, simltaneously.
Human motivations are multi-layered things.
So, yes, many very smart people believed in the Domino Theory…many believed our best national interests were being served. And yes, many believed it was exactly the wrong thing to do (though really not all that many in 1961 when Kennedy began sending advisers and later in ’62 when the Strategic Hamlet Program was begun) .
Most of the tens of thousands protesting the War (ten years after it began) didn’t really know much of anything about what they were protesting. Still, it was cool to protest; cool to march and wear black armbands and chant slogans while hanging out with good looking hippie chicks who were busy burning their bras and preaching free love. What’s not to like?
It’s grotesque, sure — but it’s always been grotesque. And at the end we still face the multi-layered question: should we or should we not support the Zelensky, and if we do — to what extent?
Lennon would say, from his mansion on the Upper West Side, “give peace a chance”. But what does that mean and how does it relate to the question on the ground: Should we or should we not send first-line battle tanks to the Ukrainian front to engage with the Russian Military despite Putin’s nuclear saber-rattling?
And if we don’t, does that mean more Ukrainians die?

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

The lesson, if one is to be learned, is how many people pushed or were taken in by the propaganda. I was in summer camp at the height of the the war. Our teenaged counselors taught us those Joan Baez and Pete Seeger protest songs. Little did we know that war is profit, and few of them – Vietnam in particular – are waged for noble reasons. The conflict in Ukraine is a perfect example: a worldwide social media sympathy campaign; celebrities flying into a purported war-torn region for photo ops; the wee comedian-turned-president-turned-grifting despot and his wife in Vogue; Congress making a spectacle of itself (as usual) with its ludicrous American/Ukrainian flag amalgam, and billions of tax payer dollars flowing in for a good washing . . . it’s all so grotesque.
I think we’d be better off if we woke up to the fact that “Wag the Dog” https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120885/ is how sh*t really works and respond accordingly, including ignoring articles like this one.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

The US ” on the ground” jungle warfare strategy and implementation/ execution was appalling, and National Servicemen just added to the problem. Interestingly for the British in Malaya, Sarawak, and Borneo the same problem with ” draft” was not an issue.

The British tradition and discipline of regimental pride, loyalty, and Queen and country works, as does the ironically American expression ” buddy buddy”.

I shall never forget a Coldstream Company S’arnt Major pointing his pace stick at each and every battle honour on The Regimental Colours, in front of new recruits and asking ” Well? Which one wasn’t a disaster or political f.. up” in some way or another? That does not matter and will never concern you all… ”

I actually walked out of a Churchill Hall lecture at Sandhurst given to the entire Camberley Comprehensive assembled company by General Westmoreland, thinking .. ” I would have volunteered for Viet Nam, but as I would have refused to be drafted….” Westmoreland’s abominable drivel was embarrasingly and painfully awful….

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

You will be astonished to hear that our Infantry have adopted the US philosophy of “suppressing fire”.
Gone are the days when the Small Arms School Corps stressed the efficacy of ‘aimed shots’, and we tended to hit rather a lot of people!

Now British Battalions have recently returned from Afghanistan having fired SEVEN million rounds in seven months and hit virtually nobody!

Just imagine if we had done that almost exactly 51 years ago on so-called “Bloody Sunday”.
Time for a “smoke break”!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

God !! I’d forgotten about good old SASC!!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

n’ tea n stickies!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

What a splendid piece of work, I salute you!

However you know as well as I, that as soon as HMG can jettison NI it will do so, and most of England won’t shed a tear.

I guess you were born about 1966, and at the “height of the troubles “, you would have been one of the myriad of small children who kept pestering Army patrols, coming up them and saying “Any messages Mr……any messages? I gather they could also strip down and reassemble an SLR as fast as a Trained Soldier!
Happy Days indeed!

ps. Was Kit-KAT an oblique reference to Brigadier Frank Kitson (OC 39 Brigade)?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

What a splendid piece of work, I salute you!

However you know as well as I, that as soon as HMG can jettison NI it will do so, and most of England won’t shed a tear.

I guess you were born about 1966, and at the “height of the troubles “, you would have been one of the myriad of small children who kept pestering Army patrols, coming up them and saying “Any messages Mr……any messages? I gather they could also strip down and reassemble an SLR as fast as a Trained Soldier!
Happy Days indeed!

ps. Was Kit-KAT an oblique reference to Brigadier Frank Kitson (OC 39 Brigade)?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

You might be surprised, but Americans used to be very much into aimed shots, especially during the American Revolution. A unit of Virginia riflemen under Daniel Morgan was the key to winning the Battle of Bennington in 1777. We continue to like extreme accuracy in smart weapons. (See HIMARS for example.) We just haven’t figured out how to make smart bullets yet. When we do, we’ll make them available. 😉

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The ‘Kentucky Rifle’, I presume?

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The Kentucky rifle was really a German Pennsylvania Dutch rifle that was culturally appropriated.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

So what was the ‘home grown’ one?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

An updated German rifle. It wasn’t really home grown. Cowboy belt buckles are Scottish. Bolo ties are Argentinian. America was built on cultural appropriation. See the song “American Saturday Night” for more details.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The Romans were also fairly adept at “cultural appropriation”.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The Romans were also fairly adept at “cultural appropriation”.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

An updated German rifle. It wasn’t really home grown. Cowboy belt buckles are Scottish. Bolo ties are Argentinian. America was built on cultural appropriation. See the song “American Saturday Night” for more details.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

So what was the ‘home grown’ one?

