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18 September 2017


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Too many leaves for my taste, and too much coriander. What was in the leaves was was usually nice. As a teenage I liked to cook and my step mother was part of an international group of women who demonstrated cooking meals from their homelands for each other. On our turn I did the egg hoppers - my step mother was Sri Lankan. As I result I got invited to the next meeting, very surreal to be a male teenager having a Cantonese meal prepared by the Japanese ambassador's wife in their Saigon embassy with lots of women. The food was excellent but I forget why it was not Japanese cuisine.

Sam Peralta

Col. Lang

What was the military strategy and objectives that Gen. Westmoreland believed would achieve victory which I believe was defined as the destruction of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces and causing the North Vietnamese leadership to sue for peace by acceding to two separate countries in Vietnam?

In watching the episodes so far, it seems the focus was on hitting kill targets and not securing South Vietnam from enemy intrusion.

In hindsight, would there have been a better military strategy?

I agree with you the big strategic error was Truman not responding to Ho Chi Minh and treating it as a war of independence from colonial rule then. In your opinion were there other off-ramps policymakers could have taken early in the conflict? It seems that once the train left the station President Johnson and his advisors could not admit a mistake and could only escalate.


Sam Peralta

Westy believed that with sufficient attrition a "crossover point" would be reached at which the communist inability to replace men we killed would force them to negotiate a peace without victors. Our presidents could have ordered a withdrawal as Nixon did. pl

Sam Peralta

Col. Lang

In your opinion what are the most important political and military lessons learned that we should takeaway from our nearly 30 year involvement in Vietnam?

I realize in hindsight everything is 20/20, but it seems if Truman had considered Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh as a liberation movement first and communists second he may not have aided the French in their re-establishment of colonial rule in Indochina. Although considering Stalin's move in eastern Europe and Mao's ascendancy in China, combined with deGaulle's threat to align with the Soviets it was a difficult decision for Truman, especially in light of the domestic anti-communist hysteria.

Once we were in, it looks like we could not find the political courage to get out and escalation happened by default. It seems that if Kennedy was not assassinated he may have had the strength of conviction to not escalate as Johnson did. Kennedy demonstrated during the Cuban Missile crisis that he could resist the advise of the generals. It is interesting that both these presidents privately harbored the opinion that the South Vietnamese just did not have the ability to defeat the North Vietnamese.


Sam Peralta
!- We are easily manipulated into taking up policies not in our interest. De Gaulle's statement just after WW2 that France might go communist if we did not help them in their empire is an example as was the ease with which American public opinion was manipulated after 9/11. 2- As a people we have the failing of an inability to understand foreign cultures as actually foreign rather than incipient extensions of American culture. This makes it impossible for us understand the foreigners in depth. pl

Sam Peralta

Col. Lang,

Thank you!

I believe you have distilled it down to the essence. I concur with your assessment.

Unfortunately, this leads to a conclusion that there is no recourse and that we are fated to dissipation of our strength in useless interventions that are inimical to our interests.


Col. and SP,

I also concur that the ability of the small powers, or, even factions within the small powers, to manipulate the great powers in their petty games is at the heart of many historical tragedies: people forget the role played by Serbian nationalist conspirators, for example, in sparking off World War I. In a sense, the same might even be said about Colonel Beck's (the Polish foreign minister in 1939) "two flicks of cigarette" over which the Anglo-French commitment to go to war over Danzig were sealed. The responsibility of leaders in charge of Great Powers, I think, is to keep their countries from getting entangled in these petty matters and have the situation spiral out of control beyond whatever that began the mess. This seems to be a dangerously thankless task, though: Chamberlain is remembered mainly for not committing to war prematurely over Czechoslovakia, but not for committing to war over Danzig, over which neither UK nor France had any interest. The evils of the Nazi regime, which, in all honesty, had nothing to do with the Polish-German disputes that began in 1918, are used to paper over whether Danzig was "worth it" for the English and the French.



are you aware, more randomly, of this curious bit of WWI history and its relation to WWII?



An important, but oft over looked, distinction between JFK and LBJ is their different outlook on the Cold War. After Cuba, and as signaled in his American University Commencement Address, JFK was determined to pursue a policy of detente. Given the Soviet Union's openness to detente it is likely a diplomatic solution would have been found in regards to Vietnam before the war really escalated.

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