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

The Kentucky rifle was really a German Pennsylvania Dutch rifle that was culturally appropriated.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

The ‘Kentucky Rifle’, I presume?

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

God !! I’d forgotten about good old SASC!!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

n’ tea n stickies!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago

You might be surprised, but Americans used to be very much into aimed shots, especially during the American Revolution. A unit of Virginia riflemen under Daniel Morgan was the key to winning the Battle of Bennington in 1777. We continue to like extreme accuracy in smart weapons. (See HIMARS for example.) We just haven’t figured out how to make smart bullets yet. When we do, we’ll make them available. 😉

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

You will be astonished to hear that our Infantry have adopted the US philosophy of “suppressing fire”.
Gone are the days when the Small Arms School Corps stressed the efficacy of ‘aimed shots’, and we tended to hit rather a lot of people!

Now British Battalions have recently returned from Afghanistan having fired SEVEN million rounds in seven months and hit virtually nobody!

Just imagine if we had done that almost exactly 51 years ago on so-called “Bloody Sunday”.
Time for a “smoke break”!

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

The US ” on the ground” jungle warfare strategy and implementation/ execution was appalling, and National Servicemen just added to the problem. Interestingly for the British in Malaya, Sarawak, and Borneo the same problem with ” draft” was not an issue.

The British tradition and discipline of regimental pride, loyalty, and Queen and country works, as does the ironically American expression ” buddy buddy”.

I shall never forget a Coldstream Company S’arnt Major pointing his pace stick at each and every battle honour on The Regimental Colours, in front of new recruits and asking ” Well? Which one wasn’t a disaster or political f.. up” in some way or another? That does not matter and will never concern you all… ”

I actually walked out of a Churchill Hall lecture at Sandhurst given to the entire Camberley Comprehensive assembled company by General Westmoreland, thinking .. ” I would have volunteered for Viet Nam, but as I would have refused to be drafted….” Westmoreland’s abominable drivel was embarrasingly and painfully awful….

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

The article misses the greatest point. The Vietnam War created a massive distrust in government that persists even today. The government is still lying to us about important matters – like the vaccines. We still have a deep state running the nation behind the face of elected politicians.
We lacked the will to actually “win” in Vietnam caving into politics of not wanting to do the necessary things there. Afghanistan was similar in that we were careful not to offend the Taliban in the process of trying to build a new government. We accepted corruption in both Vietnam and Afghanistan governments, not ever understanding their cultures. We botched Iraq by removing all the useful people because we didn’t understand their culture either.

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

There has always been a deep-state in US, the difference here was that Nixon picked an outright war with the “east-coast establishment” which he wasn’t a part of. This resulted in his eventual deposition despite his initial popularity. He was quite similar to Trump in many ways.

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago
Reply to  Hardee Hodges

There has always been a deep-state in US, the difference here was that Nixon picked an outright war with the “east-coast establishment” which he wasn’t a part of. This resulted in his eventual deposition despite his initial popularity. He was quite similar to Trump in many ways.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

The article misses the greatest point. The Vietnam War created a massive distrust in government that persists even today. The government is still lying to us about important matters – like the vaccines. We still have a deep state running the nation behind the face of elected politicians.
We lacked the will to actually “win” in Vietnam caving into politics of not wanting to do the necessary things there. Afghanistan was similar in that we were careful not to offend the Taliban in the process of trying to build a new government. We accepted corruption in both Vietnam and Afghanistan governments, not ever understanding their cultures. We botched Iraq by removing all the useful people because we didn’t understand their culture either.

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
1 year ago

I kept waiting to hear how Vietnam still haunts America in this article (and to some extent, I’d agree that it does), but the author’s attention span apparently fails him when he digresses instead into an entirely irrelevant discussion of Donald Trump’s sex life. Such is the obsession with the Donald among pundits. I’d hate to slog through the author’s discourse on the Salem witch trials, only to arrive at the same old Donald in the grass.

Ben Shipley
Ben Shipley
1 year ago

I kept waiting to hear how Vietnam still haunts America in this article (and to some extent, I’d agree that it does), but the author’s attention span apparently fails him when he digresses instead into an entirely irrelevant discussion of Donald Trump’s sex life. Such is the obsession with the Donald among pundits. I’d hate to slog through the author’s discourse on the Salem witch trials, only to arrive at the same old Donald in the grass.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

Agree with others that this piece had a really weird ending – did Sandbrook get to 6pm Friday and decide to sack off his unfinished essay to go down the pub? But it contains this gem: “intervention is an inevitable consequence of wealth and power”. True, that.

If only those with the political and financial means to do so put as much effort into dealing with this perennial problem as they put into tackling the largely imaginary contemporary hobgoblins of an impending climate catastrophe, far-right movements, harmful online speech, white privilege, and all the rest of the nonsense that seems to distract our political (so-called) leaders, we would all be potentially much better off. But turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
1 year ago

Agree with others that this piece had a really weird ending – did Sandbrook get to 6pm Friday and decide to sack off his unfinished essay to go down the pub? But it contains this gem: “intervention is an inevitable consequence of wealth and power”. True, that.

If only those with the political and financial means to do so put as much effort into dealing with this perennial problem as they put into tackling the largely imaginary contemporary hobgoblins of an impending climate catastrophe, far-right movements, harmful online speech, white privilege, and all the rest of the nonsense that seems to distract our political (so-called) leaders, we would all be potentially much better off. But turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago

Obama’s “don’t do stupid shit” was a pretty good mantra, Unfortunately for most of the last 30 years, US foreign policy has been hijacked the neocon clique who insist on doing the exact opposite. Even to this day.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Launching airstrikes and military raids in at least seven countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan – was pretty stupid sh*t. Selling weapons to Mexican drug cartels was very stupid sh*t. Pumping oxygen into the corpse of racialism was super stupid sh*t. The stupidest sh*t was Obama in America’s highest office, thus leading to its inextricable downfall, or, as he himself boasted, the fundamental change of the country, so now we’re all up to our nostrils in stupid sh*t.

L Walker
L Walker
1 year ago

Excellent response, Allison.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  L Walker

Seconded.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  L Walker

Seconded.

L Walker
L Walker
1 year ago

Excellent response, Allison.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Launching airstrikes and military raids in at least seven countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan – was pretty stupid sh*t. Selling weapons to Mexican drug cartels was very stupid sh*t. Pumping oxygen into the corpse of racialism was super stupid sh*t. The stupidest sh*t was Obama in America’s highest office, thus leading to its inextricable downfall, or, as he himself boasted, the fundamental change of the country, so now we’re all up to our nostrils in stupid sh*t.

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
1 year ago

Obama’s “don’t do stupid shit” was a pretty good mantra, Unfortunately for most of the last 30 years, US foreign policy has been hijacked the neocon clique who insist on doing the exact opposite. Even to this day.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Yes as others have said, strange ending to the article.
That aside I guess the prompt is in the following 50yrs what did it mean for interventionism and what does it mean now? By Gulf War I could contend lessons still fresh, but by Gulf War II and Afghanistan lessons needing relearning, albeit US and Allies not got quite as stuck as they did in Vietnam.
What now for the South China sea? Arguably the biggest issue of the coming decade. How do we keep Cold War II ‘cold’ as that’s a good outcome. Deterrence and containment (including all levers to prevent CCP acquiring technology and control of vital resources) as West did with Soviets. And let the inevitable contradictions in the CCP state gradually play out.
The problem is like Vietnam Taiwan can seem along way away to a farmer in Wisconsin or a bricklayer in Yorkshire. Yet it must be explained and articulated that the TikTok in your pocket means the Cold war is already happening.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Some good points there, extending Sandbrook’s premise re Vietnam into the future in light of decision-making in the intervening period. It would seem that the Unherd commentariat has a way of transcending any flaws in the original article to develop its own themes and extrapolations.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The Red Chinese are not shy about explaining how their invasion plans include a preliminary bombardment of Taiwan with extremely high casualties, both military and civilian. You can also expect the “Peace” movement to say it ain’t our business, we should just let the slaughter happen, no matter how high the casualties will get.

Did you ever notice how jingoistic “Peace” movements are? They only care about their own country’s casualties, particularly in Asia.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

A blockade more likely, initially at least. Will take coordinated resistance to break that and will be extremely tense. Timing? – after Taiwan elections 24 when likely a more formal independence candidate wins. Xi will calculate he must move then before we help turn Taiwan into a porcupine. (Hope I and others wrong about this of course)
Yes I agree they’ll be abreaction and a ‘peace/anti-war’ movement. Strength of the west we have contrary views. But why we need to start explaining more now. Need to stop being so self reverential.
If interested read ‘Spies & Lies’ Alex Joske – how the CCP has been infiltrating western technology, universities etc. And how much world trade moves through south China sea hence Xi is coming for Taiwan. This stuff needs to get out. Problem is we spend more time blathering on about Woke than real threats.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

A blockade more likely, initially at least. Will take coordinated resistance to break that and will be extremely tense. Timing? – after Taiwan elections 24 when likely a more formal independence candidate wins. Xi will calculate he must move then before we help turn Taiwan into a porcupine. (Hope I and others wrong about this of course)
Yes I agree they’ll be abreaction and a ‘peace/anti-war’ movement. Strength of the west we have contrary views. But why we need to start explaining more now. Need to stop being so self reverential.
If interested read ‘Spies & Lies’ Alex Joske – how the CCP has been infiltrating western technology, universities etc. And how much world trade moves through south China sea hence Xi is coming for Taiwan. This stuff needs to get out. Problem is we spend more time blathering on about Woke than real threats.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

Some good points there, extending Sandbrook’s premise re Vietnam into the future in light of decision-making in the intervening period. It would seem that the Unherd commentariat has a way of transcending any flaws in the original article to develop its own themes and extrapolations.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  j watson

The Red Chinese are not shy about explaining how their invasion plans include a preliminary bombardment of Taiwan with extremely high casualties, both military and civilian. You can also expect the “Peace” movement to say it ain’t our business, we should just let the slaughter happen, no matter how high the casualties will get.

Did you ever notice how jingoistic “Peace” movements are? They only care about their own country’s casualties, particularly in Asia.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago

Yes as others have said, strange ending to the article.
That aside I guess the prompt is in the following 50yrs what did it mean for interventionism and what does it mean now? By Gulf War I could contend lessons still fresh, but by Gulf War II and Afghanistan lessons needing relearning, albeit US and Allies not got quite as stuck as they did in Vietnam.
What now for the South China sea? Arguably the biggest issue of the coming decade. How do we keep Cold War II ‘cold’ as that’s a good outcome. Deterrence and containment (including all levers to prevent CCP acquiring technology and control of vital resources) as West did with Soviets. And let the inevitable contradictions in the CCP state gradually play out.
The problem is like Vietnam Taiwan can seem along way away to a farmer in Wisconsin or a bricklayer in Yorkshire. Yet it must be explained and articulated that the TikTok in your pocket means the Cold war is already happening.

John Hope
John Hope
1 year ago

Americas, Vietnam war and its Afghan war were ended by politicians of the Democrat party. In the former case, a Democrat lead, Congress cut off all financial aid as well as military equipment reinforcements to the south Vietnamese thus ensuring their collapse. In the latter case, the Biden administration quite recklessly, quit in a highly unprofessional and disorganized fashion, leaving billions of dollars of US military hardware and equipment behind, to say nothing of stranding thousands of Americans, and those who have partnered with America on her venture. One can argue as to how both wars were fun and conducted, and there are plenty of gaps in strategy as well as an execution as there are in most wars, however, there can be absolutely no doubt that it is the Democrat politicians who engineered the collapse in both cases. In both cases it was Democrat politicians giving up the support of their allies, thus ensuring the collapse. A similar fate would have a fallen South Korea at the US abandon, the scene what’s 70 years on we can look at South Korea is a remarkable success story in spite of a war that was miss handled, strategically, and tactically by the US generals.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  John Hope

Stretching it there JH. Nixon and Kissinger didn’t need Congress to do secret deals. And Trump committed to the Afghan withdrawal before Biden in office. It was a botched withdrawal but the strategy was pre-decided by a Republican Presidency.
Conversely Biden been solid on Ukraine, which is a more comparable issue with Korea. Helps of course pretty strong cross party support in Congress. The constitution of the Armed services committee and what they have been saying recently seems to be demonstrating that.
There is a problem in trying to be too partisan in such reflections. Clouds proper reflection IMO.

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago
Reply to  John Hope

The Korean War was a conventional war fought on a penensula. Unlike Vietnam and Afghanistan, the enemy had no adjacent countries to use as sanctuaries and supply routes.

j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  J. Hale

Think you need to look at a map JH. What’s to the North of N Korea? Who was supplying the Korean Communists?
As an aside MacArthur wanted to cross the border and the Yalu river but Truman stopped him. The Chinese then crossed it in support of their Korean allies.
It’s not a perfect analogy but much more similar to Ukraine than Iraq/Afghan. It involves conventional forces. Suspect the eventual conclusion will be similar with a 38th parallel equivalent. Question is where will that be when fighting stops.

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson
j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  J. Hale

Think you need to look at a map JH. What’s to the North of N Korea? Who was supplying the Korean Communists?
As an aside MacArthur wanted to cross the border and the Yalu river but Truman stopped him. The Chinese then crossed it in support of their Korean allies.
It’s not a perfect analogy but much more similar to Ukraine than Iraq/Afghan. It involves conventional forces. Suspect the eventual conclusion will be similar with a 38th parallel equivalent. Question is where will that be when fighting stops.

Last edited 1 year ago by j watson
j watson
j watson
1 year ago
Reply to  John Hope

Stretching it there JH. Nixon and Kissinger didn’t need Congress to do secret deals. And Trump committed to the Afghan withdrawal before Biden in office. It was a botched withdrawal but the strategy was pre-decided by a Republican Presidency.
Conversely Biden been solid on Ukraine, which is a more comparable issue with Korea. Helps of course pretty strong cross party support in Congress. The constitution of the Armed services committee and what they have been saying recently seems to be demonstrating that.
There is a problem in trying to be too partisan in such reflections. Clouds proper reflection IMO.

J. Hale
J. Hale
1 year ago
Reply to  John Hope

The Korean War was a conventional war fought on a penensula. Unlike Vietnam and Afghanistan, the enemy had no adjacent countries to use as sanctuaries and supply routes.

John Hope
John Hope
1 year ago

Americas, Vietnam war and its Afghan war were ended by politicians of the Democrat party. In the former case, a Democrat lead, Congress cut off all financial aid as well as military equipment reinforcements to the south Vietnamese thus ensuring their collapse. In the latter case, the Biden administration quite recklessly, quit in a highly unprofessional and disorganized fashion, leaving billions of dollars of US military hardware and equipment behind, to say nothing of stranding thousands of Americans, and those who have partnered with America on her venture. One can argue as to how both wars were fun and conducted, and there are plenty of gaps in strategy as well as an execution as there are in most wars, however, there can be absolutely no doubt that it is the Democrat politicians who engineered the collapse in both cases. In both cases it was Democrat politicians giving up the support of their allies, thus ensuring the collapse. A similar fate would have a fallen South Korea at the US abandon, the scene what’s 70 years on we can look at South Korea is a remarkable success story in spite of a war that was miss handled, strategically, and tactically by the US generals.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Soooo. What happens if ukraine goes like Vietnam and Afghanistan and what happens if the US blows its debt ceiling amidst this business. No one is talking about that. Can they still run their army if they default?

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

Soooo. What happens if ukraine goes like Vietnam and Afghanistan and what happens if the US blows its debt ceiling amidst this business. No one is talking about that. Can they still run their army if they default?

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago

I, for one, buy the reason why America went into Vietnam. It was indeed to stop the domino effect and invasion of south-east Asia by the Chinese. And despite how it’s written in this article, it actually worked. What isn’t mentioned here is the changing geopolitics after this long war where the Russian and Chinese alliance weakened. Nixon personally led the opening to China along with Kissinger, and the whole dynamics of the world had changed by that point. All in all, Vietnam invasion stopped the Chinese expansion, and it that reading sowed the seeds of today’s globalisation.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

We were also there to stop a bloodbath. In that we obviously failed.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
1 year ago
Reply to  Emre S

We were also there to stop a bloodbath. In that we obviously failed.

Emre S
Emre S
1 year ago

I, for one, buy the reason why America went into Vietnam. It was indeed to stop the domino effect and invasion of south-east Asia by the Chinese. And despite how it’s written in this article, it actually worked. What isn’t mentioned here is the changing geopolitics after this long war where the Russian and Chinese alliance weakened. Nixon personally led the opening to China along with Kissinger, and the whole dynamics of the world had changed by that point. All in all, Vietnam invasion stopped the Chinese expansion, and it that reading sowed the seeds of today’s globalisation.

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

It seems to me that this essay should have concluded with the remarkable irony of Biden’s vote to cut funding to South Vietnam

Alan B
Alan B
1 year ago

It seems to me that this essay should have concluded with the remarkable irony of Biden’s vote to cut funding to South Vietnam

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

I don’t think that we can understand the long-range effect of Vietnam without seeing it in the historical contexts of what we now call “culture wars” over gender and race. The anti-war movement galvanized a generation of young people in the United States (and elsewhere) only a few years after Betty Friedan had galvanized young women in the nascent feminist movement and at roughly the same time as Martin Luther King, Jr. galvanized both blacks and whites in the civil-rights movement.
In 1968, I was 21 and living in New York to study art history at Columbia University. Bad timing. I had the mentality of a child. I had no idea of what I wanted to study. And I found that this war of words was raging everywhere. Students (and millions of other people) argued about the war incessantly, as if Viet Cong snipers were about to emerge from the Lincoln Tunnel and take aim at the crowds on Forty-second Street. Though Canadian, I could have been drafted. And for what? Nothing about the war made any sense to me.
By this time, women were marching in the streets, liberating themselves from traditional notions of womanhood. And this was before some feminists began to blame men in general for every kind of suffering, especially oppression. In fact, I remember one woman holding a sign that read: “Girls say yes to boys who say no [to military service].” Both women and men, in fact, were liberating themselves from almost every constraint, per se, including the self-restraint that makes communal life worthwhile or even possible (although the immediate cause of hedonism itself was surely the Pill, which had been used since 1960). As for me, I was a gay man with only a naive sense of what being gay might mean and no sense at all of what being a man might mean. I didn’t begin to find out for many years after leaving Columbia in 1969.
Most of the men on campus opposed the war, as I did, but they did so on strictly political grounds. Like them, I read Ramparts from cover to cover. But that publication never satisfied me. I went to some of the teach-ins at first, but then I avoided them. I didn’t disagree with the speakers. They just never discussed what troubled me. Worse, I couldn’t stand being in the same room with them. It was their self-righteous arrogance (what would eventually be called “virtue signaling.”) In any case, these men on campus were far behind the women when it came to exploring what was eventually called “gender.”
They talked night and day about Geneva Conventions, hawks, doves and so on. But they seldom mentioned the draft. And when they did, it was in opposition to American policy in Vietnam–not to the underlying moral problem of military conscription, and certainly not to the sexual segregation that military conscription imposed on a society that was increasingly preoccupied with equality. They seemed to take that kind of inequality for granted, at least in public, even though they enthusiastically supported “women’s liberation.” It was cool to oppose that particular war and to oppose the draft for that particular war, in short, but definitely not cool to oppose a keystone of masculinity, which relied ultimately on combat whether on the battlefield or the boardroom or the bedroom. (This was not, by the way, what my father or my school had tried to teach me about masculinity). Doing that, I supposed, would have been much too threatening for them. When I asked a few of them about it, they told me nonchalantly about receiving their draft cards, showing these to me as if they were nothing more than social-security cards. It was one thing to be called a rebel, after all, and another thing to be called a coward.
The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but the culture-war over gender identity in general and masculine identity in particular remains with us.
I return now to the culture-war over race. It was during those same years, the late 1960s and early 1970s, that King’s civil-rights movement began giving way to the black-power movement. A series of assassinations, beginning with that of King, generated increasing polarization and cynicism. At around the same time, moreover, egalitarian feminism began morphing into ideological forms of feminism. Identity politics is probably as old as human history but took on a new ferocity at this time. It became highly respectable and influential in universities, eventually going mainstream in our own time as wokism (which has absorbed both racial and feminist ideologies).
In short, I suggest that the Vietnam War has at least indirectly continued to influence American culture (as distinct from its foreign policy). I don’t know how or even if we can ever recover from the cynicism and polarization that became de rigueur in that era.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago

I don’t think that we can understand the long-range effect of Vietnam without seeing it in the historical contexts of what we now call “culture wars” over gender and race. The anti-war movement galvanized a generation of young people in the United States (and elsewhere) only a few years after Betty Friedan had galvanized young women in the nascent feminist movement and at roughly the same time as Martin Luther King, Jr. galvanized both blacks and whites in the civil-rights movement.
In 1968, I was 21 and living in New York to study art history at Columbia University. Bad timing. I had the mentality of a child. I had no idea of what I wanted to study. And I found that this war of words was raging everywhere. Students (and millions of other people) argued about the war incessantly, as if Viet Cong snipers were about to emerge from the Lincoln Tunnel and take aim at the crowds on Forty-second Street. Though Canadian, I could have been drafted. And for what? Nothing about the war made any sense to me.
By this time, women were marching in the streets, liberating themselves from traditional notions of womanhood. And this was before some feminists began to blame men in general for every kind of suffering, especially oppression. In fact, I remember one woman holding a sign that read: “Girls say yes to boys who say no [to military service].” Both women and men, in fact, were liberating themselves from almost every constraint, per se, including the self-restraint that makes communal life worthwhile or even possible (although the immediate cause of hedonism itself was surely the Pill, which had been used since 1960). As for me, I was a gay man with only a naive sense of what being gay might mean and no sense at all of what being a man might mean. I didn’t begin to find out for many years after leaving Columbia in 1969.
Most of the men on campus opposed the war, as I did, but they did so on strictly political grounds. Like them, I read Ramparts from cover to cover. But that publication never satisfied me. I went to some of the teach-ins at first, but then I avoided them. I didn’t disagree with the speakers. They just never discussed what troubled me. Worse, I couldn’t stand being in the same room with them. It was their self-righteous arrogance (what would eventually be called “virtue signaling.”) In any case, these men on campus were far behind the women when it came to exploring what was eventually called “gender.”
They talked night and day about Geneva Conventions, hawks, doves and so on. But they seldom mentioned the draft. And when they did, it was in opposition to American policy in Vietnam–not to the underlying moral problem of military conscription, and certainly not to the sexual segregation that military conscription imposed on a society that was increasingly preoccupied with equality. They seemed to take that kind of inequality for granted, at least in public, even though they enthusiastically supported “women’s liberation.” It was cool to oppose that particular war and to oppose the draft for that particular war, in short, but definitely not cool to oppose a keystone of masculinity, which relied ultimately on combat whether on the battlefield or the boardroom or the bedroom. (This was not, by the way, what my father or my school had tried to teach me about masculinity). Doing that, I supposed, would have been much too threatening for them. When I asked a few of them about it, they told me nonchalantly about receiving their draft cards, showing these to me as if they were nothing more than social-security cards. It was one thing to be called a rebel, after all, and another thing to be called a coward.
The Vietnam War ended in 1975, but the culture-war over gender identity in general and masculine identity in particular remains with us.
I return now to the culture-war over race. It was during those same years, the late 1960s and early 1970s, that King’s civil-rights movement began giving way to the black-power movement. A series of assassinations, beginning with that of King, generated increasing polarization and cynicism. At around the same time, moreover, egalitarian feminism began morphing into ideological forms of feminism. Identity politics is probably as old as human history but took on a new ferocity at this time. It became highly respectable and influential in universities, eventually going mainstream in our own time as wokism (which has absorbed both racial and feminist ideologies).
In short, I suggest that the Vietnam War has at least indirectly continued to influence American culture (as distinct from its foreign policy). I don’t know how or even if we can ever recover from the cynicism and polarization that became de rigueur in that era.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago

Here’s an interesting twist: That war started to hot up very soon after the assasination of JFK. So for a significant part of that ten year fiasco we were waiting for the final word, the results of the official investigation. When it finally came out (basically; “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along now) it made our government seem not just like a bunch of liars, but bad liars, too stupid to know how unbelievable their lies were. The trust in our government has never recovered.
Also, the basic cultural split in the nation, the same divisions we still suffer from, came roaring to the front of all of our political efforts. I bet the “give peace a chance” people vs the “my country, right or wrong” people track pretty closely with the “hate Trump” vs “love Trump” people; southern and rural vs coastal and urban.
“The past isn’t dead, it’s not even past”

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 year ago

Here’s an interesting twist: That war started to hot up very soon after the assasination of JFK. So for a significant part of that ten year fiasco we were waiting for the final word, the results of the official investigation. When it finally came out (basically; “Nothing to see here, folks. Move along now) it made our government seem not just like a bunch of liars, but bad liars, too stupid to know how unbelievable their lies were. The trust in our government has never recovered.
Also, the basic cultural split in the nation, the same divisions we still suffer from, came roaring to the front of all of our political efforts. I bet the “give peace a chance” people vs the “my country, right or wrong” people track pretty closely with the “hate Trump” vs “love Trump” people; southern and rural vs coastal and urban.
“The past isn’t dead, it’s not even past”

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

“But the domino theory turned out to be nonsense.”
Maybe not. The climate at the end of the war was very different from the beginning. If the US had no engaged the whole of South East Asia would likely have fallen.
Only in turn to be bought down by Hollywood and Coke-a-Cola

Zenobia van Dongen
Zenobia van Dongen
1 year ago

So the US is still in post-traumatic shock from Vietnam? Too bad. It’s their problem. Everyone knows that US imperialism sucks, but Americans have no special reason to feel guilty about devastating Vietnam. The Vietnamese communists are at least as worthy of blame as US imperialism. After Vietnam was divided in two in 1954, communist North Vietnam had a whole array of policy instruments at its disposal. If the North Vietnamese had really been interested in improving the lot of the downtrodden peasants of South Vietnam, its border to South Vietnam gave it the opportunity to exert political influence peacefully, for instance by promoting a reformist peasants’ movement and political party in South Vietnam that would have real leverage, because the corrupt landowners in South Vietnam knew that if they stubbornly resisted political and social change, North Vietnam was in a position to instigate riots, rebellions and other nasty stuff. Consequently a peaceful and reformist strategy would have improved the situation of the downtrodden masses in the south.  
But instead, North Vietnam chose guerrilla warfare without even considering the possibility of other, softer options. And it did so in full knowledge that by waging war, North Vietnam was acting openly as a tool of Soviet imperialism, which it could not expect the US to tolerate. The Vietnamese communist party used the Vietnamese people as cannon fodder in a worldwide geopolitical struggle that Vietnam had no intrinsic stake in.  
Moreover the Vietnamese communists were just as contemptuous of Vietnamese human rights as the US or the South Vietnamese government. Here is a brief sample of their customary atrocities, from the remarkable biography of the communist double agent Phạm Ngọc Thảo (1922-1965)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ph%E1%BA%A1m_Ng%E1%BB%8Dc_Th%E1%BA%A3o
“In 1946, France attempted to reassert control over its colony and conventional military fighting broke out. Thảo served with the Việt Minh in the Mekong Delta in the far south of Vietnam during the war against French rule from 1946 to 1954. He almost met his end before he had started; he was apprehended by the local communists in Mỹ Tho, who saw his French-style dress and mistook him for a colonial agent. They tied him up and chained him to a block of stone before throwing him into a river to drown. However, Thảo broke free of the weight and swam to safety. Thảo proceeded further south and deeper into the Mekong Delta to the town of Vĩnh Long, where he was again arrested by the local Việt Minh. Just as Thảo was about to be executed by drowning, one of the communists realised he was a brother of one of their comrades. Thảo was released and rejoined his family, who lived in the region.”
Such brutality was repeated over and over by Vietnamese communists, who accordingly have no moral standing to condemn the crimes committed by the US and its henchpersons. 

Zenobia van Dongen
Zenobia van Dongen
1 year ago

So the US is still in post-traumatic shock from Vietnam? Too bad. It’s their problem. Everyone knows that US imperialism sucks, but Americans have no special reason to feel guilty about devastating Vietnam. The Vietnamese communists are at least as worthy of blame as US imperialism. After Vietnam was divided in two in 1954, communist North Vietnam had a whole array of policy instruments at its disposal. If the North Vietnamese had really been interested in improving the lot of the downtrodden peasants of South Vietnam, its border to South Vietnam gave it the opportunity to exert political influence peacefully, for instance by promoting a reformist peasants’ movement and political party in South Vietnam that would have real leverage, because the corrupt landowners in South Vietnam knew that if they stubbornly resisted political and social change, North Vietnam was in a position to instigate riots, rebellions and other nasty stuff. Consequently a peaceful and reformist strategy would have improved the situation of the downtrodden masses in the south.  
But instead, North Vietnam chose guerrilla warfare without even considering the possibility of other, softer options. And it did so in full knowledge that by waging war, North Vietnam was acting openly as a tool of Soviet imperialism, which it could not expect the US to tolerate. The Vietnamese communist party used the Vietnamese people as cannon fodder in a worldwide geopolitical struggle that Vietnam had no intrinsic stake in.  
Moreover the Vietnamese communists were just as contemptuous of Vietnamese human rights as the US or the South Vietnamese government. Here is a brief sample of their customary atrocities, from the remarkable biography of the communist double agent Phạm Ngọc Thảo (1922-1965)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ph%E1%BA%A1m_Ng%E1%BB%8Dc_Th%E1%BA%A3o
“In 1946, France attempted to reassert control over its colony and conventional military fighting broke out. Thảo served with the Việt Minh in the Mekong Delta in the far south of Vietnam during the war against French rule from 1946 to 1954. He almost met his end before he had started; he was apprehended by the local communists in Mỹ Tho, who saw his French-style dress and mistook him for a colonial agent. They tied him up and chained him to a block of stone before throwing him into a river to drown. However, Thảo broke free of the weight and swam to safety. Thảo proceeded further south and deeper into the Mekong Delta to the town of Vĩnh Long, where he was again arrested by the local Việt Minh. Just as Thảo was about to be executed by drowning, one of the communists realised he was a brother of one of their comrades. Thảo was released and rejoined his family, who lived in the region.”
Such brutality was repeated over and over by Vietnamese communists, who accordingly have no moral standing to condemn the crimes committed by the US and its henchpersons. 

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

“But the domino theory turned out to be nonsense.”
Maybe not. The climate at the end of the war was very different from the beginning. If the US had no engaged the whole of South East Asia would likely have fallen.
Only in turn to be bought down by Hollywood and Coke-a-Cola

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Re: “an unhealthy dependence on Western tourism” in Vietnam. . . there is nothing unhealthy about a little brother who remembers his older brother’s efforts to defend him while we were– all of us– in the depths of teen angst and clumsy, overconfident adolescent bluster.
Live and learn: that’s what we Yanks figured out, the hard way, in Vietnam, and you can’t cry over spilt napalm.
God bless America, and God bless the good people of Vietnam. . . and the good people of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
May peace be upon them–and upon us–all.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Re: “an unhealthy dependence on Western tourism” in Vietnam. . . there is nothing unhealthy about a little brother who remembers his older brother’s efforts to defend him while we were– all of us– in the depths of teen angst and clumsy, overconfident adolescent bluster.
Live and learn: that’s what we Yanks figured out, the hard way, in Vietnam, and you can’t cry over spilt napalm.
God bless America, and God bless the good people of Vietnam. . . and the good people of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
May peace be upon them–and upon us–all.

Philip Clayton
Philip Clayton
1 year ago

People forget that the main reason for the collapse in trust of governments in the U.S. was that from the beginning of the war the population was lied to. The Gulf Of Tonkin ‘incident’ was a put up job. It was genuinely ‘fake news’. People are not stupid and they rapidly realised that the ‘draft’ was being enforced against mainly black and poor white people. Privileged middle and upper middle class kids found ways to dodge military service.For example a certain D. Trump and a well known President shrub, G. Bush were simply two out of millions. Vietnam became a class issue.

People were also shocked and angered by the sheer brutality of the conduct of the U.S. The Second World War was still in recent memory in the 1960’s and a great many could see little different in the U.S. tactics in Vietnam and Hitlers Blitzkreig. What the U.S. was doing in the skies above Vietnam is no different from Putin in Ukraine.

When the U.S. went into places like Iraq it was a disaster not because of military failure but gobsmacking stupidity in the aftermath of the war. Dismantling the entire Iraq military and most of the police force on the grounds that any Ba’ath member could not be allowed to work was a boneheaded idiocy on a cosmic scale. I don’t know anyone who would mourn the loss of Sadam Hussein but the U.S. simply had no plans to deal with the aftermath of war and appointed random fools whose only qualification was they were Bush friends and supporters.

When the U.S. occupied Germany and Japan after the war they embarked on genuine nation re-building. Great attention was paid to building institutions and activities that were genuinely democratic. (They also did a lot of dubious things in the name of anit-communism and the Cold War). When in Vietnam they did nothing to control the chronic corruption and brutality of their client government, itself illegitimate.

People are not stupid. They were not pro communist but nor were they pro fascist either. Unfortunately when you talk about the erosion of trust in government surely Watergate, Iran-contragate, (people forget just how many Reagan officials were prosecuted and the Savings and Loan collapse have to be considered.

Trust has also dissolved because there has been a 40 year decline in living standards with a massive increase in income for the super wealthy. Trying to pin the erosion in trust solely on the Viernam war is ahistorical. The paragraph on Trump is just bizarre.

Philip Clayton
Philip Clayton
1 year ago

People forget that the main reason for the collapse in trust of governments in the U.S. was that from the beginning of the war the population was lied to. The Gulf Of Tonkin ‘incident’ was a put up job. It was genuinely ‘fake news’. People are not stupid and they rapidly realised that the ‘draft’ was being enforced against mainly black and poor white people. Privileged middle and upper middle class kids found ways to dodge military service.For example a certain D. Trump and a well known President shrub, G. Bush were simply two out of millions. Vietnam became a class issue.

People were also shocked and angered by the sheer brutality of the conduct of the U.S. The Second World War was still in recent memory in the 1960’s and a great many could see little different in the U.S. tactics in Vietnam and Hitlers Blitzkreig. What the U.S. was doing in the skies above Vietnam is no different from Putin in Ukraine.

When the U.S. went into places like Iraq it was a disaster not because of military failure but gobsmacking stupidity in the aftermath of the war. Dismantling the entire Iraq military and most of the police force on the grounds that any Ba’ath member could not be allowed to work was a boneheaded idiocy on a cosmic scale. I don’t know anyone who would mourn the loss of Sadam Hussein but the U.S. simply had no plans to deal with the aftermath of war and appointed random fools whose only qualification was they were Bush friends and supporters.

When the U.S. occupied Germany and Japan after the war they embarked on genuine nation re-building. Great attention was paid to building institutions and activities that were genuinely democratic. (They also did a lot of dubious things in the name of anit-communism and the Cold War). When in Vietnam they did nothing to control the chronic corruption and brutality of their client government, itself illegitimate.

People are not stupid. They were not pro communist but nor were they pro fascist either. Unfortunately when you talk about the erosion of trust in government surely Watergate, Iran-contragate, (people forget just how many Reagan officials were prosecuted and the Savings and Loan collapse have to be considered.

Trust has also dissolved because there has been a 40 year decline in living standards with a massive increase in income for the super wealthy. Trying to pin the erosion in trust solely on the Viernam war is ahistorical. The paragraph on Trump is just bizarre.

M Harries
M Harries
1 year ago

The Americans defended South Korea as they defended South Vietnam. What’s the difference in intent? How is the former good and the latter bad?

While America is excoriated for its presence and defence of South Vietnam (by those on the Left), few think about what is the cause of the fabulously successful extant of South Korea.

American/European Leftists celebrating the fall of Saigon, as hundreds of thousands of terror-filled South Vietnamese were fleeing for their lives, is a story of shame which Hollywood is unlikely to ever produce on film.

The irony is that the victorious socialist autocratic Vietnamese regime has turned to support that which America was defending – an economy championing a private enterprise market system. Did America lose the battle but win the war (of ideas)?

M Harries
M Harries
1 year ago

The Americans defended South Korea as they defended South Vietnam. What’s the difference in intent? How is the former good and the latter bad?

While America is excoriated for its presence and defence of South Vietnam (by those on the Left), few think about what is the cause of the fabulously successful extant of South Korea.

American/European Leftists celebrating the fall of Saigon, as hundreds of thousands of terror-filled South Vietnamese were fleeing for their lives, is a story of shame which Hollywood is unlikely to ever produce on film.

The irony is that the victorious socialist autocratic Vietnamese regime has turned to support that which America was defending – an economy championing a private enterprise market system. Did America lose the battle but win the war (of ideas)?

Aidan Barrett
Aidan Barrett
1 year ago
Aidan Barrett
Aidan Barrett
1 year ago